The Arts and Letters Club is white with flame,
And all near-genius gathers to a feast.
Around the broken morsels of a beast
They praise the names whom time hath given fame.
And then they give each other mild acclaim;
While Talent looks at Talent’s equal measure.
And nothing mars the evening’s gentle pleasure
Until some outcast speaks the Giant’s name....


From the poem entitled "Carl Ahrens" in A Flagon of Beauty by Wilson MacDonald, Toronto, 1919

Summer, 1900 - Eighteen-year-old Martha Niles flees her morally rigid home for Roycroft, a bohemian art colony in Western, New York. Gifted and ambitious, she strikes a bargain with her employer to work beside acclaimed landscape painter, Carl Ahrens. While unimpressed with the striking and worldly older man’s claims of being the adopted son of an Ojibwa chief and a traveling companion of Calamity Jane – tales she assumes to be untrue – her art flourishes in the presence of a mentor who insists she’s his equal.

While Carl shares the secret of fickle light, Martha infuses color and movement into his paintings. His trees, once solitary, grieving figures, laugh and dance together on carpets of burnt sienna shadow and olive green moss. Their trunks, fused at the root, entwine so thoroughly Martha can hear their shared breath. It is their story, she comes to realize, the one they might have lived if he weren’t already married. If he weren’t dying.

Eventually Martha must choose between saving the life or the legacy of the man she loves. Will her life be lived in the shadows of a man or will she be able to forge a path for them both, even if it means embracing the confines—and the joys—of a one-shade-brighter existence?


ONE SHADE BRIGHTER is a story of obsession, sacrifice, and redemption that would appeal to readers of Alyson Richman, Brunonia Barry, Cathy Marie Buchanan, and Stephanie Cowell.

Kim Bullock - Author