Book Review: Painted Faces by L.H. Cosway

Title: Painted FacesPainted Faces by L.H. Cosway 
Author: L.H. Cosway
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Sensuality Rating: Steamy
Source: J9’s debit card
Published: December 2012, Self Published

Dublin native Freda Wilson considers herself to be an acquired taste. She has a habit of making offensive jokes and speaking her mind too often. She doesn't have the best track record with first impressions, which is why she gets a surprise when her new neighbour Nicholas takes a shine to her.

Nicholas is darkly handsome, funny and magnetic, and Freda feels like her black and white existence is plunged into a rainbow of colour when she's around him. When he walks into a room he lights it up, with his quick wit and charisma. He is a travelling cabaret performer, but Freda doesn't know exactly what that entails until the curtains pull back on his opening night.

She is gob-smacked and entirely intrigued to see him take to the stage in drag. Later on, Nicholas asks her if she would like to become his show assistant. Excited by the idea, she jumps at the chance. Soon she finds herself immersed in a world of wigs, make-up and high heels, surrounded by pretty men and the temptation of falling for her incredibly beautiful employer.

In this story of passion and sexual discovery, Nicholas and Freda will contend with jealousy, emotional highs and lows, and the kind of love that only comes around once in a lifetime.

Reviewed By: J9

In a Nutshell: Absolutely most unique MF romance I’ve ever read with a hysterically funny heroine-narrator and a complicated hero. I have a philosophical difference of opinion with the book which prevents a five-frog rating.

The Set Up: Can straight drag queen Nicholas fall in love with overweight snarky Freda?

Why I Read this Book: There has been some blogger buzz about this book and I had to read it for myself.

What I Liked: Freda, Fred to her friends, is quite possibly the best narrator I’ve ever read. She’s hysterically witty, brutally honest about herself and others, and smart to the point of genius. Fred is an amazing combination of bravado and vulnerability that made me love and root for her. She’s not beautiful or a damsel in distress; she’s an average woman working hard and playing harder. She lives life as an adventure and accepts others as they are with no ulterior motives. Fred made me giggle out loud so many times my husband kept asking me what I was reading! Here’s an example of Fred’s narration:

“If by lived in you mean an aged whore with cracked skin and some sort of downstairs infection she can’t get rid of, then you’re right, this building has plenty of character.”

What I Also Liked: Nicholas was also a stellar character. It is beyond brave for the author to have a straight drag queen as a romance hero and I had no idea how this would work but it totally did. Nicholas is honest about himself to Fred and lives unapologetically and this is refreshing in a romance hero. I’m not sure how but the author made me believe in Nicholas’ heterosexuality and attraction to Freda, even when he’s in a wig, sequined dress and more make-up than Freda knew existed but I totally bought it. Nicholas masculinity wasn’t ever in question in this book and I think that’s a testament to the author’s skillful writing.

The romance between Nicholas and Freda is full of sexual and emotional tension. Fred is scared of being emotional and sexual vulnerable but even she can’t fully protect her heart from Nicholas when he’s on a mission to seduce her. The sex matches their emotional development and was the perfect fit for their burgeoning relationship. I like that neither Nicholas nor Fred have all the answers to their own issues, let alone their relationship issues. They stumble through just as real people do.

What I Didn’t Like: I have one philosophical difference of opinion with this book and I can’t get past it. This book works on the premise that one person’s love can save another and I just don’t believe that. I think people can help each other make healthier life choices but I don’t think it’s fair to expect someone else’s love to save us from our pasts. Nicholas is fucked up and he knows it. Freda doesn’t even know she’s lonely and wants to be love until she meets Nicholas. But in my opinion, it isn’t healthy for Freda to want love so much that she makes it her responsibility to save Nicholas from his past. When Nicholas pushes Freda away it’s one of the most painful scenes in this book and in my opinion it’s because of this set-up that Freda’s love should be enough to “fix” Nicholas and this isn’t fair to either character. My issue crystalized when Nicholas’ best friend uses emotional manipulation to guilt Freda into accepting Nicholas’ apology or risks his emotional and physical well-being. But even my issue with this shows how successful the author was in making me invest in both these characters and their romance.

IMO: Any reader looking for a nuanced romance with unique, stellar leads will adore this book as I did. This isn’t a mindless fluff read so expect to invest time and emotions in Nicholas and Freda’s romance.

J9’s Rating:
4 Frogs

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About J9: Vegan. Avid runner. Android addict. Never without a book in hand. Currently devouring MM romance but reads historial romance and paranormal romance as well. Follow J9 on Twitter.


  1. LOVED this book! So far it is one of my top reads for the year so far. Great review!!

  2. I get what you are saying, but I loved this book anyway. I'm always on the lookout for heroes who are different in some way, and he definitely fits that description. This will probably end up being one of my top reads this year.

  3. It's a VERY unique read that I still highly recommend. I'm always interested to see if books that hit us early in the year still make our lists 10 or 11 months later...


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