Friday, November 11, 2011

A Lasting Impression


by Tamera Alexander

"Tamera Alexander has once again written a novel rich in storytelling and history, peopled with living, breathing characters who made me laugh, and cry. Better than sweet tea on a veranda, A Lasting Impression is a winner. I want to live at Belmont!"

~Francine Rivers, New York Times best-selling author of Redeeming Love

About the book…

A fake. A forger. That's what Claire Laurent knows she is, which is why she can't fathom working in the home of the richest woman in Nashville, let alone America. But when she meets Sutton Monroe––Mrs. Acklen's far too handsome and equally as discerning personal attorney––Claire's certain the first impression she made with him…will be her last.

Chapter 1

French Quarter, New Orleans,

Louisiana September 7, 1866

Claire Laurent studied the finished canvas on the easel before her, and though masterpiece hardly described it, she knew the painting was her best yet. So why the disappointment inside her? The fiendish fraudulence trickling its way through her like tiny beads of sweat beneath layers of crinoline and lace. She ran a hand through her curls and dropped the soiled paintbrush into a cup of turpentine, full well knowing why. And knowing only deepened her guilt.

Her gaze fell to the lower right­hand corner of the canvas, the one reserved for the artist's signature. She hadn't yet been able to bring herself to sign this one. Not with that name. Because of all the landscapes and still lifes and portraits she'd painted, none had truly felt like hers . . .

Until this one.

A breeze, moist and swollen, heavy with the certainty of rain, wafted in through the open second­story window, and she peered from her bedroom over the town, breathing in the tang of salty air moving in from the gulf.

She viewed the Vieux Carré below, the Old Square she'd painted so many times she could close her eyes and still see every detail—the rows of pastel­colored buildings clustered together and edging the narrow streets, their balconies of decorative black cast iron boasting hanging baskets that cascaded with late summer blooms. The combination lent a charm and beauty unique to this part of the city.

No wonder she'd fallen in love with New Orleans so quickly, despite the hardship of recent months.

The steady tick-tick-tick of the clock on the mantel marked the seconds, and she released her breath with practiced ease. She rose from her stool and stretched, paying the toll for retiring so late in recent evenings and for rising so early, but there was no avoiding it. This painting had taken longer to complete than she'd estimated.

Much longer, as her father kept reminding her.

Almost half past two, and she needed to "take leave of the gallery no later than three," as her father had insisted. She knew she shouldn't allow his request to bother her. It wasn't the first time he'd demanded she leave while he "conferred" with gallery patrons. And it wasn't as if she didn't know what he was doing during that time. What they did as a family business.

His increasing agitation in recent weeks wasn't helping her attitude toward him, however. Though not a gentle man, by any means, he wasn't customarily given to a sharp tongue. But in recent days a single look from him could have sliced bread hot from the oven.

"Claire Elise? Où estu?" She stiffened at his voice. "Oui, Papa. I'm up here." She glanced back at the canvas, fighting the ridiculous urge to hide it. Something within her didn't want him to see the painting. Not yet. And—if it had been within her control—not ever. Maybe she could tell him it wasn't finished yet. But one look at her, and Papa would know. Pretense was a skill she'd never mastered—not like he had.

Hurried steps coming up the stairwell told her there wasn't enough time to stash the painting in the empty space behind the wardrobe, and throwing a drape over it was out of the question with the final brushstrokes only moments old. Maybe if she told him how much this particular painting meant to her, he would let her keep it.

But she had a feeling that conversation would go much like the one six months ago, following her mother's passing—when she'd told him, as forcefully as she dared, that she didn't want to paint "like this" anymore. Her father had never struck her, but she'd sensed he'd wanted to in that moment, and she hadn't considered broaching the subject again.

Until now.

"Ah . . ." His footsteps halted in the doorway behind her. "Finally, you have finished, non?"

His tone, less strident than earlier that morning, tempted her to hope for an improvement in his mood. "Yes . . . I've finished." Readying herself for his reaction—and critical critique—she stepped to one side, a tangle of nerves tightening her insides.

He stared. Then blinked. Once, twice. "Jardins de Versailles . . . again." A muscle tightened in his jaw. "This is not the painting upon which we agreed." He looked at her, then back at the canvas. Keen appraisal sharpened his expression. "But . . . it does show some improvement."

Claire felt her nerves easing at the merest hint of praise. Until she saw it. . . .

That familiar flicker in his eyes. Her father appreciated art, in his own way, but he was a businessman at heart. His pride in her artistic talent ran a losing footrace with the profit he hoped to make through selling her paintings.

Her paintings . . .

The irony of that thought settled like a stone in her chest, which sent an unexpected—and dangerous—ripple of courage through her. "Papa, I . . ." The words fisted tight in her throat, and he wasn't even looking at her yet. "I need to speak with you about something. Something very important to me. I know you're not—"

His hand went up, and she flinched.

But he seemed not to notice. "This isn't the landscape we agreed for you to paint this time, nor is it what I described to the patron, but—" He studied her rendering of Louis the XIV's palace and the surrounding gardens, then gave an exaggerated sigh. "Given we are out of time, and that the patron very much desires to own a François­ Narcisse Brissaud . . . it will have to do." He nodded succinctly, as though deciding within himself at that very moment.

"Yes. I'm certain I can convince him of its worth. After all"—he smiled to himself—"the larger galleries in Paris often ship the wrong painting. But next time, Claire . . ." He looked down at her, his gaze stern.

"You must render, to the smallest detail, the painting upon which we have agreed."

Claire searched his face. His words stung, on so many levels. But the most disturbing . . . "You've secured a buyer for this painting? Before they've even seen it?"

To read the full first two chapters, click here:

About the author:

TAMERA ALEXANDER is a bestselling novelist whose works have been awarded or nominated for numerous honors, including the Christy Award, the RITA Award, and the Carol Award. After seventeen years in Colorado, Tamera and her husband have returned to their native South and live in Tennessee, where they enjoy spending time with their two grown children.






A Lasting Impression is available at bookstores everywhere, on,,, and at your local Christian bookstore.

Copyright © 2011 by Tamera Alexander

ISBN 978-0764206221 Bethany House Publishers
All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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