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Flesh Tones

Flesh Tones

4.8 8
by M. J. Rose

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In a New York courtroom, a woman stands accused of a controversial crime. Genny Haviland, thirty-eight, is said to have drugged and suffocated legendary painter George Gabriel. For two decades the tempestuous Gabriel has challenged audiences with his wild work. And in the end, the prosecution claims, he alienated the woman he first seduced, then enslaved-enough to


In a New York courtroom, a woman stands accused of a controversial crime. Genny Haviland, thirty-eight, is said to have drugged and suffocated legendary painter George Gabriel. For two decades the tempestuous Gabriel has challenged audiences with his wild work. And in the end, the prosecution claims, he alienated the woman he first seduced, then enslaved-enough to cause his own death at her hands.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Emotionally numb after her passion for an artist ends in tragedy, Genny Haviland faces a New York jury in this sensuous courtroom melodrama combining art world intrigue with romantic obsession. Precocious, pampered 17-year-old Genny fell for artist Slade Gabriel, more than twice her age, when he walked into her father's Madison Avenue art gallery, but as soon as he found out who she was, Gabriel ended their affair. Two decades later, an accident brings them together again, each successful in a career but not in marriage, each still longing for the other. This time the affair ends with Slade's death and grieving Genny is tried for his murder. As the story switches back and forth between the courtroom and Genny's memories, erotic passages alternate with psychological observations of Genny's doting father, distant mother and gifted, moody lover, as Genny decides whether to take the stand on her own behalf. Romance fans will savor the descriptions of sexual desire, the emotion-laden internal monologues and the web of family relationships, while followers of the art market will recognize situations resembling the scandals surrounding the Rothko estate, de Kooning's health and price-fixing among reputable art dealers. In the end, it is not the art but the intensity of erotic discovery that drives this novel, overwhelming the comparatively tame mystery as Rose (In Fidelity; Lip Service; etc.) explores the incongruities and pitfalls of family and romantic relationships in this story of sexual discovery. (July) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Rose's (Lip Service; In Fidelity) third novel arrives just in time to top summer reading lists. Taking place mainly in the New York City area from 1972 until 1992, this absorbing and obsessive tale focuses on Genevieve Haviland, daughter of a prominent and wealthy New York City art gallery owner and a French mother involved in the Paris art business. The book opens with a courtroom scene in which Genny stands trial for the murder of her older, married lover, Slade Gabriel, a well-known contemporary artist. Third-person courtroom scenes add structure to Genny's free-flowing first-person narration. At first, Genny is in such shock that she cannot say anything to defend herself, but by the end she is able to tell the court what happened. Genny's sensual personal life and numerous sexual encounters with dark, brooding Gabriel filter into her narration and bring to life the New York art world in that period. This well-written book contains sex, mystery, adultery, and a lesbian love scene in a free-flowing story. For all public libraries. - Michelle Foyt, Russell Lib., Middletown, CT Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Courtroom drama adds texture and suspense to Rose's third tale (In Fidelity, 2001, etc.) of crime, lust, and obsession. Documentary filmmaker Genny Haviland stands accused of murdering her lover Slade Gabriel, a brilliant but volatile modern painter. Genny's first-person account of the 1992 trial counterpoints flashbacks spanning 20 years. The two first meet in 1972, when Gabriel is installing a new exhibit at the respected Haviland Gallery on 57th Street, owned by Genny's imperious father Jonathan. Gabriel, 37, flirts outrageously with Genny, 17, unaware either of her age or her surname. (The elder Havilands are vacationing in Europe.) He thinks she's a twentysomething graduate student working at the gallery, and she does nothing to disabuse him as the dark and passionate Gabriel sweeps unworldly but adventurous Genny off her feet. Their torrid affair ends only when discovery by her father seems inevitable. Genny goes on to a successful professional life and an unfulfilled personal one (failed marriage and no children), but she never tells her father about her relationship with Gabriel, who prospers at the Haviland Gallery. The spark is rekindled after Gabriel and Haviland are in a serious car accident. Gabriel's injuries trigger a downward slide that, Genny later asks the jury (and the reader) to believe, led her to an assisted suicide rather than a murder. The prosecution is led by ruthless DA Linda Zavidow, who portrays the crime as part revenge, part family loyalty. Gabriel planned (or maybe only threatened) to leave Haviland for a trendier rival gallery after Haviland was implicated in a forgery scandal. Zavidow delights in introducing potentially salacious aspects of Genny's lifethat include an abortion, an inappropriately intimate relationship with her father, and a dash of lesbianism, all presented as allegations that keep the reader guessing. A lush story dressed in upscale detail and brand names, with a tight pace and silky surface. Underneath the surface, though, is just more surface.

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Evil Eye Concepts, Incorporated
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Read an Excerpt

New York City Criminal Court Building, Room 1317 Friday, December 4, 1992, 9:30 a.m.

