Book Review (and a Giveaway!): The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin Bartels

Posted March 26, 2024 by meezcarrie in Book Review, Christian, contemporary, Erin Bartels, giveaway, historical, multi-timeline, women's fiction / 42 Comments


The Lady with the Dark Hair book review

The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin BartelsTHE LADY WITH THE DARK HAIR by Erin Bartels
GENRE: Dual Timeline Fiction (Clean)
PUBLISHER: Revell
RELEASE DATE: March 26, 2024
PAGES: 347

Esther Markstrom and her artist mother have always been proud of their ancestor, painter Francisco Vella. They even run a small museum and gallery dedicated to raising awareness of his scandalously underappreciated work. But when Esther reconnects with her former art history professor, she finds her once-solid family history on shaky ground as questions arise about Vella’s greatest work–a portrait entitled The Lady with the Dark Hair.

In 1879, Catalan orphan-turned-fugitive Viviana Torrens has found sanctuary serving in the home of an aging artist in Southern France. It is in his studio that she meets Francisco Vella, a Gibraltarian merchant who sells artists’ pigments. When her past catches up to her, she is compelled to pose as Vella’s sister and join him on his travels or be deported back to Spain to stand trial. Along the way she will discover that the many parts she has been playing in order to hide her identity have far-reaching implications she never could have foreseen.

This dual-timeline story from award-winning author Erin Bartels takes readers from the sleepy Midwest to the sultry Mediterranean on a relentless search for truth, identity, and the freedom to follow one’s dreams.


Richly drawn characters, vibrant settings, and thoughtful explorations of timeless themes… No, I’m not talking about the artwork that graces The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin Bartels but about the book itself. Bartels immediately immersed me in both timelines with her vivid descriptions and exquisite writing voice, and there were times when I could have sworn I smelled wet paint and sea air as I read.

Esther (present day) and Viviana (past) are connected by more than just their ties to the enigmatic Francisco Vella. They both have bittersweet stories of – on the one hand – overcoming the odds stacked against them to survive but, on the other hand, still struggling to thrive. I especially found Viviana’s story compelling, made all the more so by what she has already overcome before we even meet her on the pages, though the layers to Esther’s story are perhaps more empathetic and definitely more relatable to modern readers. And yet, whether or not we have experienced what either of these characters have lived through, we can certainly identify with the empty places of the heart & soul they are both seeking to fill. Along with befriending these two heroines during our reading time together, I also loved meeting the supporting characters (who add further depth to both timelines) and vicariously visiting intriguing places such as France, Tunisia, and Gibraltar.

Bottom Line: There is so much I want to gush about when it comes to The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin Bartels… the treatment of mental health, the real-life historical artists we encounter, the family/art history mystery that connects the timelines. the vibrant settings, the timeless theme of finding one’s place & purpose in the world. Suffice it to say that I was thoroughly captivated by this story, as much a work of art as the pieces hanging in Esther’s museum and her house. Bartels’ writing is impeccable, her characters are full of life, and her mastery of both timelines is seamless. I was completely satisfied with the ending but I also want to know the ‘rest’ of the story – what happens after we leave Viviana and Esther for the final time on these pages – and I would gobble up a sequel! Perfect for fans of Melanie Dobson and Kate Morton!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4.5 stars / loved it!

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Erin Bartels

Erin Bartels is the award-winning author of We Hope for Better Things, The Words between Us, All That We Carried, The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water, and Everything Is Just Beginning. A two-time Christy finalist and winner of two 2020 WFWA Star Awards and the 2020 Michigan Notable Book Award, Erin has been a publishing professional for more than twenty years. She lives in mid-Michigan with her pastor husband, their teenage son, and a neurotic little chihuahua mix with a devoted online fan base.

You can find her online at ErinBartels.com, on Facebook @ErinBartelsAuthor, and on Instagram @erinbartelswrites.

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The Lady with the Dark Hair giveaway

Revell is offering a print copy of The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin Bartels to TWO of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

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What about you? What makes you want to read The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin Bartels?

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42 responses to “Book Review (and a Giveaway!): The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin Bartels

  1. Teri DiVincenzo

    I’ve loved every single one of Erin Bartels books…I cannot wait to dive into this one and see what kind of masterpiece she has crafted!

  2. Perrianne Askew

    I love a dual time-line novel! I’ve only read one of her novels, but I really enjoyed it.

  3. Nancy

    I would like to read The Lady with the Dark Hair by Erin Bartels because she is an author who is new to me.

  4. Patty

    I’ve heard goid things about Erin’s books, but have yet to read one! Especially sad because she lives near where I grew up in Michigan.

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