The Fraud, By Barbara Ewing

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The Independent Culture

New Zealand-born Barbara Ewing, herself an actress, has a soft spot for the inhabitants of history's demi-monde. Her latest novel opens in 1763, as Filipo di Vecellio, a portrait painter from Florence, and his much-coiffured wife Angelica, play host to London's art world, entertaining Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and a disapproving William Hogarth at their fashionable Pall Mall home.

Not much is known about Filipo's past - though the household is home to several secrets. In this engaging and enlightening novel about artistic ambition and fraud at the nascent Royal Academy, Ewing is an accomplished storyteller who puts the pleasure of her readers first.