The Lover's Portrait

The Adventures of Zelda Richardson Volume 2

Fiction - Mystery - Sleuth
266 Pages
Reviewed on 11/18/2016
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Jennifer S. Alderson worked as a journalist and website developer in Seattle, Washington before trading her financial security for a backpack. After traveling extensively around Asia and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. There she earned degrees in art history and museum studies. Home is now Amsterdam, where she lives with her Dutch husband and young son.

Jennifer's travels and experiences color and inform her internationally-oriented fiction. Her first novel, Down and Out in Kathmandu: adventures in backpacking, is a travel fiction adventure through Nepal and Thailand. The Lover's Portrait: An Art Mystery, her second book, is a suspenseful 'whodunit?' which transports readers to wartime and present day Amsterdam. Both are part of an on-going stand-alone series following the adventures of traveler and culture lover, Zelda Richardson.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite

The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson is the second novel in The Adventures of Zelda Richardson series. Zelda just earned her way into an internship working at a museum exhibit showcasing stolen objects from WWII in hopes that the rightful families will claim them. It’s a dream come true. That is until Zelda finds out she’s meant to read and revise a website that has grammatical errors. Her luck changes when a woman named Rita shows up to claim a painting labeled Irises with a heartbreaking story of her father sending his family into hiding while he tried to find money, and hide his artwork from the Nazis. It seems like a set plan when another woman shows up, claiming to be the rightful descendant of the painting’s owner. Zelda has a natural habit of not quitting until she finds the truth, but will her curiosity lead her to a murderer?

Jennifer S. Alderson delivers a mystery novel not quite like most. It has a headstrong sleuth type character in Zelda, but the story is character driven, not plot driven. The mystery of the painting is reminiscent of old mystery novels from before the 1950s, fitting since Alderson features flashbacks to the 1940s, probably some of my favorite scenes. She weaves the scenes with Arjan and Philip through the novel to answer questions as Zelda discovers the truth. Being able to see the fear Arjan went through allowed for a sentimental touch to the mystery. It’s not about stolen paintings, but about lives that were stolen. The flashbacks added depth to the plot that brought all the threads together to a wonderful conclusion. The Lover’s Portrait is a well-written mystery with engaging characters and a lot of heart. The perfect novel for those who love art and mysteries!

Reviewer Vicki Goodwin

5 star review posted by Vicki Goodwin on Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Goodreads:
Headline: "When I read The Lover’s Portrait, I was entranced from the beginning"
When I read The Lover’s Portrait, I was entranced from the beginning, I didn’t just read it I savored it. It was a time period I love to read about and a subject that I find utterly fascinating. Art stolen from the Jewish owners during World War II has angered me so much, the unfairness of it all. The story comes alive when reading about the art owner and the homosexual art gallery owner. There are so many unusual facets to this story. Subjects that I had never read about unfolded allowing me to see another side of the war and the people that were punished in inhumane ways for being who they are.

Each chapter held my interest and kept me wanting to know more. Zelda Richardson is a great main character. She has lived a different life in Seattle as a computer programmer before and is finding her passion in an unexpected place in an unexpected career in art. Zelda’s curious mind keeps this mystery unfolding chapter by chapter. The vivid descriptions of Amsterdam and the history of the art community really brought this story to life. The intrigue and personal history of the families brought in a personal element. Each mysterious clue opened so many doors, it kept me wondering what was going to happen next.

Review on Amy's Bookshelf

4 star review posted by Amy Shannon of Amy's Bookshelf Reviews on her book review website, Amazon, Goodreads and Barnes & Noble:


I loved how the author put her own experiences into the story. I didn't read the first book, but after reading this one, I will make my way to the first Zelda book. This historical references are great and bring a reality to the story. It's an intense and highly well written story about Zelda's investigation into a painting's history. Great story. Highly recommended and Alderson just found herself a new fan.

Reviewer Pamela Allegrett

5 star review by author Pamela Allegretto posted on Amazon and Goodreads:
For me, a good historical novel must comprise fully developed characters, a compelling narrative, and absorbing information about the particular era referenced in the story. “The Lover’s Portrait” by Jennifer S. Alderson fits all these requirements.
The protagonist, Zelda Richardson, is a resilient, gutsy, ethical art history student who just might be in over her head when her search for truth entangles her in a 70-year-old web of stolen paintings, blackmail, and murder.
The author’s exemplary research into art works stolen by the Nazis during World War 2 is evident. However, she does not overdo facts; but rather, she seamlessly weaves the thought-provoking information into her tale.
I highly recommend “The Lover’s Portrait” for artists, art lovers, history buffs, historical novel fans, and anyone else looking for a well-written, enjoyable read.
I have not yet read Ms. Alderson’s first novel, “Down and Out in Kathmandu,” but halfway through “The Lover’s Portrait” I knew I wanted to read more of Ms. Alderson’s work, and so I ordered a copy and am looking forward to the read.

