From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Key comes the story of a mysterious work of art and the woman inspired to uncover its history in the City of Light.
After surviving the accident that took her mother’s life, Claire Broussard has worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown. But these days she feels something is lacking. Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful piece of artwork that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II.
At her grandmother’s urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the century-old mask-making atelier where the object, known only as “L’Inconnue”—or The Unknown Woman—was created. Under the watchful eye of a surly mask-maker, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offers insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art. As Claire explores the unknown woman’s tragic fate, she begins to unravel deeply buried secrets in her own life.
Blackwell's (The Paris Key) excellent new novel follows Claire Broussard, who leaves her complacent life in Chicago to visit her dying grandmother in Louisiana, then travels to Paris to unravel a secret at her behest. Claire has long been fascinated by a broken plaster mask of a beautiful woman that she found as a child in her grandmother's attic. Claire traces the mask to the Parisian studio where it was made and finds herself quickly enmeshed with Armand, the grumpy-but-intriguing owner, and his amiable cousin Giselle. The pair offer Claire, who is bilingual, a job dealing with American customers in exchange for room and board while she decides what to do next. The heroine and the handsome curmudgeon immediately bristle at one another, but they warm to each other gradually as Claire learns more about the mask and the family behind the studio. Blackwell seamlessly incorporates details about art, cast making, and the City of Light. She also skillfully weaves in chapters from the point of view of Sabine the poor country girl behind the mystery, who became the muse of an abusive sculptor after a life of poverty. Blackwell does a fantastic job of incorporating recurring themes in this story; for instance, having survived drowning as a child, Claire is wary of rivers, while Sabine is rumored to have met her end in the Seine. Blackwell especially stuns in the aftermath of the main story by unleashing a twist that is both a complete surprise and a point that expertly ties everything together.
Letters from Paris
She is a good writer. This is a good story. Great characters. I took one star away because at one point in the booked it bogged down with too many Paris descriptions, but she bounced back a little over halfway through the story. So s ray with it.
Latest novel by Juliet Blackwell!
Letters from Paris is the latest novel by Juliet Blackwell. Chance “Claire” Broussard lives in Chicago, Illinois. Claire (as she prefers to be called since leaving Louisiana) receives a call from her cousin, Jessica. Her grandmother is not well and wants to see Claire. Instead of taking a leave of absence or a few days off, Claire gives up her job, apartment, and boyfriend and heads home to Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana (she has not been happy in Chicago). Her grandmother, Mammaw is very ill. Mammaw raised Claire after her mother passed away in an accident, and she was removed from her father’s custody. When Claire is checking the attic for a leak, she finds a box. Inside is a beautiful mask that arrived broken. Claire has many memories of the mask. It intrigues her as a child (and still does) and Claire wonders about the history behind it. Her grandmother encourages her to Paris (where the mask came from) and get answers. After her grandmother passes away, Claire is at loose ends. She feels that she does not belong in Louisiana or Chicago. So Claire heads for Paris. Claire starts with the company that made the mask of the woman. The mask is called L’Iconnue de la Seine (The Unknown Woman of the Seine) and was made by Lombardi family at their atelier. There Claire encounters Armand Lombardi and Giselle Bouvay. They need assistance in the atelier (a sales girl who can translate), and Claire wants information on the mask. Join Claire on her journey for answers about the mask of The Unknown Woman of the Seine in Letters from Paris.
Letters from Paris has an interesting premise. The book tells us the history of the mask by going back in time to 1897 and Sabine Moreau (the model for the mask). I was looking forward to Letters from Paris, but I have to admit that I was disappointed with the book. I found it to be a slow read and a very long book (it really needed to be edited down). This is a stand-alone book (you do not need to read The Paris Key). The writing is good, but it is lacking (the book is nothing like Juliet Blackwell’s cozy mysteries). The author did a very good job at capturing time and place with her descriptive writing. There is the mystery of the mask, but there is also the romance that develops between Armand and Claire (first they fight and then slowly get to know each other). The answers Claire seeks come at the very end of the book. I give Letters from Paris 3.5 out of 5 stars. It is a lovely story, but it was just not for me. I could not get into this book, and I felt that it dragged. I am a big fan of Juliet Blackwell, and I will definitely be reading her future works.
I received a complimentary copy of Letters from Paris in exchange for an honest evaluation. The comments and opinions expressed are strictly my own.