Book Review: The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

the masterpiece francine rivers book review

The synopsis on the back of the book: 

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want―money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist―an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.
Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship―and both their lives―forever.

  • Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction
  • Will Be Published: 02/06
  • Pages: 512 Pages
  • Goodreads Rating (so far): 4.11 Stars
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He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
— Colossians 1:13-14

Why I Chose This Book

I first heard about this book through Tyndale. I am a part of the Tyndale Blogger Network. When I saw that Francine is coming out with a new book I knew I had to read it! 

First Initial Thoughts

Grace Moore is a young woman with a young baby, Samuel and recently divorced. She was going to have Samuel adopted because she couldn't provide for him. However, when she held Samuel in her arms she couldn't let him go. I was shocked to see the Garcia family that was going to adopt Samual be so understanding and let her stay with them for a year while she weaned him. Desperate to provide for her son she took a job as an assistant for Mr. Velasco. I really liked Grace. She loved her son deeply and would do anything to prove to the Garcia's that she could take care of Samuel. 

Roman Velasco is an artist and a very successful one at that. I was kind of surprised how rich he was being an artist. I didn't know painters could make that much money - but hey what do I know? Anyways, he was very cold and rigid in the beginning. He kept to himself and was very focused on his projects. However, he is haunted by his past and the trauma he experienced. 

Grace and Roman first get along but Grace doesn't agree with his lifestyle. Roman doesn't understand Grace's close relationship with Christ. He never understood why people are so close to God when he had a less than desired childhood. 

Setting

Francine did an amazing job in re-creating the lives of Grace Moore and Roman Velasco. What I appreciated about the setting is that Francine focused on one area at a time and really honed in on the storyline going on at that moment. Giving us a reader able to focus on the story and really visualize the setting. 

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
— Ephesians 2:10

Final Thoughts

Everyone, go grab that kleenex box. You will need it! This was a very emotional book. There were times in the story that tears were literally forming in my eyes. 

The story weaves back and forth in time. There are small chapters dedicated to the stories of Grace and Roman childhood. I really liked that Francine did this because it helped us understand the difficulties they faced when growing up. Grace and Roman are so different but their experiences are so similar.

When both of them learned about each other pasts I think that is when they become more understanding of each other. I liked that their romance wasn't quick and it took time to develop. 

When we learned about what happened with Grace parents, I had tears forming in my eyes. I couldn't imagine what it would be like for a child to go through that. Same with Roman childhood. His mother was a piece of work- let's put it that way. I really felt for him and what he had to experience at such a tender age. 

We also have little snippets of Grace and Romans young adult lives. We learn that Grace married a not so nice guy and Roman traveled through the world lost and angry. 

The main theme of this book is redemption. Childhood trauma is something that is not often talked about because people try to forget there past. However, what we experience as children really do shape who we become as adults. This book is a perfect example of this. 

The only reason I gave it 4 1/2 stars is because I thought it to be a little too long. I think she could have shortened it at one certain point. But I can see why Francine had to make the story at over 500 pages. The characters had to develop over time and I appreciated that she took the time to do that. 

Would I Recommend? 

Yes, definitely! However, if you are recovering from trauma or sensitive to such material I would proceed with caution. 

 

Q & A with Francine Rivers
Author of The Masterpiece

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1. You often say that each of your novels is prompted by a faith-related question. What question inspired The Masterpiece? Were there particular Scripture verses or stories that guided your writing of this novel?
The question that came up for me was whether two people from severely dysfunctional backgrounds could have a healthy relationship. Grace and Roman both come from abusive childhood experiences and developed different coping mechanisms to survive. The past often intrudes and sometimes blocks people from moving forward, but we are all ultimately responsible for the choices we make. Each of us must decide who Jesus is. That choice decides where we spend eternity. It also makes a difference in our lives in the here and now. When abuse occurs, a child’s view of God is twisted. That raises other questions. What might need to happen to open the door to the true God and faith in Him? What if someone grows up knowing nothing of God other than as a curse? I had questions enough for several books and wallowed around in the mire through several drafts. Hence, so did my characters. Grace and Roman are each on different journeys. What brings them together
and what keeps them apart? I was well into the project before I knew which Scripture God was showing me: Ephesians 2:10—“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” This is the heart of the book.


