Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: 'A Secret Muse' by Mandy Jackson-Beverly

Australian born California author Mandy Jackson-Beverly grew up in Tasmania eventually moved to London and discovered the importance of the creative collective: The 1980s fashion scene. Then moving to Los Angeles, she found her own creative freedom among visionaries of the music video world. She worked as a costume designer and stylist for photographer Herb Ritts, and directors Joel and Ethan Coen, David Fincher, and Julien Temple, and music icons David Bowie, Madonna, and Tina Turner, among others. She has also taught Advanced Placement Art, written and directed high school theater productions, is a contributor to The Huffington Post and a book reviewer for The New York Journal of Books. Now her creativity blossoms in this CREATIVE SERIES of which A SECRET MUSE is the initial installment. Her fascinating style incorporates the supernatural worlds of vampire, witches and wizards – all told with a magnetic charm that keeps the reader focused on the core mystery of her story.

Additive information from the author informs the reader of the definitions involved in her story - The Allegiance: An ancient organization that protects art and Creatives, and gives sanctuary to those threatened by religious zealots. Creatives: Artists who paint truths within paintings, secrets only visible to a few; their images share the gift of prophecy. All Creatives have amethyst-colored eyes.

And opening the door to her tale she offers the key – ‘As humans, we are bound by fate to encounter a profound moment while on our journey—an instant when a choice is presented and we either accept the challenge, or carry on with life as we know it.’ The opening paragraph sets the tone well – ‘Professor Coco Rhodes contemplated the image before her: a female cloaked in a shadowed background, her eyes closed—and a man standing in the foreground poised in a defensive stance. Both were drenched in tones of deep crimson. Blood tones. Had one of her students painted this picture, Coco would have perceived that the artist was hiding something, holding back from her full potential, or afraid. But Coco had created this image and it signified her personal creative interrupta. She hadn’t painted anything in three months, since the headaches and visions of blood had begun. That time also marked the initiation of the nightmares in which she searched continually for something she had lost.’

The provided synopsis readies the reader fortunate enough to enter this strange world – ‘‘UCLA art professor Coco Rhodes knows little about her family's association with the ancient clandestine organization The Allegiance and wants to keep it that way. She dislikes secrets--they're a painful reminder of her childhood experiences that were erased as a result of her parents' tragic deaths when she was four years old. After a brutal attempt on her life, and the arrival of a birthday letter from her dead mother, Coco demands explanations from her brother, Christopher, a high-powered D.C. lawyer and member of the Allegiance. Christopher guides Coco to her birthplace, Italy, insisting she'll find her answers there. Enter the enigmatic Gabriel, a powerful warlock with a vampire father, and the ethereal Prudence, keeper of the Allegiance. When a close friend is murdered, Coco's life takes a dark turn. With only a faded portrait torn from a lost sketchbook, and one of her mother's unfinished paintings, Coco unravels clues from her past, in the hope of saving those she loves.’

All of Mandy’s past exposure and experience pays off handsomely in this little jewel of a novel. He is most definitely a writer to watch – especially for the lovers of paranormal literature. Grady Harp, December 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.