Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Belle Epoque

Belle EpoqueAuthor: Elizabeth Ross
Publication Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service—the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive.

Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when the Countess Dubern needs a companion for her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, Maude is deemed the perfect foil.

But Isabelle has no idea her new "friend" is the hired help, and Maude's very existence among the aristocracy hinges on her keeping the truth a secret. Yet the more she learns about Isabelle, the more her loyalty is tested. And the longer her deception continues, the more she has to lose.

But it is Eiffel’s tower that people line up for, visiting multiple times.

And I lived without that echo of love and confidence until I found it, once more, in Paris.

Perhaps one day my photograph will be taken, my likeness painted or a word written about me by someone who can see into my soul and tell you something of it.

We all know that a book with the Eiffel Tower anyone near the front cover, in this case located on the spine and bottom of the back cover, gets my vote and immediately finds itself on my To-Be-Read shelf. This book is set in Paris, France and follows a young runaway named Maude Pichon. Maude has recently run away from her father and her meaningless country life. She is struggling to make a name and a life for herself in Paris when she answers an ad that calls for undemanding work for ugly young women. Yes, you read it right! Maude’s job is to befriend a beauty in society and make her stand out more by repulsing people with her unbecoming features. Maude isn’t sure how she feels about this job at first, but her reality is that she has to make enough money to live if she is to remain in Paris.

Maude Pichon was an excellent leading character, although I was a little unsure about the book within the opening chapters. I found it very demeaning and wondered how I was going to get through a book where the main character was made to feel ugly and worthless the entire way through. However, this was not the case. Once Maude meets her first client Countess Dubern’s daughter, Isabelle Dubern, the book starts to pick up speed and Maude’s goal becomes apparent. Maude does not totally embrace her role and cannot stand the fact that she must lie to Isabelle, whose mother doesn’t want her to know that she has hired an ugly friend for her in order that she may appear more attractive. Maude has good intentions and it is easy to like her as a character. Once you read about her life back home and her situation with her father and her possible husband-to-be, you will find it easy to want more for Maude as well.

Maude and Isabelle’s friendship really grabbed my attention. Isabelle’s character is by far from likeable at first. She is rude and downright hurtful with her actions and words towards Maude. I couldn’t understand why she was so cold and turned off in her opening scenes, but I loved finding out about her as Maude entered her life and tried to become her new best friend.

Lastly, this is Paris and there is room for a little romance. The romantic pairing in this book is between Maude and Paul, and this is not a spoiler because readers learn this early on. This is the part of the book that I had a problem with. I felt that I didn’t get enough interaction between the two of them. Paul has a beautiful backstory. He is a struggling Jazz musician who is trying to make it on the streets of Paris just like Maude.

Paris is portrayed exquisitely throughout this book! If you are a Paris lover, pick up a copy now!

***A copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Delacorte Books for Young Readers in exchange for my honest review***

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