True artists are compelled to create! Caroline Miley, an art historian, has depicted the life of an artist, Edward Armiger, who doesn’t want to copy other great or amateur artists in Georgian England. He and his friends, who are mostly poor and dependent on the patronage of rich art lovers, want to enter a contest called “The Competition” at the Royal Academy. The winner will be guaranteed a successful career. But Edward’s plans are put on hold as he falls in love and is invited to visit the home of the young lady’s father, a mill owner. The Industrial Revolution has dramatically changed the milling business, and Edward is astonished at the complexity of the factory but appalled at the working conditions of the employees. He experiences the fury of the Luddites who want to force just wages and the removal of dangerous conditions. Edward will integrate this shocking experience into his painting for the upcoming contest.
The reader watches as Edward mixes colors for different shades and tones, sketches what he observes at a furious pace, and shares his love for visions that move him. However, he is also a sensitive soul who inserts dignity where it is lacking, strength in situations that are daunting, and honor for those who work so very hard and earn a pitifully small salary. Edward Armiger’s refusal to copy art increases his sensitivity to create what topically lies beyond standard paintings in frames. He represents how art fosters social consciousness and change, and readers will feel as if they are right there with him. The Competition is fine, creative historical fiction.