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Romantic Illusions

An Affair with Beauty: The Mystique of Howard Chandler Christy
Length: 9 hrs and 37 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

Fame, fortune, and beautiful models - Howard Chandler Christy had them all.

Christy was the most famous American painter of the Jazz Age, a time when an elite brotherhood of New York artists dominated the publishing world. Christy had eclipsed all of them with his "Christy Girl", an idealized woman who redefined beauty, influenced fashion, and inspired generations of women. Illustrated in popular magazines, best-selling novels, and top-ranked newspapers, the "Christy Girl" transformed the artist into a household name.

In Romantic Illusions, the second book in Head's An Affair with Beauty trilogy, Christy once again comes to life through the eyes of Nancy Palmer. Christy, his wife and former model, as she recounts her first Christmas with Howard and his family at his Ohio mansion, the Barracks, in 1912.

Howard tells of his early years studying art in near-poverty in New York City and his sudden ascent to stardom as the top pupil of William Merritt Chase, the premier portrait painter in America. During "The Great Flood of 1913" - the worst tragedy the Midwest had ever encountered - Howard describes his daring experiences with Teddy Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War in Cuba and his brush with near-certain death, no less than three times.

The effects of the war profoundly transform Howard, inspiring him to create his vision of beauty, the "Christy Girl," which catapults him to stardom.

When romance blossoms between artist and model, Howard is slow to seek a divorce from his estranged wife, Maebelle, jeopardizing Nancy's desires and compelling her to uncover his scandalous past. As World War I break out, Howard returns to New York City, forcing Nancy to risk everything as she reveals her true feelings for him.

©2019 James Philip Head (P)2019 James Philip Head

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This has Love, lust, history, and art too

This is historical but reads like a romance novel. And also like a history. The reader is fantastic and you can really picture America back then through her eyes and almost experience the glamor. Howard Chandler Christy was a famous artist who I never heard about until this book. He led a glamorous life in the first half of the 20th century and the book also sounds like a history of the country in the 1900s and the flashy culture of the roaring twenties and the wars and headlines of the times.

Howard has a scandalous life like many of the other illustrators back then and his new wife and model Nancy starts feeling as though she has gotten too old to compete with his young models after he divorced his first wife and the mother of his child. So there is romance.

Howard follows the US Army and Roosevelt into Cuba to illustrate the war and to humanize the young soldiers who fought and those who came home. So this is history. It is told in Howard's voice and in Nancy his wife's voice. It was easy to distinguish between voices and the reader was great. It sounded like she was caught up in the excitement and also the sadness of the war and she conveyed Nancy's irritation with Howard's ex and with his new models really well.

The only problem (spoiler alert!) is that it is a clifhangar and I'm going to have to listen to the next book. And also the first one. The reader is perfect for the times and I would like to listen to her read F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was a friend of the artist. I enjoyed the story and the reader!