2. What kind of research did you do for this novel? Did any findings particularly surprise you?
Most of my research had to do with the patterns and psychology of victims of abuse. It wasn’t pleasant reading. It’s heart-wrenching. I didn’t want to misrepresent survivors of abuse. I talked with a friend who is a strong Christian, highly educated, and a certified family counselor. She suggested I present my characters to a group of counselors who meet once a week. When we all gathered, I explained my dilemma and presented my “case studies.” One gentleman cried and said he’d worked with young men exactly like Roman Velasco. Grace’s emotional trauma and means of coping are also common. I also needed to learn about graffiti artists. I started with online searches and then met a young man who had been a gang tagger in the Bay Area. We talked about his motivations, experiences, and the dangers he faced, not the least of which was leaving the gang. I found a website with terms and definitions regarding graffiti. I also read some books about the young man’s idol, Banksy. No one knows the identity of Banksy, but his work is known around the world. I liked the mystery element and employed it. The surprise came after the book was written and I had the opportunity to meet Cameron Moberg, a Christian graffiti artist in San Francisco. He does work around the world, as well. He reaffirmed what I saw happening in Roman Velasco’s life. Cameron’s art is also on the cover of The Masterpiece. Many of his works are of spectacular, imagined birds. How could I not see God chuckling at how He brings things together?


3. Your novels look deeply into characters’ motivations and emotions. What do you hope readers will learn from delving into the inner thoughts of the characters in The Masterpiece?
Sometimes the hardest-hearted person you know is the most broken inside. All too often, we judge by the outward appearance, but God knows the heart. Also, even when we don’t see God at work, He is working. Never give up on anyone. Just keep praying and walking the walk. You never really know what’s going on inside someone. The blessing is you may witness the creation of a new God-ordained masterpiece. 

4. The main characters of The Masterpiece, edgy artist Roman Velasco and his new personal assistant, single mom Grace Moore, might not receive a warm welcome in every church across the country. What do you want readers to see in these characters—and in themselves—as they read?
Never judge by outward appearances. It takes courage for people to come into a new church—or enter a church for the first time. Christians are, after all, “aliens,” very different from the world—or should be. Visitors and newcomers may look different than we do. They may come from different places. If people seem unapproachable, offer a smile and nod of greeting. Give them space. Give them time. Extend courtesy and welcome to all. And when the door opens, talk with them about Jesus—not just inside the walls of a church, but anywhere.


5. Roman Velasco is unlike any other male character you’ve written. What was most challenging about crafting the character of a rebel graffiti artist? Why did you choose this character?
I thought the hardest part in writing about Bobby Ray Dean/the Bird/Roman Velasco was going to be learning about the art form, challenges in doing it and getting away with it, terms and materials. But the real challenge was figuring out what drove this boy/man to paint graffiti—and the kind of graffiti pieces he did. We have crews in town that go out and buff (cover) graffiti as soon as possible. Many times, graffiti is a territorial marker, a challenge, evidence of war going on in your community. I wanted Bobby Ray Dean to have other motivations which evolve as he grows up and into the persona of Roman Velasco. He feels illegitimate as the Bird, but strives for legitimacy through Roman Velasco. The graffiti and the canvas work he does show the war going on inside him. It takes God to bring the two sides together and blend the mediums into a new, unique art quest and passion.


6. Did memories of your writing career “before Christ” inspire how you wrote the art career of Roman Velasco?
In some ways, yes. Before I became a Christian, I wrote steamy historical romances in the general market. Those books and the years of working on them taught me a lot about the craft of writing. When I gave my life to Christ, God used all that training for His good purpose when I began writing Redeeming Love. Certain elements stayed the same: the letting—early California history—and a passionate love story. The difference was the focus of the novel. It was all about how high, deep, and wide God’s love is for each of us. Jesus was a central “character” in the story, whispering to Michael, who strove to live out his faith in front of Angel, a broken child of God whose soul had been deeply damaged by the abuse of others. Brokenness, healing, and redemption are consistent themes in my work.


7. The names of your characters often carry special significance—can you tell us how you have gone about naming characters in the past and, without giving too much away, tell us a little about how you chose the names of the characters in The Masterpiece?
Grace’s full name tells her life story. I admit there is no great spiritual meaning to Roman’s names. I liked the sound of Bobby Ray Dean. His initials—BRD—and where he did his graffiti work created the second name: the Bird. And secondary characters in the story came up with the name Roman Velasco. They were joking about it, but Bobby Ray takes on the name and uses it to launch a new life.


8. What does The Masterpiece have in common with your other novels? How is it unique?
Every story I’ve written contains a love story. This book has that in common with all my others. However, in other stories, I’ve had one main character be strong in faith. The difference in this novel, both people are broken and struggling. Grace is the Christian, but she has fallen several times and suffered greatly for it. Her faith is an uphill, arduous climb. Roman adds to that battle. They both come from traumatic childhood experiences that have shaped their lives. The strong Christian voices in this story come from secondary characters.


9. What do you hope your readers come to know about God through this story? 

I want readers to know that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you’ve done, when you accept Jesus, God will make you into His masterpiece.

 

Whew this was a long post! I hope you made it through! 

I highly recommend you pre-order this book! You can pre-order it ---> HERE

I hope you had a lovely weekend! Until next time. :) 

the caffeinated bibliophile

**NOTE- I was provided a copy of this book to review by Tyndale House Publishers.