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 adornment of plainness.
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.
Inspired by a short story written by Emile Zola, Belle Epoque is set at the height of bohemian Paris, when the city was at the peak of decadence, men and women were at their most beautiful, and morality was at its most depraved.
A YASLA William C. Morris Award Finalist
A Junior Library Guild Selection
“Both touching and fun, this is a story about many things—true friendship, real beauty, being caught between two worlds—and it will delight fans of historical fiction.”—Publishers Weekly
“A refreshingly relevant and inspiring historical venture.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A compelling story about friendship, the complexity of beauty, and self-discovery…full of strong female characters.”—School Library Journal
“With resonant period detail, elegant narration, and a layered exploration of class and friendship, this provocative novel is rife with satisfaction.”—Booklist
“Much to offer a contemporary YA audience…flirtation and match-making to tantalize romance fans…prime book-club fare.”—The Bulletin
"This delectable Parisian tale left me sighting with sweet satisfaction. J'adore Belle Epoque!"-Sonya Sones, author of What My Mother Doesn't Know and To Be Perfectly Honest
Sixteen-year-old runaway Maude Pichon is ugly so much so that she lands a job as a "repoussoir," an unattractive girl paid to be seen with a lovelier girl to make her appear even more beautiful by comparison (in a note, Ross explains that this fictional profession derives from an 1866 Zola short story). Maude is humiliated by the idea, but her poverty leaves her few options. When chance sends a dashing composer Maude's way, and a countess hires her to befriend her independent-minded daughter, Isabelle, readers will see the potential for a happy ending. Ross offers not one, but two strong heroines in her debut novel, both navigating the choppy waters of the Paris debutante season, albeit from different social classes. Though Maude is the chief protagonist (and narrator), Isabelle is highly engaging as a young woman determined to challenge the expectations of her gender and study science at a university. Both touching and fun, this is a story about many things true friendship, real beauty, being caught between two worlds and it will delight fans of historical fiction. Ages 12 up.
Something about this book, I couldn't put it down. I loved it, hope there is a sequel in the works!