“If you asked me how it began, I could truthfully say that the first time, it was an accident…”
– L.S Hilton, Maestra
By day Judith Rashleigh is a put-upon assistant at a London auction house.
By night she’s a hostess in one of the capital’s unsavoury bars. Desperate to make something of herself, Judith knows she has to play the game. She’s learned to dress, speak and act in the interests of men. She’s learned to be a good girl. But after uncovering a dark secret at the heart of the art world, Judith is fired and her dreams of a better life are torn apart. So she turns to a long-neglected friend. A friend that kept her chin up and back straight through every past slight. A friend that a good girl like her shouldn’t have: Rage.
Well… I’m not sure I know where to begin! I requested a copy of Maestra by L.S. Hilton from Allen and Unwin on the recommendation of a work colleague. She didn’t say much about it, only that she thought it could be the next big thing. At the time, she seemed quite vague in her description of the book and now I see why! I was expecting just the usual type of thriller as it is quite a popular genre right now. However, what appears to set this one apart from the rest is the rather explicit sex scenes – think Gone Girl meets Fifty Shades of Grey. Now, I don’t like either of these books so it was an interesting story for me to read…
Judith Rashleigh is a seemingly quite young lady who works as a junior art expert in a London auction house. However, she leads a double life, playing hostess in a seedy bar after hours. Judith is a woman who knows what she wants, learning to walk and talk among the rich and famous. When she discovers a conspiracy within the auction house involving a rather famous painting, she loses her job and then decides to play mistress to one of her clients from the bar. When that takes a deadly turn, Judith finds herself in a dangerous position and chooses to play the game through to the end. Maestra is a book of art, sex and lies and being the first in a trilogy, I will be very interested to see where it goes from here!
After I finished the book, I went hunting for some reviews to see what others thought. Like most controversial books, the opinions are divided and strong. I have a feeling I sit somewhere in between. Hilton’s sociopathic heroine is a little more like a homicidal opportunist; she lacks the complex plotting shown by characters in other popular thrillers. Judith isn’t a likable character however she is certainly interesting. She is shallow, selfish and behaves very badly; she allows herself to be treated as an object in a wealthy man’s world. Now, this very backwards treatment of women may be purposely done… Judith’s art heroine is Artemisia Gentileschi who painted the piece ‘Judith Slaying Holofernes’ which was completed after a long-winded rape case in the 1600’s. It is said that Artemisia painted graphic depictions of violence as a cathartic and symbolic attempt to deal with the pain of what happened to her. The painting names above above depicts a powerful woman extracting revenge on a male. Judith’s behaviour – a mirror of the misogynistic wealthy white male – becomes violent as her rage over her prior treatment comes bubbling to the surface.
Judith’s character appears to have been comprised of the seven deadly sins; pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth all feature as she travels from one elite tourist attraction to the next, shopping, fornicating and killing people as she goes. As for the sex, it is graphic – and at times crude – however that’s what gets people talking! I found that the sex scenes – and killings – became quite repetitive towards the end with a sense that they had to occur. For me, the best parts of the story were the ones exploring and discussing art and its history. It is these sections where Hilton comes across most confident in her writing. I found it to be engaging and well researched and I really loved the comparisons between the art and what was happening in the story. I could have read a whole other book with just these parts.
Overall, it’s not a bad read. I found the writing to be engaging, even if when the content became repetitive and the tone of the book remained consistent. Maestra isn’t quite what I like to read however I can definitely see the appeal and I know there will be readers for whom this will suit to a tee!
AUTHOR: L.S Hilton
PUBLISHER: Allen and Unwin
PUB DATE: March 2016
Thank you to Allen and Unwin for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!