Worried the jury will misinterpret my seeming calm for contempt or worse, my lawyer, Benjamin Marks, tries to make me understand that I need to show grief or exhibit sadness. If I can’t, if I don’t, he’s not sure he can put me on the stand when the time comes. And if the jury doesn’t hear me testify, Benjamin is not certain they will acquit me.

He says it exactly that way—not certain they will acquit—instead of just saying they might find me guilty.

But the female members of the jury will understand why I am numb. They will recognize me as just another woman who has loved a man too much. There are so many of us—not proud that we put a man first, of the sacrifices we made or of the prices we paid—but we know that if we had to do it over we would not do it any differently.

Of course I should have known better, but I got lost in the man named Slade Gabriel. And, although I might appear calm now, I’m not. I’m paralyzed.

Since Gabriel died, I’ve lost all feeling. Only take shallow breaths. I can’t concentrate. And I can’t cry.

Although aware of Judge Bailey welcoming the jury in his orator’s voice, the bailiff, an elderly black man with a limp standing at attention and the clerk typist’s fingers silently lifting and landing—I’m unable to link any of this ordered activity to me or my life.

Why aren’t Gabriel’s paintings hanging in this musty courtroom shedding their luminous light instead of the dirty tarp stretched across thewall hiding the mural of justice that Judge Bailey has just explained to the jury was damaged by a leak? Gabriel’s paintings would explain everything.

“It is not the law in need of reparation in this room—simply the painted representation of her holding her scales,” the judge says to the jury—the blur of faces that I cannot focus on. Not now. Not yet.

Instead I study the stretch of fabric. Edges unraveling, gaping like a badly hung drapery, the canvas, which smells of mildew, casts a dull pall, unrelieved by the weak winter light coming through the windows. Outside, the wind blows and bare branches tap, tap, tap against the panes, rattling the glass.

Judge Bailey finishes his introductory remarks, takes off his gold rimmed spectacles, wipes them with a clean white handkerchief, replaces them on the bridge of his beaklike nose and nods to the assistant district attorney. “Miss Zavidow,” he says slowly, savoring the ceremony. “Would you care to make your opening statement?”

From the moment the assistant district attorney rises, she focuses all her attention on the jury: “Ladies and gentlemen, Slade Gabriel is unable to come forward and speak to you of the circumstances surrounding his death, unable to point his finger at his lover, Genny Haviland, and say she did it, she murdered me. And so on his behalf, I point my finger at Genny Haviland and say she did it; she committed this gross and unholy crime.”

Linda Zavidow partially turns away from the jury box—each man and woman following her movements with their eyes. Lifting her arm, she energetically points across the courtroom toward the defendant’s table, at me.

Rubbing the palms of my hands up and down the sleeve of my black cashmere sweater, I try to relieve the itching that has started up again and, at the same time, try not to open any fresh scabs.

What a clever choice the D.A.’s office made when they assigned Linda Zavidow to prosecute my case. A man up there might seem like a bully; a less attractive or older woman might appear envious of me. But Linda Zavidow, like me, is in her late thirties. With her soft green eyes, chin-length shining blond hair, and a wide wedding band on her finger she can get away with saying almost anything. Ultimately it will come down to her against me, won’t it? And compared to Linda Zavidow I am dark, brooding, untamed; and certainly capable of—how did she just refer to it?—this gross and unholy crime.

“Over the next week or so,” Linda continues, “my job as the prosecuting attorney will be to show you how deeply, how obsessively, Genny Haviland loved Slade Gabriel and how that love turned into an equally great hate—so great it motivated her to kill him. I will fill in the background, set the scene, and present the evidence: a jigsaw puzzle of information for you to piece together.

“It won’t be easy for you. You’ll hear many hours of testimony from witnesses who will each swear to be telling the truth. Your job is to question each answer you hear. What seems plausible? What doesn’t? Which witnesses are telling the truth? Which aren’t? What does each have to gain? Or to lose?

“These questions will be most crucial when it comes to the defense’s argument. Mr. Marks will have you believe Genny Haviland’s story is reliable. But I contend it has been completely fabricated; not the truth at all, but a lie concocted to save her life.”

Linda looks at me. As per Benjamin’s instructions, I meet her eyes so she has no choice but to be the one to look away when she turns back to the jury.

She wants them to believe it’s only the answers that matter, but from making films I know it’s the questions that shape a story and move it in either one direction or another. By now, Linda’s already talked to every witness and discovered which questions to ask and which to discard in order to elicit the right answers.

But what about all the other questions?

What about my questions? What does it mean that for the last four months I have been unable to say good-bye to Gabriel? Unable to mourn him? Why is it that although my future is in jeopardy, I am only able to think about the past with him? Gabriel once cautioned me that by trying to dissect what bound us, each to the other, I would trivialize it and make it suspect. He said our connection would defy time, that even if we tried, we would never be able to completely let go of each other.

During the years we spent apart, I had gotten used to missing him but that was simply missing someone who wasn’t physically with me—he was still on this planet, just keeping some other place warm. Now he is not even a body buried somewhere, but ashes emptied out of a plane window, caught in the wind, blown far away.

