THE PARIS WINTER by Imogen RobertsonThe Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson
Published by St. Martin's Press on November 18th 2014
Pages: 368
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Mystery & Detective
ARC provided by Reading Group Gold

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There is but one Paris.Vincent Van GoghMaud Heighton came to Lafond's famous Academie to paint, and to flee the constraints of her small English town. It took all her courage to escape, but Paris, she quickly realizes, is no place for a light purse. While her fellow students enjoy the dazzling decadence of the Belle Epoque, Maud slips into poverty. Quietly starving, and dreading another cold Paris winter, she stumbles upon an opportunity when Christian Morel engages her as a live-in companion to his beautiful young sister, Sylvie. Maud is overjoyed by her good fortune. With a clean room, hot meals, and an umbrella to keep her dry, she is able to hold her head high as she strolls the streets of Montmartre. No longer hostage to poverty and hunger, Maud can at last devote herself to her art. But all is not as it seems. Christian and Sylvie, Maud soon discovers, are not quite the darlings they pretend to be. Sylvie has a secret addiction to opium and Christian has an ominous air of intrigue. As this dark and powerful tale progresses, Maud is drawn further into the Morels' world of elegant deception. Their secrets become hers, and soon she is caught in a scheme of betrayal and revenge that will plunge her into the darkness that waits beneath this glittering city of light.

My Review

I don’t usually read historical fiction. The Paris Winter was something I wanted to read because it came across as a mystery set in Paris, also it features some historical facts. The Paris flood is about to happen and change lives forever. I just loved this read about a destitute girl in the city of love. Maud is a painter and art is scattered throughout this read reminding the reader of the artists influence or inspiration.

Maud is a starving artist in Paris. She left her home in England to pursue her art, against her brother’s wishes. She has just enough of an inheritance to get a good start and enroll in a good school, Lafond’s famous Academie, to paint. The beginning of this book finds Maud living on practically nothing in the year 1909. She is starving, and facing the long winter with little means to survive. Just when things seem desperate another student (Tanya) makes Maud her pet and works to find her a proper job so she can get through the winter and still paint in school. Maud thinks she is the luckiest woman alive working as a companion to a girl named Sylvia, at the request of her brother Christian. Things unravel quite quickly when Maud is framed for something she didn’t do. True friends show their worth when Maud is accused of stealing a diamond tiara. This book takes us into the seedy underground of Paris showing us the lives of jewel thieves, starving artists, and opium addicts.

The ugliness of some of these characters was a bit shocking. This is Paris, society is such a thing. Acting out of fashion can get you cast out, and women still have very few trades they can pursue. Opium is a real problem in Paris and it rears its ugly head in this story. The betrayal in this story is believable. So sad, but true. Although Maud is a fictional character, I hope women like her were not make believe. Her tale of being disposed of for greed is heartbreaking. Maud finds some really true friends in this story and her revenge could not have taken place without them. Maud is so bold seeking justice when the evidence is so obvious against her. She is a virtuous woman and her actions are those of a very strong woman with something to prove.

The dress, scenery, and language in this book reflect the times. I admit I found myself a bit lost in the characters, as they are sometimes playing both sides. I didn’t know what to expect from them since their conversations were so light and obtuse. Knowing the period norms might have helped me understand that things are not always what they seem on the surface. I found that even friends seem a bit offensive in their interactions, or maybe that was just my impression. The art aspects were light enough for me to follow along, even though I know very little of art. There were famous paintings scattered throughout this book. It is my understanding that certain aspects of this story were taken right from historical facts. The Paris flood is described in reeling detail at the climax of this tale.

My problems with this story were in in its accurate betrayal of the period. I could not really relate to Maud. She was almost a ghost throughout this tale. I struggled with the first chapter and almost couldn’t complete it. I assumed we would get to really know Maud at some point, so I pressed on reading, but I feel we only barely learn about what makes Maud the way she is. I needed more of her upbringing to love her. I rooted for her to win back her honor but I was really unattached to her as a main heroine. I think I grew to love her spoiled Russian friend, Tanya, and the poor model, Yvette, more in this story, since we had more understanding of their daily lives. The book did have some unforgettable redeeming qualities. For these three women the start of life is much different, but together they accomplish great things and they each change their own destiny. It was an interesting historical tale of betrayal and friendship in Paris. I am sure this book will probably appeal to those who enjoy historical and/or women’s fiction.

My Rating

4kisses


About the Author

Imogen Robertson grew up in Darlington, studied Russian and German at Cambridge and now lives in London. She directed for film, TV and radio before becoming a full-time author and won the Telegraph’s ‘First thousand words of a novel’ competition in 2007 with the opening of Instruments of Darkness, her first novel. Her other novels also featuring the detective duo of Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther are Anatomy of Murder, Island of Bones and Circle of Shadows. The Paris Winter, a story of betrayal and darkness set during the Belle Époque, will be published in the US by St Martin’s Press in November 2014. She has been short-listed for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger twice and is married to a freelance cheesemonger.

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