A fascinating book. I was so intrigued by all of its characters and going ons, that I had to google the Lempicka's complete works and see the paintings mentioned in the novel for myself.
Tamara Lempicka was a famous artist who began her life as a Pole in Russia...later kicked out in the revolution. She honed her skills as a a painter in Paris and explored freely with her sexuality. Apparently, (in this book, anyway) any artistic woman in France in 1927 worth her salt was a Lesbian. The heroine and Lempicka tend to socialize and stay in that inner circle.
Rafaela narrates the tale. Rafaela escaped an unwanted marriage to find herself posing naked on Lempicka's couch. Lempicka takes Rafaela to her bed as well through her narrative and eyes, we learn about how Lempicka painted La Belle Rafaela, The Dream, Nude With Dove, Chemise Rose, and Full Summer. The pink chemise...a gift sewn by Rafaela...the Nude With Dove...due to an issue of jealousy and an old lover of Lempicka's, it's actually Rafaela's body, but another woman's face.
These paintings, mostly of Rafaela, set off a bidding war between two very rich men. Enter greed, lies, deceit, train tickets, unlocked doors, money exchanging hands, private eyes smoking cigarettes, and above all, Rafaela's broken heart. See, she loves Lempicka, but Lempicka only loves...herself.
The last part, the last quarter of the book, suddenly switches over to an old Lempicka with shaky hands and a fading memory and I actually fell asleep here. I found her narrative very boring, and I was a tad disappointed that we don't really find out what happened to Rafaela. At the same time, however, I also appreciated the unique ending. It's different. The entire novel is different.
I also learned a lot about a fascinating woman. Violette Morris: a race car driver who cut off her breasts just to better fit in a car, a professional boxer who even knocked out men, and a gifted athlete. Sadly, she also ended up on the Gestapo's side during the war...but nevertheless, she had a few guest appearances in this books and I was really intrigued. Had to google her as well.
Favorite scene: When Rafaela posed at the party under the flashing light...quickly.. just three flashes. Wow!
Overall: A very good read till the last part. Four stars. I won this on LibraryThing Early Reviewers.