In the summer of 1900, eighteen-year-old Martha Niles flees her morally rigid home for Roycroft, a bohemian art colony in Western New York. Gifted and ambitious, she is soon mentored and befriended by acclaimed landscape painter, Carl Ahrens. The striking and worldly older man is the adopted son of an Ojibwa chief and a former traveling companion of Calamity Jane. He paints trees that dance, laugh, grieve and embrace; trees that, she comes to realize, tell the story of the life they might have lived together if he weren’t already married. If he weren’t dying.

When Martha overhears Carl’s wife belittle his art and insist his tuberculosis can be cured with prayer, she knows she must choose between saving the life or the legacy of the man she loves. But her own destiny pulses within her. She can only live in Carl’s shadow for so long.

Inspired by the lives of Kim Bullock’s great-grandparents, One Shade Brighter is a story of obsession, sacrifice, and redemption that would appeal to readers of Alyson Richman, Cathy Marie Buchanan, Heather Webb, and Stephanie Cowell.    

One Shade Brighter

(A novel inspired by the lives of Carl and Madonna Ahrens)

Carl Ahrens (1862-1936)