Reviewer PromptProse

4 star review posted by 'PromptProse' on Amazon and Goodreads:
The manager of the Stolen Arts exhibition gets more than she bargained for when two different women lay claim to the same painting. Who is the rightful owner of Irises? Is it Rita Brouwer, whose photographic evidence and emotional response on setting eyes on the painting engages the sympathy of intern Zelda Richardson? Or is it Karen O’Neil, attorney at her side, whose extensive documentation strongly supports her claim? When the head curator of the exhibition appears to favor O’Neil, Zelda decides to take matters into her own hands.

The premise of this novel - the return of works of art stolen by the Nazis to the families of the rightful owners - resonated with me, and I very much wanted to love The Lover’s Portrait. And there is much to love. Jennifer Alderson has done her homework. Her description of the requirements for determining provenance of artwork, her tour through the Van Gogh Museum, and the settings of her Amsterdam scenes all are testament to the thoroughness of her research.

Overall, I would describe The Lover’s Portrait as an engaging mystery and an enjoyable read.

Reviewer Anne Janzer

5 star review posted by author Anne Janzer on Amazon and Goodreads:
The Lover's Portrait ticks all of the boxes for a good mystery read: interesting subject, unusual setting, and compelling mystery. The bonus, with this book, is the historical grounding. The story could almost be torn from current headlines, dealing with issues of disputed ownership for artwork that changed hands during periods of Nazi occupation. Alderson deftly intermingles the two mysteries, one contemporary and one in the past, while immersing the reader in an Amsterdam peopled with interesting characters.

Review on TripFiction

4 star Review by travel fiction website TripFiction, also posted on Amazon and Goodreads:
Firmly set in Amsterdam, this enjoyable mystery explores the darker world of misappropriated and stolen art works during World War II.

Zelda Richardson, an American, is applying to do a Master’s programme in Amsterdam and therefore must not jeopardise her future by ill-considered actions. But she is a head strong young woman who is doing an internship at the Amsterdam Museum, where they are putting the finishing touches to the exhibition “Stolen Objects: Unclaimed Paintings and Sculptures in Dutch Museum Depots” due to open in a month’s time. All items in the exhibition – well over a 1000 – were taken from Dutch citizens during the Nazi occupation of the city. Publicity, it is hoped, will reunite some of the works of art with their rightful owners, but provenance – proof of ownership – is the key.

Details are already up on the Homepage and it is the painting “Irises” by Wederstein, rather an obscure piece to garner so much attention. The first claimant is Rita Brouwer but hot on her heels is the second claimant Karen O’Neil. Zelda, as the adult Nancy Drew, is on a mission to find out who the genuine claimant is and who the imposter. Things certainly get tense as she delves deeper into the stories of each claimant, and certainly her instinct tells her which woman has a genuine case. But she needs hard evidence. If Karen’s claim is not water-tight what is it that is driving her?

Flashback to the war years and the assumed owner at the time has been asked to store other works of art from the prying Nazi eyes. But he soon finds himself being blackmailed for reasons that become apparent…

A good insight, via fiction, into the dark world of stolen artefacts, well researched and written with a good pace.

Setting is delightful. Zelda herself is trying to get her tongue round the Dutch language, and there are smatterings of the language to add authenticity. She spends time with her friend Friedrich at the Vondelpark and Museumplein, takes a trip out to Urk, and observes the unusual presence of parakeets, which if you have been to Amsterdam may well strike a chord – they are certainly an unanticipated sight in a northern European city. There are many more passing references for a bit of literary wanderlust to enjoy throughout the book. She has captured the very Dutch nature of the city and clearly knows it well.

Reviewer Tracey Green

5 star review posted by author T.J. Green on Amazon and Goodreads:
Excellent read! This book is a mystery/ thriller/ detective story which deals with the restoration of art to their rightful owners (if they can be identified) following theft by the Nazis during the Second World War.
The story kept me engaged from the start, it deals with a fascinating time and an emotive subject. It's well written and has been well researched. I must admit it's a subject that fascinates and infuriates me equally. I can't understand how people can treat others so badly, and continue to do so over many years.
Great setting too. I've never visited Amsterdam before, but I think I'll add it to my 'to visit' list!
Zelda is a great lead character and I look forward to her future exploits.

