Penny Sturdevant, recently divorced, meets Lyle Chilton at a secluded bookstore and immediately falls for him. He doesn’t like to talk much about himself and asks her to keep their relationship secret. She finds him strong, full of purpose, mysterious and totally irresistible. One day, Lyle shows her an old parchment, a forged letter supposedly written by William Shakespeare. He outlines the whole scheme for her. She will engage a lawyer to have the parchment authenticated , then sold at an auction. With the money, they will move to Ecuador and start a new life together. The auction nets them 3.75 million, and Penny is overwhelmed. Unfortunately, the scheme is uncovered, forcing Lyle and Penny to flee. The ending is unexpected and powerful, leaving the reader satisfied.
Painter of the Heavens is an interesting exploration into the psychology of love, vulnerability, and willingness to trust someone despite your better judgment. Penny is a genuine character, but I found Lyle too domineering and mysterious. As the novel progresses, lack of substance in his character becomes more pronounced and Penny starts to have misgivings, but is too deeply involved to abandon the relationship. Some of the plot elements should have been developed further, but despite this weakness, Bart Stewart has produced enough twists and turns to make Painter of the Heavens an eminently readable novel that should appeal to women—and men.
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