John Ed Bradley, Author . Doubleday $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-50261-0

Bradley (Tupelo Nights; My Juliet) is back in top form with this smart and disarmingly romantic novel about the artistic, erotic and racial history of New Orleans. Disenchanted after 10 years as a columnist for a New Orleans newspaper, Jack Charbonnet sells his deceased father's art collection and retires from journalism at age 32. At a small dinner party, Jack, who's white, meets and falls in love with an African-American art restorer, Rhys Goudeau. She awakens in Jack a passionate interest in the paintings of Levette Asmore, a once renowned, now nearly forgotten New Orleans artist who committed suicide in 1941 at the age of 23. Asmore, a white artist who created sexually charged paintings of black women, had created a large-scale WPA-sponsored painting for the city shortly before his death; the subject of the mural—blacks and whites dancing together at Mardi Gras—caused such a furor that he voluntarily whitewashed it. Rhys becomes convinced that the painting still exists and can be restored, and she and Jack become co-conspirators in an art heist. Though Rhys clearly returns Jack's affection, she still refuses to become his lover. Their quest turns up unexpected revelations about Asmore's family history and the racy shenanigans of New Orleans high society; it forces both Jack and Rhys to reconsider the ways they think about race. The novel is an artful combination of history, mystery, romance and a comedy of Southern manners. Bradley probes racial politics thoughtfully, with a light touch. This is his best novel in years. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/10/2003
Release date: 02/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-385-72116-5
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 219 pages - 978-1-4000-7638-3
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-385-50872-8
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