Painted Faces (by L.H. Cosway)

"...his voice sounds like a dark prison that I desperately want to get inside."

Painted Faces (by L.H. Cosway)

Conflict: past baggage issues (abuse, death of parent), friends to lovers
Nicholas (stage name - "Vivica Blue" or "Viv" for short) started cross-dressing at a young age, after his mother died.  After years of soul-searching, cabaret performances, travel, and alcohol abuse, he moves to Dublin, Ireland - right next to Freda.  What starts as a flirty friendship (and striking a deal for Freda to be Viv's special assistant) very quickly escalates into a SUPER heavy-petting passionate let's-torture-eachother-because-we-both-want-it-SO-badly "friendship".  You're asking, "But why don't they just bone and get it over with?" - Because they genuinely DO love each other; however, Freda doesn't want to have her heart broken by Nicholas, and while Nicholas doesn't want to loose Freda, he also needs to reconcile with his past.

Lori told me about this one blowing up on Goodreads, and all the warnings are right: You'll think of staying up all night to finish it, but at 350+ pages (that you can't skim through) it'll easily wear you out for work the next day.

Then you'll be hungover - unable to think of anything else - only because it's such a stand-alone.  It didn't remind me of, or feel like, any other romance.  It's beautiful for all it's heart-breaking honesty and character insecurities.

Why do I empathize with this heroine:  First off, Freda wakes up at 5 a.m. to bake cupcakes four days a week.  Oh, hell no.  (Granted, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. five days a week, but at least I'm showering and dragging my ass and drinking coffee and then reading on the Metro.)  But most of all, the first-person POV makes this one read like a heart-to-heart between the narrator and reader.  She's snarky at times, and she knows her faults and worries.  Painted Faces has one of the best lessons we learn from romances - and Freda nails it right on the head in chapter six:  "You know what it's like when a man says he wants you, you want him to have never liked any girl as much as he likes you."  <-- Exactly this.  And L.H. Cosway writes this as Freda's concern, and it's so crucial that the reader sees this.  If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you're with a guy who likes (or has liked) another girl more than he likes/loves/respects you - you dump his sorry ass (quickly).  Of course we know better, that Freda will have her HEA, but damn if watching Freda's torment/obsession over Nick/Viv's feelings for her doesn't keep us on the edge of our seats!

Things I loved:

  • Songs: this wins the story over - hands down (and btw those are all mandatory listening if you haven't heard them yet...) - even that Irish Sean-nós song that Nicholas sings, The Wind That Shakes the Barley.   

Overall:  Superbly well-written indie romance!  Tone, POV, mood, and style are consistent throughout the pages.  I highly recommend this for open-minded "cool" and hip readers.  Side effects include: desire to put on make-up (and get mah hurr did), listening to Elton John and eating cupcakes, mojitos and vodka oranges, Google image searching "hot guys in drag" - then appreciating and imagining that Vivica Blue probably looked like Alexander Skarsgård  and/or James Franco - in drag.

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