Victoria Darling dreams of becoming a world-renowned artist. Sent to France by her parents to attend a fancy finishing school, she secretly paints with an all-male atelier. One day, their nude model doesn’t show, and Vicky volunteers to pose for her classmates. Word of this reaches her parents back in England, and she’s whisked home amid the scandal. The only way to salvage her reputation, and that of her family, is a quick marriage to the son of a wealthy businessman. But Vicky’s not worried about reputation; she concerns herself only with furthering her art career.
So, the first thing I have to mention?
VICKY IS THE WORST.
Does she care that she might singlehandedly dismantle her father’s career? Not really.
Does she see her future husband as anything more than a bank account? Nope.
Does she consider cheating on said future husband with her muse? Absolutely.
She falls into the company of some suffragettes, but does she think of them as anything more than a possible art school recommendation? What do you think?
There are flawed characters, there are charmingly imperfect characters, and then there is Vicky, who is the literal worst.
For a girl of her social class in this time period (1909), and with all the education she received, you may think that Vicky would understand societal pressures. She might understand that she’s literally ruining her father’s career with her shenanigans. But she doesn’t seem to understand that. She rebels for the sake of rebelling. For the time period, she had a lot of freedom, but she’s not satisfied. She won’t take no for an answer, and ends up making stupid mistake after stupid mistake. Throughout most of the book, I just wanted to grab her by the shoulders and tell her how much worse she was making things for herself. You can be an artist, Vicky! Just stop being dumb about it!
Vicky finds herself intrigued by the women’s suffrage movement, but, of course, not because she believes in it. Not really. No, it’s because there are famous artists affiliated with the movement, and she thinks that if she can get her artwork in their promotional materials, if she can get her artwork up on the murals, if she can get one of those artists to write a recommendation for her… maybe she can get into art school. That’s it. That’s her motivation. Because Vicky is the literal worst.
Through the women’s suffrage movement, she meets Will, a gorgeous policeman who agrees to pose for her art school portfolio. Will obviously falls for Vicky, who consistently fails to mention that she’s engaged, and even brings Will to her future home because it has good light for painting, or something like that. Did I prefer Will over her actual fiance? Yes, of course. Her fiance spends most of the book drunk or gambling, or discussing being drunk or gambling. But did I think she was being fair to either one of them? No.
Vicky seems to find no issue with using people for whatever she needs. She uses the suffragettes to further her application to art school. She uses Will as inspiration for her paintings. She uses Edmund, her fiance, because his fortune will pay for her admission to art school. I can’t think of one honest relationship Vicky has in this book. She even uses her brother, her best friend, and her lady’s maid. It’s awful.
The book is entertaining, and I read through it pretty quickly. But it’s also infuriating, because I wanted so badly to find some redeeming quality in Victoria, and there was just nothing there.
I’ll file this one under main characters I just didn’t click with.
Final rating: ★★☆☆☆