Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross
Pretty! The cover design was the reason I gave it a second glance.
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.
I don’t believe so.
This book is a perfect cure for ennui, brought on by too many high-concept dystopias or cheesy paranormals.
1880s Paris! The Eiffel Tower is in process during the course of the book, and it’s amusing to read that many, many people hated it at the time! Beauty is in the eye of, etc.
Upstairs, Downstairs! Maude shows us lower class and upper class aspects of Belle Epoque life, and it’s fascinating to see it all.
Girls’ Friendship! Maude and Isabelle form a real friendship, to say nothing of Marie-Josee at the Agency (who is the BEST). There is romance, but it’s more of a sub-plot.
A great historical read! I did occasionally find some word choices jarring, because they felt anachronistic to me, but it was only a few times throughout the book. Aside from lacking a bit of polish (it is Ross’ first book), it was very good. Again, I liked the focus on friendship and the importance of inner character development, set alongside the time period’s emphasis on outer beauty (and let’s be honest, pretty much every time period is the same in that regard). I look forward to Ross’ next book.