I had featured Belle Epoque in a Top 10 Tuesday when the author, Elizabeth Ross, got in touch about it. What great timing, because I was just planning Paris Month at the time and thus came a whole slew of ideas and opportunities. This week will highlight a bit of this fabulous book from the review today which also includes an ARC giveaway, courtesy of Ms. Ross, as well as an interview with Elizabeth later this week – so stay tuned!
Maude runs away from home to escape a future that would not be her own. She makes her way to Paris and answers a job posting before realizing that the job was to be plain. An unusual agency hires out “ugly” females to their rich clientele with the idea that when the rich are next to someone bland, they would look more attractive. Maude soon realizes that her client has hired her for her daughter, who has no idea that she’s paid for. The two young girls become friends and Maude is conflicted on where her allegiances lie.
In all honesty, this story really snuck up on me. I knew the premise was interesting and I had wanted to check it out, but I had no idea just how much it would pull me in. There is so much more psychology than what might appear on the surface with how Ross writes each of the girls in the agency. Being a repoussoir, or a “repulser”, would certainly take its toll on a person’s mental state.
While I’m not sure if the girl on the cover is supposed to represent Maude, I certainly don’t consider her “plain” nor “ugly” in the least! In fact, Maude and all the other characters really came across as strong women, despite their position in life. They all had their individual shortcomings and flaws and yet all shone past that as well. Even the title itself, Belle Epoque, is French for “beautiful era” which holds so much more significance in the context of this novel.
In a way, the basis of the story is not necessarily a novel one. There are many stories where the protagonist pretends to be someone they’re not. What makes Ross stand apart from all of that is that the intentions of said protagonist in Belle Epoque are not motivated by a romantic relationship but rather a platonic friendship. And looking back on my initial comment about how it caught me off guard with how invested I became with the story, it’s actually not that surprising after all. I love stories that have strong, yet vulnerable, characters that rise above their circumstances in life and show the world what they’re really made of. This is exactly that kind of book.
As mentioned above, Elizabeth Ross has been so gracious to send me a Belle Epoque prize pack to give away here for Paris Month!
- An ARC of Belle Epoque
- Belle Epoque postcard & Eiffel Tower bookmarks, and more!
- Open to residents of US & Canada
- Winner will have 48 hrs to respond to email confirming their address
- Prize will be mailed out within the week. Note: I am not liable for lost or damaged packages during delivery.
- Like with all the other giveaways going on right now, this ends at midnight EST on May 1st, 2013.