A Brush With Darkness

Title: A Brush With Darkness
Author: Erastes
Cover Artist: N/A
Publisher: Carina Press
Buy Link: Buy Link A Brush with Darkness
Genre: M/M historical, paranormal romance
Length: 19,000 words
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A guest review by Jenre

Summary Review: A wholly engrossing story of dark desire and murder set in 18th Century Florence.


Florence, 1875

After making a grisly discovery one night, I needed proof that there was still goodness in the world. I never dreamt it would come to me during my next commission–with a subject whose very name means light…

Yuri was glorious in his otherworldly beauty, surrounded by a bright halo of iridescence, but I detected a fierce darkness lurking underneath the surface. Sketching all night, I could hardly wait to capture his likeness in a painting. For Yuri has stimulated not only my creative urges, but my sexual ones as well.

His very presence infuses me with joy and passion, but what will happen if my patron should discover our trysts? Dependent on his good graces, I can’t afford to lose his support. But I fear the time will soon come when I must choose between restoring my family’s fortunes and obeying the temptation of the muse before me…

Previously published as Chiaroscuro, newly revised by author.


How exciting! A new Erastes release (or will be on Monday, but you can preorder now). I always look forward to a new book from Erastes because there’s something so intelligent about her writing that calls to me as a reader, and this book was no exception.

The story begins with a grizzly murder on the streets of Florence. Michel is an artist, newly arrived in Florence and at the mercy of his scheming benefactor, Signor Bettano. He stumbles upon the murder but is cleared of all blame. Signor Bettano has great plans for Michel, one of which involves ingratiating himself with a rich and influential woman, whose son would like his portrait painting.

The story is taken from the first person viewpoint of Michel, who is rather wordy, poetic even, in the way he describes the things that happen to him. For me, that fitted perfectly with the idea of an impassioned artist. He sees things from a different angle to others, focusing on light and shadow, to the extent that he sometimes loses focus with the narrative, drifting off into fancy and recollection:

Light had always been my guide and salvation, for what is art but the fall of light on objects unseen? Light falling on the edges of my world had mapped it out for me as a child. Light drew my eye from my earliest memory, that of my mother leaning over the kitchen table, her body in shade, but her golden hair lit with the ray of sun that poured through a high window. The shine of dust motes in daylight.

It takes rather a long time for Michel to get to the actual point of the story, but I found I didn’t mind that because his words had a hypnotic effect which drew me into his narrative and kept me reading. However, it did also make the story quite a slow starter and I can see how some readers may grow impatient with Michel, instead of being enchanted by him as I was.

Michel is also very passionate and painfully naive. His painting is all consuming, and as a result he either chooses not to see what is obvious to the reader, or is blind to what is happening. His infatuation with Yuri begins at their first meeting and I felt all of his desire, his impatience and his fascination with the man in the way he explains his feelings to the reader. This meant the ending to the book felt realistic because the reader has been primed about Michel’s passion for Yuri.

The story has a paranormal bent to it, and I have to admit, I’d pretty much guessed the twist at the end. To be fair the author had given us lots of clues during the book. Clues that Michel fails to see but which a discerning reader would be able to find. I found the end satisfying, but it also shows us another side to Michel which made me believe he would fit right in with Yuri.

The setting is 18th Century Italy and I can’t say I’m too familiar with that time period. The historical setting feels very accurate to me without being intrusive. There is description of place where necessary, but more of the focus is on Michel’s art and I found it very interesting to read his descriptions of the way he prepares his paintings and begins the creative process. Knowing what a stickler the author is for historical detail, I can only assume that lots of research has gone into this side of things, but again it’s there to show us the attention to detail that Michel demonstrates in his painting, thus showing us something of his character, and not to pile extraneous detail onto the reader.

My only concern about the story is stylistic. As I said earlier, Michel is wordy in his narration. This wordiness extends to a complex vocabulary which fits very well with his character but may be off putting to some readers. I always love it when an author has me reaching for the dictionary, but I also know that some readers find that annoyingly distracting. So, whilst this part of the writing was a bonus for me, I can see how it may mean this story will not be to some reader’s taste.

Overall, this is another fascinating and complex story from Erastes. The fact that all this detail and story is fitted into less than 20,000 words shows that she’s a master of both short and longer fiction. If you like historicals and are looking for something authentic with a paranormal feel, then I highly recommend this book.

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