Book Review: Painting Celia by Maya Bairey



Title: Painting Celia (Incubadora Book 1)
Author:  Maya Bairey 
Publisher: Lingua Ink Books
Released: May 11, 2024
Pages: 368
Stars: 5.0

“You can live in my pool house if you’ll teach me to paint.”

Debut novelist Maya Bairey has written a stellar contemporary romance sure to delight the over-forty reader in Painting Celia. Exploring themes of trauma, healing, and empowerment, Painting Celia reminds me of the movie 9 1/2 Weeks, with its sensual, erotic sex scenes, but this story has a happy ending.

The characters in Painting Celia are fully realized, instantly relatable individuals (some of whom are LGBTQ) living in Los Angeles—particularly lead characters Celia and León—although we know her friends Andrew, Kelsey, and Trevor have much more going on in their lives than can be shared in one story. I can’t wait to read Kelsey’s!

Celia lives in a sparsely furnished mansion in LA after becoming a multi-millionaire through cryptocurrency investments, and she feels guilty about her good fortune. Celia is estranged from her mother and struggles to find meaning and purpose as she slowly takes every form of art class imaginable to discover where her talents lie. Then she meets an emotional, passionate painter named León from New York who is visiting their mutual friend Andrew. León, seeking inspiration for his art and an affordable place to stay, is everything Celia is not. Celia strikes a bargain with him, and he teaches her about technique, how to let herself go and feel what the work requires, and the meaning of colours and their corresponding emotions. As an art lover and lifelong supporter of the arts, I thoroughly enjoyed the details in León’s art lessons, just as much as I enjoyed their love lessons.

I was curious about Celia’s introverted demeanour from the start and admired how she learned to allow herself to be vulnerable while finding her purpose and confidence through art. Celia also develops strength, confidence, and self-worth through her pursuit of art and her mentor, León. However, he is not always likeable. As a woman with an appalling history with men, I was angry with León for being a bit of a prick, but the more he evolved, the more I liked him. Their connection also transforms him, and as they begin to understand what a healthy relationship resembles, we learn what makes them tick.

While Painting Celia is a slow-burning romance between mature characters, I was never bored, and Maya not only shocked me with a plot twist but also added superb tension to the denouement. She is an exceedingly gifted writer who has put extraordinary thought into each character’s back story and what they mean to each other. She also enriched the narrative by meticulously using colour symbolism, painting this story in hues of blue.

I had the privilege of co-editing this book, and after editing fifty books and thousands of documents, I can honestly say that I learned as much from Maya as she did from me. A perfectionist, the likes of whom I have never seen, Maya inspired me to take my career as an editor to the next level. I cannot wait to witness what comes next from her career as an author and publisher. I highly recommend you keep an eye on Maya Bairey because she is a brilliant standout author in an over-saturated world of mediocre writers. 

Painting Celia is out today on Amazon Kindle here.

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