Matta Press (2019)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (4/19)
In “Eternally Artemisia,” Melissa Muldoon delivers a whirlwind story of everlasting soulful connections, taking readers from biblical times to the 26th century. Her story will delight fans of time travel, history, art, historical fiction, romance, and intrigue.
Maddie, an art therapist now in her forties, knows she has lived previous lives, yet the proof is always just beyond her reach. First introduced to the works of Artemisia Gentileschi and others in a Baroque art history class, Maddie gets a feeling she has been friends with Artemisia over the span of many lifetimes, and they share a deep and cosmic connection. With a career move that takes her from New York to Italy, Maddie quickly acclimates to the country of her beloved friend. Maddie’s first venture in Italy is to host an art therapy retreat for women recovering from sexual assault and abuse. One of the women attending the retreat is Camilla, a member of the Crociani family. The noble Crociani family dates back to the 17th century during the time of Cosimo Medici’s influence in Florence. Camilla invites Maddie to a family gathering, and it is here her past starts blending into her present and future. Readers follow Maddie as she forms unbreakable bonds with Artemisia Gentileschi and finds her true love, Matteo Crociani. As Maddie is drawn into a parallel universe reliving her past and experiencing her future, she proves once and for all that true love and heartfelt connections stand the tests of time. As Maddie puts it, “Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing…to have an emotional bond with another human being so true that it survived many lives?” (p. 31).
Melissa Muldoon is in her element in “Eternally Artemisia.” There are so many delicious details that are woven so intricately into multiple storylines, and her distinctive tone sets her apart. She has truly found her niche in delivering inspiring “need-to-know” stories about women - their strengths, determination and will to “not only survive but thrive” under the most challenging of circumstances throughout history. “Eternally Artemisia” hits issues from eras long past that are still unfortunately, very relevant today, including rape and sexual abuse, the arrogance of small-minded individuals who are determined to hold women back, women’s rights in general, and the role of science and religion in our world – just to name a few. Sound familiar?
Muldoon spotlights her passion for art, history, Italy and women throughout the story. Artemisia Gentileschi was a woman truly ahead of her time, accomplishing things unheard of for women in her era. Along with being one of the most progressive painters in her period, she may have engineered the original “Me Too” movement, standing up to her abuser and seeking justice. I did not have prior knowledge of Artemisia before reading this book and was amazed to hear her story and learn more about her from the author’s creative gift for educating her readers through exciting, page-turning narrative.
“Eternally Artemisia” will hook you from the very first page with the gruesome, yet oddly satisfying, accounting of how a pious young widow from a Jewish city beheads the general of an Assyrian army sent to destroy the city. It’s a story you won’t soon forget as Muldoon paints such a vivid representation, you halfway expect the blood to splatter all over you while reading!
Along with “Eternally Artemisia,” Melissa Muldoon has also authored two other books around distinct artistic women and their journeys: “Dreaming Sophia” and “Waking Isabella.” I’ve had the pleasure of reading all three of her novels and highly recommend them all – especially to those interested in art, history and romance - featuring strong leading ladies, of course!