"MacLean reaches far inside her characters to pull out all the stops in this deeply touching, unforgettable love story. Known for her ability to balance humor, passion and emotional intensity, MacLean crafts stories that are romantic and thought provoking. She is an author whose time has come."
4½ stars - Top Pick - Kathe Robin, Romantic Times Bookclub
"Had me weeping... Ms. MacLean has outdone herself with Portrait of a Lover. It's timeless, it's classic, a novel every reader must read."
Laurel Letherby, The Mystic Castle
"Portrait of a Lover absolutely and without a doubt blew me away."
Natasha Smith, Romance Junkies
American Heiress Series Book Five
A picture of deception . . . A landscape of love . . .
Annabelle Lawson knew nothing about the breathtaking stranger she met on the train—only that he'd make an ideal model for the budding young artist . . . and that she desired him more than she believed possible. But after she'd been seduced, she learned that she'd also been betrayed. The man she thought she loved was really Magnus Wallis—a scoundrel like his father before him, the loathed cousin of Annabelle's benefactor, the honorable Earl of Whitby.
No longer the naively romantic girl who would tumble for a rogue, Annabelle cannot avoid a reunion with the despicable Magnus, who wants to include her portraits in his new London gallery. She means to show him her coldest face—but upon seeing him again, her every intention melts from the heat of his touch. It is clear that Magnus still burns with love for her. But is he still the villain he once was, or can he be reformed into a man Annabelle can dare to love?
Read an excerpt...
June 19, 1892
You did not reply to my previous letter, so I have taken the liberty of writing again to request an appointment with you regarding the painting. I implore you - please do not let the past dictate your decision in this regard. Come and meet me at the gallery before the exhibition. The painting deserves this recognition.
Annabelle Lawson tipped her head back upon the rough bark of the oak tree on the hill, and laid a hand upon her stomach. Her heart was pounding uncontrollably. She’d always feared this day would come – that after all these years, Magnus would be bold enough to contact her.
She took a deep, slow breath, telling herself that at least this way, she’d been warned that he had returned to London. It would have been excruciating to meet him unexpectedly somewhere. Not that this wasn’t excruciating enough on its own. Meet me at the gallery...
Her stomach began to churn. He wanted to see her. But how could she see him? She had not forgiven him for what he’d done all those years ago. He’d ripped her heart to shreds and stomped on it. He’d treated her appallingly. Inexcusably. He was her brother’s enemy, and he was vengeful. He had no heart of his own.
No. She could not see him. It would be too painful and agonizing, to revisit all those feelings.
A cool breeze fluttered the letter in her hand, and Annabelle gazed beyond her easel, down the grassy hillside toward her home. Or rather, her brother’s home, which she had been struggling to capture on canvas.
She folded the letter and stuffed it into her pocket. Picking up her palette and brush, she took a step forward, but stopped and laid a hand on her stomach again, waiting for the churning sensation to pass. She had not felt anything this intense in years. Eight, to be exact, because that was the last time she had dealt with Magnus – the day he had left England for America. Permanently. She had been so very relieved that day. Relieved that he would disappear and never bother her or Whitby again. Whitby had made sure of it. He had paid Magnus handsomely to leave, with an allowance forthcoming as long as he remained in America. Magnus knew that if he ever returned, the payments would cease. But he was here now, wasn’t he? Here on English soil, opening old wounds and causing Annabelle to question whether or not he had ever really been gone.
Because the scars he had left were still etched sorely on her heart.
Forcing herself not to let those thoughts distract her any further because she wanted this painting finished, she assessed and appraised her work. It was nearly complete, but did not yet convey what she wished it to convey. Determined to get it right, she dipped her small flat bristle brush into the black paint, and redefined the outline of the far side of the house. She tried to touch up the other side as well, then she used her painting knife to delineate the lines she’d just added.
Annabelle stepped back again to examine the subtle changes. Good God. She'd been working on this for what seemed like forever, and still, she wasn't happy with it. It was dull. It evoked no emotion. Anyone could have painted it. Whitby would be just as well off with a photograph.
Letting out a frustrated sigh, she set her palette down upon her paint box and backed up against the tree. She continued to stare at the painting. What was wrong with it? What was missing? The same thing that was missing from all her paintings, she supposed. Originality. Passion. Life. She never took chances with them and she was never happy with them, and she would tinker with them forever if she could.
Another breeze blew by, gusting through the leaves overhead. Annabelle spent a few more minutes staring with dissatisfaction at the painting, wondering what she could do to fix it, then at last she shook her head and decided to give up. The truth of the matter was - she hadn’t the slightest idea how to make it better without taking the chance of spoiling it. Best not to risk it. Consequently, she cleaned her palette and brushes, set all her supplies into the paint box and closed it. Perhaps Whitby would think it was fine. He always disagreed with her about her paintings, after all, and fought to convince her they were marvellous, when she invariably thought they were catastrophes.
Lying back on the grass to give the paint time to dry, she laced her fingers together over her stomach - which thankfully had settled somewhat - and crossed her legs at the ankles. She squinted up at the leaves against the bright, white sky, listened to the whispery sound they made in the wind, and thought of the letter in her pocket again.
The painting deserves this recognition....
She realized suddenly that she had been so shaken by the thought of seeing Magnus again, she had not really considered the larger picture. He wanted to show one of her paintings in an exhibition.
No, not just any painting. He wanted to show The Fisherman – which she had not seen in thirteen years. She couldn’t even remember what it looked like, and she wasn’t even sure she wanted to see it. She’d always regretted painting it and had wished it did not exist in the world. Many times over the years, she’d wished she could get it back and destroy it. But he seemed to think it was praiseworthy. Was it possible he was right, and this exhibition could be the key to her future as an artist? And if that was so, could she ignore this opportunity because of her personal feelings toward Magnus? Surely she was stronger than that, wasn't she? She knew the truth about him now, and she was a woman, no longer the naive girl she had once been so many years ago when she'd stepped on the train...
Portrait of a Lover