There is but one Paris.
Vincent Van Gogh
Maud Heighton came to Lafond's famous Academie to paint, and to flee the constraints of her small English town. It took all her courage to escape, but Paris, she quickly realizes, is no place for a light purse. While her fellow students enjoy the dazzling decadence of the Belle Epoque, Maud slips into poverty. Quietly starving, and dreading another cold Paris winter, she stumbles upon an opportunity when Christian Morel engages her as a live-in companion to his beautiful young sister, Sylvie.
Maud is overjoyed by her good fortune. With a clean room, hot meals, and an umbrella to keep her dry, she is able to hold her head high as she strolls the streets of Montmartre. No longer hostage to poverty and hunger, Maud can at last devote herself to her art. But all is not as it seems. Christian and Sylvie, Maud soon discovers, are not quite the darlings they pretend to be. Sylvie has a secret addiction to opium and Christian has an ominous air of intrigue. As this dark and powerful tale progresses, Maud is drawn further into the Morels' world of elegant deception. Their secrets become hers, and soon she is caught in a scheme of betrayal and revenge that will plunge her into the darkness that waits beneath this glittering city of light.
Set in Paris in 1909, this standalone from Robertson falls short of the high standard of her Westerman and Crowther historicals (Circle of Shadows, etc.). Englishwoman Maud Heighton, an impoverished art student at the Acad mie Lafond, is shaken by the suicide of her fellow student Rose Champion. Maud believes that Rose hanged herself because she was poor and felt like a failure. Meanwhile, another fellow student, Tanya Koltsova, helps Maud financially by arranging a position for her as a companion to Sylvie Morel, a "sickly young woman who wishes to spend her free hours sketching the Paris streets and must have some respectable person to accompany her." Maud finds the work more challenging than expected after she catches Sylvie stealing a brooch, a crime that Sylvie's attractive brother, Christian, downplays. Further developments involving Sylvie result in violence and murder. Robertson fans will miss her customary strong lead and supporting characters with depth.