At the same time, paintings across the world are mysteriously falling ill. All the Renoirs are fading. The mirror in a Titian is fractured. In the Louvre, Géricault’s "The Raft of the Medusa" is leaking water into its gallery, and Rembrandt’s characteristically full-figured Bathsheba is wasting away in her frame, shedding shriveled bits of flesh onto the floor.
Julien learns that Bonheur and his sister are members of a secret society called the Avant Garde, sworn to protect art and the nine divine Muses who inspire it – the Muses who evidently live in Bonheur’s basement. According to them, Julien is the first-ever human muse and the only one who can break the curse.
On Clio’s first night at the museum, she emerges for the first time in over a century and finds Julien waiting for her. He comes to her every night after the museum closes, bringing pastries to fill her very real, very empty tummy. They fall in love while roaming the galleries with the living art and traveling into the paintings.
“There is magic somewhere in Paris,” he declares. “There is clearly magic in art, magic in dust, magic in my hands.”
Together they must heal the world’s sick art and free Clio. To do that, they’ll have to go up against Pierre-Auguste Renoir himself – Renoir’s ghost has inhabited the body of a local street artist, determined to protect his legacy at all costs. The lovers’ struggle will demand a greater sacrifice than they can imagine.
Having never been to France or visited the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay, I reveled in Whitney’s command of her subject. A Brown University art history graduate, Whitney clearly has a passion for Paris. Her descriptions of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Giverny, Montmartre, and the Marais are practically caresses.
Unfortunately for readers with empty stomachs, she’s also well versed in French pastry. Whitney concocts a delectable buffet of apricot tart, cinnamon rugelach, five-berry crumble, macarons, and île flottante (meringue afloat in a sea of caramel custard).