About this book: (from the publisher) Maud 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.
About the author: Imogen Robertson writes historical fiction from her home in London, where she lives with her husband, a cheesemonger. She studied Russian and German at Cambridge, and was a TV director before turning her hand to writing.
How I’d judge this cover to suit the story: Richly evocative, just like its story.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: R for occasional profanity (mostly mild but gets a little bolder toward the end)
Reminds me of… The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro, The Memory of Scent by Lisa Burkitt, The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin
You’ll want to buy this book if …you are an artist or Parisienne at heart
Would I read another by this author? Although dark historical fiction is not my usual choice, Imogen Robertson certainly knows how to spin a chilling tale.
This story matters… as it demonstrates how great risk and determination are often required to achieve what we want most in life.
My take: From its first pages, The Paris Winter features complex storytelling with a swirl of multifaceted characters who may or may not be all they seem. It’s finely researched and layered with beautiful details. And the way the author portrays the bleakness of a Paris winter… I shiver just to recall it.
For all of that it has going for it, though, I struggled to find a character to really latch onto. Maud at first seemed the most obvious choice, and later Tanya. But identifying with characters is a highly subjective matter, and for whatever reason, neither of these completely clicked for me.
All the same, this is a well-titled and darkly imaginative tale about the City of Light, and I don’t want to suggest that my own preferences will necessarily be your own. The Paris Winter could be just the escape you’re looking for this season.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.