If You Love Me, I’m Yours by Lizzie Chantree
Maud didn’t mind being boring, not really. She had a sensible job, clothes, and love life… if you counted an overbearing ex who had thanked her, rolled over and was snoring before she even realised he’d begun! She could tolerate not fulfilling her dreams, if her parents would pay her one compliment about the only thing she was passionate about in life: her art.
Dot should have fitted in with her flamboyant and slightly eccentric family of talented artists, but somehow, she was an anomaly who couldn’t paint. She tried hard to be part of their world by becoming an art agent extraordinaire, but she dreamed of finding her own voice.
Dot’s brother Nate, a smoulderingly sexy and famous artist, was adored by everyone. His creative talent left them in awe of his ability to capture such passion on canvas. Women worshipped him, and even Dot’s friend Maud flushed and bumped into things when he walked into a room, but a tragic event in his past had left him emotionally and physically scarred, and reluctant to face the world again.
Someone was leaving exquisite little paintings on park benches, with a tag saying, ‘If you love me, I’m yours’. The art was so fresh and cutting-edge, that it generated a media frenzy and a scramble to discover where the mystery artist could be hiding. The revelation of who the prodigious artist was interlinked Maud, Dot and Nate’s lives forever, but their worlds came crashing down.
Were bonds of friendship, love and loyalty strong enough to withstand fame, success and scandal?
So what adjectives can I find to describe If You Love Me, I’m Yours?
Romantic, certainly; charming and heart-warming, definitely; it is also unexpectedly moving, and fist-clenchingly provocative, with hidden depths and multiple layers. The romance is not just between people, but also with art which obviously plays a central role in Maud’s story.
For the reader, the brilliance of this narrative is that its rather like a game of snakes and ladders, just as you think you have the hook on a character or situation, something happens to make you reassess your judgement. Sometimes climbing up the ladder, sometimes sliding down the snake. Good, bad, misunderstood, or fully comprehended, some characters will have you changing your mind again and again over many chapters.
Maud is a lovely character, whose personality and spirit has in many ways been crushed by her narrow-minded, dictatorial mother and inept father. Her parents have a star-shaped daughter that they have tried hard to hammer into their very square life. Years of criticism and complaints have left her doing ‘everything in her power to please her parents’. Painting is the exception, and it’s the one thing her mother cannot and will not allow. ‘I am not a monster’ Rosemary declares, but she is, endlessly chipping away at Maud, who only wants one thing – a single word of praise or thanks.
Whatever Maud’s uncertainties and fears, she is a tender yet feisty young woman, finally fighting her way out from under an overbearing mother to reach for her dreams. Maud’s best friend Daisy encourages her in all aspects of her life and is generally a force for good. It is Daisy who submits one of Maud’s artworks into the competition that finally ignites the life-changing touch-paper, but it is Dot who adds oxygen to the flame.
Maud and Dot are fantastic foils for each other. The author has written them so subtly, and in such a way that it is probably only on reflection that the reader realises that each illuminates the other, that each has seemingly opposite, but in fact similar problems. Maud is quiet, reserved, and neutrally dressed; Dot is outgoing, flamboyant, and an explosion of colour. Both dress the way they do for good reasons. Maud has an obvious talent that is demeaned and oppressed by her parents; Dot claims no artistic talent but has a family who believe she just hasn’t found her forte yet. The pressure from family is immense for both.
Underneath these artificial exteriors created over the years by Maud and Dot for their respective families, and behind which they hide, the truth is very different. The common ground is in the spaces between. These characteristics and behaviours hide a fear of failure and a lack of confidence in their abilities outside their current careers. Both have jobs they are good at, but not what they really want to do with the rest of their lives, and their meeting eventually ignites an explosion of creativity, transformation, and change.
Lizzie Chantree brings us a tale that is also about fame and celebrity, and not always in the way you’d expect. Think how we refer to people in the workplace for example, as being ‘a bit of a celebrity around here’. It highlights how people use that status to manipulate and deceive even at the most innocuous level when we tell ourselves we are doing it to help our friend/child/sibling. Lizzie also shows us how rash decisions can destroy something we love and cherish, and how bad behaviour can come back around and bite you in the rear!
Our ‘heroes’ Tom and Nate are foils in a similar way as Maud and Dot. Both handsome and attractive, both with their issues, they hide themselves behind an exterior that masks their true characters. As the story progresses, each man meets and deals with almost as much change and adjustment in their lives, as the two young women. Each must come to terms with and face up to their present lives and situations. Equally, each treat their relationship with Maud differently; from the careful manipulation by one to the slow-burn romance of the other. Another ‘snakes and ladders’ scenario skilfully crafted by a very adept writer.
It is a wonderful book, its full of humour and laughter, love and friendship, and an altogether fantastic read. As I haven’t read any of Lizzie Chantree’s other books, I shall have to add a couple to my library. Her writing is lovely and if this book is a good example, then I have some great reading ahead of me – when I can fit it all in.
A full five-star recommendation. Read and enjoy!
Purchase Link – viewbook.at/IfYouLoveMe-ImYours
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Award-winning inventor and author, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now runs networking hours on social media, where creative businesses, writers, photographers and designers can offer advice and support to each other. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.
Author page: viewAuthor.at/LizzieChantree
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