Published: Lightning Books (July 2019)

ISBN: 9781785631306

A Right Royal Face-Off

Simon Edge


‘A glorious comedy of painting and pretension’

Ryan O’Neill

It is 1777, and England’s second-greatest portrait artist, Thomas Gainsborough, has a thriving practice a stone’s throw from London’s royal palaces. Meanwhile, the press talks up his rivalry with Sir Joshua Reynolds, the pedantic theoretician who is the top dog of British portraiture.

Gainsborough loathes pandering to grand sitters, but he changes his tune when he is commissioned to paint King George III and his large family. In their final, most bitter competition, who will be chosen as court painter, Tom or Sir Joshua?

Two and a half centuries later, a badly damaged painting turns up on a downmarket TV antiques show being filmed in Suffolk. Could the monstrosity really be, as its eccentric owner claims, a Gainsborough? If so, who is the sitter? And why does he have donkey’s ears?

Mixing ancient and modern as he did in his acclaimed debut The Hopkins Conundrum, Simon Edge takes aim at fakery and pretension in this highly original celebration of one of our greatest artists.






‘One part mystery, one part history, one part satire, and wholly entertaining. A hilarious portrait of the artist as a frustrated man, Simon Edge’s novel is a glorious comedy of painting and pretension’

Ryan O’Neill

‘I loved this book, a laugh-out-loud contemporary satire skewering today’s tired reality TV formats married with a tale of vicious rivalry in the world of 18th century royal portraiture. Simon Edge manages to pin asses ears onto the lot of them, to great comic effect’

Liz Trenow

‘Highly entertaining and enjoyable’

Mark Bills, Director, Gainsborough’s House


‘Just when you think there are no more original plot-lines for a book, along comes this one. It’s the book you didn’t know you wanted to read…but trust me, you’ll love it’

Jena C Henry



Simon Edge

Simon Edge was born in Chester and read philosophy at Cambridge University.

He was editor of the pioneering London paper Capital Gay before becoming a gossip columnist on the Evening Standard and then a feature writer on the Daily Express, where he was also a theatre critic for many years.

He has an MA in Creative Writing from City University, London. His novel The Hopkins Conundrum, published in 2017, was longlisted for the Waverton Good Read Award. His second novel, The Hurtle of Hell, was published in 2018. He lives in Suffolk.

Read more about Simon and his work at

leave a comment