2017, London: When Aurelia Leclaire inherits an opulent Paris apartment, she is shocked to discover her grandmother’s hidden secrets—including a treasure trove of famous art and couture gowns. One obscure painting leads her to Gabriel Seymour, a highly respected art restorer with his own mysterious past. Together they attempt to uncover the truths concealed within the apartment’s walls.
Paris, 1942: The Germans may occupy the City of Lights, but glamorous Estelle Allard flourishes in a world separate from the hardships of war. Yet when the Nazis come for her friends, Estelle doesn’t hesitate to help those she holds dear, no matter the cost. As she works against the forces intent on destroying her loved ones, she can’t know that her actions will have ramifications for generations to come.
Set seventy-five years apart, against a perilous and a prosperous Paris, both Estelle and Lia must unearth hidden courage as they navigate the dangers of a changing world, altering history—and their family’s futures—forever.
Source: NetGalley and Forever Rating: 5 stars
Estelle Allard has a secret and in 1942, having secrets is a life-ending proposition. With no intention of losing her life, Estelle learns to play the spy in a world now full of evil men and women hellbent on ridding the world of those they deem unacceptable. As a rich, beautiful, unattached socialite Estelle fits easily into lie at the Ritz where she bumbles her way through conversations, feigns ignorance at every turn, and literally sings for her supper. As the saying goes, looks can be deceiving.
Estelle Allard is crafty, clever, highly intelligent, and willing to risk her life for the lives of others. Her work at the Ritz may seem frivolous to most, but Estelle’s access to the high-ranking Nazis who live and socialize at the grand hotel allow her to feed information to the Resistance at every turn. Though she never knows if her information is doing any good, Estelle perseveres. In fact, Estelle expands her operation beyond information gathering to the hiding of precious objects and art, and the safe passage of soldiers being smuggled from one location to another. In an ultimate act of resistance, Estelle even hides a small Jewish child following the “relocation” of her own family.
Long days and long nights have Estelle constantly on edge and while she isn’t completely sure her efforts are making a difference, she continues on. She plays the ignorant socialite so well that even the most discerning among the Nazi party can’t prove Estelle is anything or anyone beyond who she says she is. That is, until the day Sophie walks into her life. Sophie is an unknown quantity who seemingly wants nothing from Estelle in return but is willing to help her. Though Estelle trusts few people, she chooses to trust Sophie so that she might save the life of the young girl she has been hiding for so long. As their plans play out, the danger if discovery and capture is very real and the odds of surviving, minimal.
The Bottom Line: I am always drawn to books related to this time and have found myself to be quite critical of books of this genre. The market is somewhat flooded with books related to this time and place so when I find one, I particularly like, I feel its praises should be sung far and wide. The Fat Lady is warming up . . . In truth, this is a time slip book with the chapters alternating between Estelle and Sophie’s time and the present. Estelle’s granddaughter Lia, who is largely in the dark about her grandmother’s past has inherited Estelle’s estate and is completely confused by what she has found. As Lia begins to uncover the mystery of her grandmother, we are taken back in time to Estelle as she tells her own story. I found the far more plentiful chapters of Estelle’s time and place to be the most enjoyable; the descriptions were flawless, the dialogue excellent, and the mood appropriate tense. I found these chapters and Estelle and Sophie’s story to be the most compelling and feel the book would have been just as good (Better? Maybe?) without Lia’s presence. This is an excellent historical fiction and a fine addition to the genre.