Longing for a good paranormal, I dove into Tracy Fobes' Portrait of a Bride with sincere relish. So much promise in the beginning . . .sadly, so disappointing from there on out.
Present Day—Jordan Conner, a research scientist studying gene therapy and infertility, is at a loss. She cannot understand why her latest attempt at genetic manipulation on the sperm specimen before her is such a failure. Perhaps, like everything else in her life that was doomed, her marriage, her own ability to have a child—this work she had invested so much energy in, will be hopeless as well.
Some 3,000 Years in the Future—Artisan Conlean, son of the Patriarch of the Royal House of Arador was shocked when his father asked him to paint a new bride so that he could obtain an heir. His mother had been missing for more than five years, but he certainly did not want to be the one who betrayed and replaced her. He encouraged his father to seek the Grand Artisan Hawkwood, but his father would not wait for the older man to complete what Conlean could do in a week’s time. Consequently, Conlean and the Grand Artisan Hawkwood hatch a plan and Jordan Conner’s portrait is painted. She will not only serve as his father’s bride, but can also secretly develop a cure to end the plague that has devoured the land.
The premise of Ms. Fobes' tale is that a plague created in the past, had so adversely affected women in the future that it left them incapable of conceiving a female child. In the province of Blackfell, the female is a commodity much revered and sought after, and only the wealthiest of men can afford them. Our male protagonist, Artisan Conlean—had displayed artistic talent as a youth, and must abide the laws of Blackfell, and live and train at a Gallery. At this Gallery, a portrait is painted, and with the help of a valuable substance called “Prima Materia,” the Artisan is able to bring forth a woman from the past. A seeker will leave a picture of her likeness, and a biographical in a specialized vault. Thousands of years later, the Artisan will travel through a portal in the painting and retrieve the bride for some lucky man. The least wealthy in Blackfell plan an insurgency, as they are quite unhappy with this arrangement.
The author's biggest dilemma is that she had so many plot twists, and such a vast array of ideas, that she lost track of her original format. The protagonists were likeable, particularly Conlean (Jordan started to grind on my nerves a bit in all honesty) and the secondary characters were interesting. The romance between Conlean and his father’s bride Jordan could have been spectacular. However, Ms. Fobes lost track and blew it with sheer silliness. The love between the two developed too fast, especially after all Jordan’s protestations. Yep—my eyes rolled clear up in my head.
Portrait of a Bride seemed a very ambitious effort. In fairness Ms. Fobes intellect was impressive and she seemed to have real expertise in the scientific field. Although, some of the more outrageous theories did not translate well. Furthermore, an author who assumes her readers will overlook one error after another runs the risk of insulting their intelligence.
I can assume one thing . . .a sequel is definitely in the works. The story just ends with nothing resolved except Jordan and Conlean are together and she is finally at work on a cure. After all the diversions and senseless wanderings that went on through the better part of the book, we get one page (the epilog) to tell us this. Not to mention, new secondary characters that will undoubtedly carry the next story, and you have had no time to get to know them.
I have not made up my mind whether I would pursue the sequel or not. I am not certain I care about Jordan and Conlean or their ordeal enough. I do believe Ms. Fobes has talent, she just needs to reign in her imagination a tad, develop a feasible plot and then stick to it.