Summer, 1900 - Eighteen-year-old Martha Niles flees her morally rigid home for Roycroft, a bohemian art colony near Buffalo, New York. Gifted and ambitious, she soon has the opportunity to work beside acclaimed landscape painter, Carl Ahrens, and her art flourishes in the presence of a mentor who insists she’s his equal. While Carl shares the secret of painting fickle light, Martha infuses color and movement into his work. As they grow closer, his trees, once solitary, grieving figures, now laugh and dance together. It is their story, she comes to realize, the one they might have lived if he weren’t already married. If he weren’t dying.
As scandal threatens to overtake the couple and Carl is denied medical treatment by his Christian Scientist wife, Martha must choose between saving the life or the legacy of the man she loves. Will following her heart mean sacrificing her own artistic aspirations to live in the shadow of a master, or can she forge a path to fame for them both?
Based on the true story of Kim's great-grandparents, THE OAK LOVERS is a story of obsession, sacrifice, and redemption that would appeal to readers of Alyson Richman, Brunonia Barry, Cathy Marie Buchanan, and Stephanie Cowell.
House Through the Trees by Carl Ahrens
Carl Ahrens as a young artist in Toronto c. 1892. (Colorized based on Madonna's desciption of him.
Martha "Madonna" Niles c. 1900. She would have looked much like this when she met Carl Ahrens at Roycroft, in East Aurora, NY.
Carl Ahrens in his Roycroft studio c. 1900.
Madonna Ahrens doing laundry outside San Diego in June of 1906. They travelled in this covered wagon up the coast to San Francisco that summer because Carl had been commissioned to paint the California Missions and motorcars weren't allowed on the mountain roads.
Madonna Ahrens in Toronto c. 1913. This would have been during the time sang with The Canadian Quartette, a musical group that performed concerts in the city. She earned high praise in Toronto papers for her rich contralto voice.
Eleanor Douglass - Carl's cousin and an artist in her own right. She assisted Carl in the potter shop at Roycroft.