DAW / March 4, 2014 / $24.95 print, $11.99 digital
An immortal Muse whose very survival depends on the creativity she nurtures within her lovers…
Another immortal who feeds not on artistry but on pain and torment...
A chase through time, with two people bound together in enmity and fury…
Magic and science melded together into one, and an array of the famous and infamous, caught up unawares in an ages-long battle…
In Stephen Leigh's Immortal Muse, Perenelle Flamel is a woman who spends centuries as a muse to the greatest artists of every era, while struggling to escape the brutal husband who thrives on her suffering.
When we first meet Perenelle, it is current day Manhattan, and her new name is Camille Kenny. She’s at a Lower East Side bar called the Bent Calliope, where she is a regular. Here, she gathers with other artists—writers, photographers, painters—who aspire to greatness and all seem to mysteriously benefit by proximity to her.
Flashback to France in the 1300s, where she is a twenty-eight year old widow who, unfortunately for her, remarries. Her new husband, Nicholas Flamel:
“...courted her hard, used every advantage he had with her. He’d gained first her trust, then given her what she’d thought—again—was love. And maybe it was love. Maybe that’s all love ever was and ever could be, despite the grand tales and stories. Maybe love was something that bloomed like a bright flower in spring, only to inevitably wither away and eventually turn into a withered, brown husk: a mocking reminder of what had once been.”
It soon becomes clear that Nicholas, mercurial and violent, only married her to get access to the valuable texts she was left by her father, who had been an apothecary and alchemist. (It was her father who first noticed her preternatural ability to pull greatness from him: “Maybe that’s your gift, daughter. Maybe you are a muse, a new Calliope or Clio. My very own daemon.”)
Perenelle has more than her father’s texts; She also has all the knowledge her father passed on to he during the years she spent assisting him. By the time Perenelle realizes her terrible mistake in marrying Nicholas, it’s too late: she’s pregnant. Still, when he beats her during her pregnancy, she plans to leave. But when he gives her a beautiful cameo pendant as an apology gift, she finds herself oddly bound to him. And so she stays. But after decades of acrimony and misery, she finally perfects the elixir that gives her immortality. And she breaks free.
Back in the modern day, immortal Camille feeds on the creativity of others. But unlike true vampires, she gives as much as she takes. Still, she can not live on the group of artists alone. She needs that one person whose talent will invigorate her:
“The collective energy of the group still wasn’t truly satisfying. She kept herself at a distance from them, spreading herself out among the group rather than choosing a single one of them. From each of them, she took what she could, but it wasn’t the same as being with someone. They nourished her, but she was left with an eternal sense of hunger and not-quite-emptiness. It was enough to keep her from falling into depression and ill health, but the group couldn’t give her all that she wanted.”
Camille thrives on that artistic connection with one person.
Her connection with people is sexual as well as artistic: She has countless lovers, both male and female. There is a tie between sexuality and creativity. But she has learned the hard way that it’s dangerous for her to connect too strongly to one individual. That passion serves as a beacon for Nicholas, who is chasing her across centuries to find and destroy her.
Ultimately, Camille can’t resist the urge to muse talented but struggling photographer David Treadway. “He stared at her; when she glances at him, the sense of instant connection made her inhale. A green aura hung around him, so bright that she wondered none of the customers could see it.” He tells her that as a photographer, “I’m becoming the guy who almost made it and didn’t.” Despite the fact that he is married, they have instant chemistry. When she starts posing for him in the nude, his career turns around. They become lovers, and she knows that she is risking his life. Across the centuries, Nicholas gaining on her, killing everyone that stands between him and vengeance.
There is a lot going on in this novel: murder, passionate love affairs, black magic. It spans centuries, moving back and forth from the modern day story to multiple historical eras in which Perenelle muses the great artists: Bernini in Rome in 1635; Vivaldi in Venice of 1737; with Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier and Robespierre in the Paris of the French Revolution; William Blake and John Polidori in 1814; Gustav Klimt in fin de siècle Vienna; Charlotte Salomon in WWII France. While each time period is detailed and emotionally nuanced with its own mini-arcs of characters and the ongoing struggle between Perenelle and Nicholas, these chapters mostly reinforce what a monster Nicholas is instead of adding to tension of the current day story. Still, the inventive saga is a unique exploration of art, passion, and love, making it worth the long and winding journey.
Learn more or order a copy of Immortal Muse by Stephen Leigh, available March 4, 2014:
Jamie Brenner is the author of the 1920s novel The Gin Lovers (St. Martin’s Press). Her debut New Adult novel, Ruin Me, will publish May 6 with St. Martin’s Press. She writes erotica under the name Logan Belle. For more please visit www.jamiebrenner.com or follow her @jamieLbrenner.