"THE ART OF LOVE" is a novel set in the early 1930s that reads like a mystery set in an enigma. It begins in a part of London known as Bloomsbury, where a young, struggling artist (Polly Smith) is in the process of applying for a passport. A friend of hers (Oliver Fraddon) had invited her to spend the Christmas holiday with his family in their palatial estate in the South of France. But Polly, in order to facilitate the process of getting a passport, has to obtain her birth certificate. This is when she learns that she wasn't the person she had been led to believe she was by her aunt, who had been her guardian from birth.
Polly is in her early 20s, making a living in a gallery through touching up 19th and early 20th century paintings adjudged previously as mediocre or of marginal marketability into salable assets -- and painting book covers freelance for a number of publishing companies. She's also engaged to be married to Roger Harrington, a doctor from an affluent family of doctors, whose snobbishness is enough to make one gag. Polly feels herself lucky to have met him. And as for Roger, one gets the distinct impression that Polly is something he can shape into the perfect doctor's wife once he can wring out of her what he regards as a frivolous pastime - her passion for painting and for art.
Now I can understand if, judging by the novel's title, the reader of this review is inclined to look upon this book as nothing more than a love story with the usual complicating factors to make it worthwhile to read. Well, there's much more to "THE ART OF LOVE" than meets the eye. There are also 3 other interconnected stories in the novel through a number of richly drawn out characters --- such as Cynthia Harkness, a recent divorcee set on marrying her lover, the tycoon and press magnate Sir Edward Malreward who has a dark side known only to a few; her brother Max Lytton, who on the surface appears to be one of the idle rich, but in truth has continued (from WWI) serving the government as an intelligence operative on the sly, keeping tabs on people considered suspect by Whitehall; and the Fraddon family, headed by Lord Fraddon (Oliver's father) who had to leave Britain years earlier under a cloud of scandal.
"THE ART OF LOVE" shapes itself into a potboiler that slowly is brought to a boil on the French Riviera during the Yuletide with an amazing outcome to rival any Agatha Christie novel. Reading this novel was both enthralling and entertaining. It took me to a lot of interesting places and introduced me to some rather colorful characters. I recommend "THE ART OF LOVE" to anyone who loves reading novels spiced with romance, adventure, and intrigue.