“Although I have described this crime to you during jury selection,” Linda Zavidow continues, “I would like to repeat it to you now as designated jurors with all the responsibility that implies.

“The Grand Jury of the County of New York by this indictment accuses the defendant of the crime of murder in the second degree, committed as follows: The defendant acting alone, in the County of New York, on September 18, 1992, knowingly caused the death of Slade Gabriel by drugging him with a narcotic and then suffocating him to death.

“This is a case of cold-blooded murder—” Linda says and then stops as if she’s too shook up by her own words to continue.

Beside me, Benjamin Marks shakes his head, disapproving the assistant D.A.’s theatrics while behind me, my father breathes deeply. I, always in tune with my father even when we’re angry with each other (as he is with me now), can almost believe his breath is being expelled from my mouth. It’s killing him that he has not, cannot, protect me from this. But to do that, he would have had to be a different father and a different man.

“As a woman who has been in love,” Linda’s voice softens, “my heart goes out to Genny Haviland. What a fantasy Slade Gabriel must have seemed when she first met him twenty years ago! A successful artist. An attractive, charming, sensual man who was part of her parents’ world. How could she not have idolized him? So imagine, if you will, how traumatized Genny must have been when this man proved not to be a fantasy at all, but a narcissistic, egotistical artist who didn’t always treat the people who loved him well. Throughout their relationship he was cruel to Genny. Irresponsible. Ultimately impregnating her and then insisting—no demanding—she abort their child despite her own wishes and beliefs.

“But since when, ladies and gentlemen, is being selfish just cause for murder?”

Meet the Author

M. J. Rose is the author of Lip Service and In Fidelity.
She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut. Visit her Web site at mjrose.com.

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Flesh Tones 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
M.J.Rose knows how to spin a tale and create characters that you care about. Her knowledge of the art world and its vocabulary adds to the authenticity of the story. It was a page turner that made a five hour airplane trip seem like 20 minutes. I can't wait to read her next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Flesh Tones' is a fast-pased sizzler, a page-turning courtroom drama that unfolds to expose the underbelly of the New York art world. Obsession drives the protagonist, Genny Haviland, to help her terminally ill lover--legendary painter, lovable and despicable Slade Gabriel--end his life. Or did she murder him? Author M.J. Rose weaves a tight and compelling story of love and lust and the lengths to which individuals go to perpetuate both. Steamier than Louisiana in August, 'Flesh Tones' reaches triple-digit heat indices. The story kept this reader hooked until the final denouement. Going on vacation? Don't leave home without 'Flesh Tones.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
A real page-turner! I stayed up most of the night to finish it. Ms. Rose 'paints' a superb, riveting story, with strong, complex, and fascinating characters. She is a great storyteller and the first-person narrative works very well with the detailed descriptions of scenery and feelings alike. Courtroom settings and dialogue are first-rate, with very thorough research, as is all the minute details about art and the art world. FLESH TONES is also a great love story, with a once-in-a-lifetime love, devotion, passion and desire. It is high drama, love, suspense and intrigue, with intricate characters and relationships. Ms. Rose is a real winner with FLESH TONES. It is a sophisticated, intelligent, highly entertaining and very well written novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was immediately drawn into the Manhattan art world by this intense courtroom drama. M.J. Rose explores love and obsession in romantic, passionate unions as well as in familial, parent-child relationships. An absorbing and emotional read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't remember the last time I read a book that kept me riveted to the page for so long. I was even shunning the family at the dinner table for three nights to keep my nose in it. Rarely is a novel written that evokes such intense emotion in the reader. It's been years since I've read a book that made me cry. Flesh Tones made me cry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A dazzling mix of suspense, psychological insights, pitch-perfect prose and indelible characters. Another winner from the incomparable M J Rose.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Although Genny knew at seventeen that her thirty-seven year old lover was married and had a child, it didn¿t matter. His intense need for her fed her love for him until it threatened to consume her. When artist Slade Gabriel learns her true age and that she is the daughter of the gallery owner where he exhibits his paintings, his discovery makes the decision to return to his wife and child that much easier.

Genny¿s love turned to hate and then to indifference. She got married and divorced, made a successful career as a producer, winning two Emmys in her career. During that time Gabriel becomes a legend in his own time, his paintings selling for $200,000 and more.

Twenty years later Genny is reunited with Gabriel when a freak accident puts him and her father in a hospital. Their passion reignites and they have one grand and glorious year together before Genny goes on trial for his murder. Numb from the pain, she is almost unable to defend herself on the assisted suicide story her lawyer is trying to convince the jury is true.

FLESH TONES is an erotic and haunting love story about a man and a woman who have a connection that transcends age, society and morality. Told in the first person narrative within the framework of a murder trial, author M.J. Rose uses the flashback technique smoothly so there is no disruption of the prime plot line. Once started, this novel will prove impossible to put down until the reader reaches the end.

Harriet Klausner