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Museum’s mysteries marvelous in deft debut

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A lush and atmospheric romp replete with medieval magic, sexy intrigue and violent ambition, The Cloisters examines the blurry lines between love and lust, curiosity and obsession and choice and destiny. A stunning debut penned by writer and art history professor Katy Hays, The Cloisters sweeps you up in a dark and mesmerizing world.

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A lush and atmospheric romp replete with medieval magic, sexy intrigue and violent ambition, The Cloisters examines the blurry lines between love and lust, curiosity and obsession and choice and destiny. A stunning debut penned by writer and art history professor Katy Hays, The Cloisters sweeps you up in a dark and mesmerizing world.

When Ann Stilwell scores a summer internship in New York City, she doesn’t hesitate to abandon her hometown in Washington and head across the country. Haunted by tragedy and drained by grief, this is the fresh start she’s been longing for.

But in a twist of fate, Ann discovers her placement at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is suddenly unavailable. At a complete loss, Ann is miraculously rescued by captivating curator Patrick Roland, who recruits her to work at The Cloisters, a museum dedicated to and inspired by the art, architecture and gardens of medieval Europe.

The Cloisters

Surrounded by incredible and rare works of art, Ann is immediately fascinated by The Cloisters — both the space and the people who work there. She is taken under the wing of Patrick’s research associate Rachel, a talented up-and-coming academic, and taken in by Leo, the charismatic and rebellious gardener responsible for cultivating the museum’s grounds. Along with Patrick and Ann, the four form a sensuous and tangled bond, their lives becoming increasingly intertwined. Soon Ann is sleeping with Leo, living with Rachel and viewing Patrick as a father figure.

Immersed in the research Patrick is working on — a showcase on tarot cards and their value to medieval art and culture — Ann discovers that her colleagues hold more than a scholarly appreciation for tarot when they invite her to take part in a traditional reading. She also learns Patrick is seeking a specific set of tarot cards, one that — if it exists — would prove a hypothesis that could take the academic world by storm.

A skeptic at first, Ann doesn’t buy into the mysticism of the Middle Ages and tries to focus instead on the research. But when Ann makes a startling discovery, mere curiosity gives over to obsession. She shares her secret breakthrough with Rachel, who counsels against telling Patrick. Allies in their deception, the two begin to hide vital research from Patrick, who grows increasingly frustrated by their lack of progress.

When a ritual goes awry and one of their number dies under suspicious circumstances, Ann begins to understand that the world she’s entered is much murkier and malicious than she ever could have guessed. Not knowing who she can trust and struggling to discern what is real, Ann learns the true distinction between personal choice and destiny, and leans into becoming the master of her own fate.

Impeccably researched and instantly compelling, The Cloisters will have you itching to book your flight to New York City to visit the real Met Cloisters and tempted to purchase your own set of tarot cards. Reminiscent of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, The Cloisters is a masterwork sure to put Hays on the map.

Katrina Sklepowich is a professional booklover who runs a blog at LiterallyKatrina.com when she isn’t working as a communicator at RRC Polytech.

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