Customer review on Amazon

5 star review posted by Amazon customer 'Eleanor':
Headline: "Loved it!"
I loved the premise of this book - trying to find the owners of works of art which have been misappropriated by the Nazis during WW2. Zelda's determination to prove that Rita Brouwer is the rightful owner of the Lover's Portrait when every one else is happy to hand over the painting to the pushy Karen O’Neil who seems to have all the right documentation to support her claim, is a great protagonist. Just when things seem to be going Zelda's way and justice will be done, something happens and she is back having to start all over again.
A great read that keeps the reader turning the page.

Amazon Review - Carole P.

Well written mystery about stolen Nazi artwork. Alderson constructs a credible tale, that could have been ripped from current headlines of a young art student, Zelda Richardson thrust into a uncomfortable position working with a hostile colleague on a project attempting to reunite artwork with original owners. When two women claim ownership of the same painting, she finds herself thrust into danger and intrigue as she tries to unravel the tangled past. Informative and fast paced, this is an interesting read written by an author who clearly knows her subject. Three dimensional and well developed characters with the added bonus of the Dutch location. I look forward to seeing what Zelda will tackle next in her art world journey.

Amazon Review - Cher

A timeless topic.....a mystery that holds your attention....a pull on heart strings. All these add up to a book that will keep you reading and wondering "who done it". I received an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. Being a mystery buff and knowing that this topic of lost art has been used in many stories, , I wasn't sure how appealing the book would be. This book is a winner! It met all my criteria for a good mystery . A great twist on the topic. A well developed plot by a new author.

Amazon Review - Cat

The Lover’s Portrait is an intriguing art mystery with interwoven flashbacks that reveal just enough to propel the narrative forward without giving away the ending. The writing flows without hiccup and I can only imagine the countless hours of research required to lend the story authenticity. I’d certainly read more from this author.

Amazon Review - Squeaky J

Threatened by Nazi blackmailers, a Dutch art dealer conceals stock from his gallery leaving a tangled trail of clues to art treasures buried somewhere in Amsterdam. Years later, when art history student Zelda Richardson gets an internship at a prestigious Amsterdam Museum, she takes on the job of tracking down the history of an apparently unimportant painting. Faced with museum officials who aren't exactly supportive towards her, Zelda's future at the museum seems in doubt. But when two different women turn up claiming the painting, she follows her instinct and discovers there's a lot more to the artwork than anyone guessed.

When I started reading this book, I hadn't realised it was the second volume in the Adventures of Zelda Richardson series, but luckily it made no difference to my enjoyment. In true Dan-Brown-Da-Vinci-Code style, this is an intriguing mystery that highlights the plight of homosexuals and Jewish artists in Europe during and after World War Two. The story is well researched and at times quite fascinating in the way the protagonist uncovers the clues in her search for the truth. Having said that, I occasionally found the pace a little slow and was hard-pushed not to skip passages in order to get to the excitement of the chase.

All in all, this is a clever take on a complex subject that kept me guessing until the end.

Amazon Review - J C Steel

Zelda Richardson is done with web design. She’s tired of living in the USA. She’s decided to turn her life around, and take a Masters in Museum Studies in Amsterdam. However, with stiff competition to make it to the final cut of students accepted, Zelda takes on a volunteer internship with the Amsterdam Museum, hoping for something that will bolster her résumé. She doesn’t expect that a short internship supporting the Stolen Objects museum display will end with her trying to prove provenance on a disputed painting from World War II, and no one expects where that investigation will lead—or the calibre of the opposition.

The Lover’s Portrait is an intricate and well-written story, prefaced with the welcoming, culture-loving face of modern Amsterdam, and underlaid by the city’s wartime past—a past that rises like the tide to infiltrate Zelda’s research assignment. Jennifer S. Alderson is particularly adept at sketching in the complex connections between her characters’ pasts and their present-day actions and motivations, pulling the whole together in a fast-paced and credible plot that is supported by the detail of Zelda’s experiences as she tries to piece together the scattered shards of history. I can absolutely recommend this book to any fans of mystery or art looking for their next read – it will not disappoint.

iBooks review - PJAND

After reading her lovely debut book, I could hardly wait to read her second one. It is great!

The well written description of wartime and present day Amsterdam and the dilemmas concerning the restitution of art, gives this exciting art mystery color and depth.
It is a real page turner because the writer pulls you into the story quickly and keeps you guessing until the very end.