Henry Winstone and his best friend, Frederick Ashton Thorpe, are artists during the Pre-Raphaelite movement of the Victorian era. Although Henry has pretty much forsaken the snobbish materialism of polite society, Fred isn’t quite so ready to give up his fastidious lifestyle. But even Henry must eat and has taken a commission to paint Eleanor Farnham’s portrait. Seeing the half finished portrait of Ellie at Henry’s studio, Fred is smitten and returns the next day to meet her. Deciding she’s everything he’s ever dreamed of in a woman, Fred pursues her and he and Ellie wed.
But Fred can’t let go of disgraceful events from his past and this leads him down a dark path of more shameful acts. Ellie too hides a painful past that affects her relationship with Fred. Their marriage deteriorates even more when Fred allows his mother to fire his jealousy with her vicious gossip of impropriety between Ellie and her godfather, Lord Percy Dillinger. When more appalling secrets come to light, not only is Ellie’s marriage in jeopardy, but her mental and physical health as well.
When I first began reading The Crimson Bed, I was hooked within the first few pages. Ms. Proctor is a highly gifted writer and knows exactly how to draw the reader in. At first I didn’t like any of the characters with the exception of Henry. But I couldn’t stop reading and I came to realize these characters were genuine, complicated and deeply flawed, which leant them a certain charm that was mesmerizing.
With such extraordinary characterizations, a gripping plot and well-researched historical backdrop, The Crimson Bed is an excellent work of fiction. This isn’t a gene romance, but there is a love story. The historical details of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and the artists are exceptional. This is a character driven novel with elements of romance, suspense and mystery. I was so emotionally invested in the lives of these characters, I laughed, I sobbed, and I bit my nails to the quick during the tenser moments. I dare anyone to read The Crimson Bed and not be so affected.