September 15, 2020
Blurb: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Orphan comes an unforgettable historical novel about a secret collection of Dior gowns that ties back to the first female pilots of WWII and a heartbreaking story of love and sacrifice.
England, 1939: The Penrose sisters couldn’t be more different. Skye is a daring and brash pilot, and Liberty the one to defy her at every turn. Even if women aren’t allowed in the Royal Air Force, Skye is determined to help the war effort. She’s thrilled when it reunites her with her childhood soulmate, Nicholas. She’s less thrilled to learn Nicholas is now engaged to an enigmatic Frenchwoman named Margaux Jourdan.
Paris, 1947: Designer Christian Dior unveils his glamorous first collection to a world weary of war and grief. He names his debut fragrance Miss Dior in tribute to his beloved sister Catherine, who forged a friendship with Skye and Margaux through her work with the French Resistance.
Present Day: Fashion conservator Kat Jourdan discovers a priceless collection of Dior gowns in her grandmother’s vacant cottage. As she delves into the mystery of their origin, Kat begins to doubt everything she thought she knew about her beloved grandmother.
Evidently I no longer have the patience for books written with chapters alternating between vast numbers of years because I found myself initially annoyed that The Secret of Paris by Natasha Lester continued to visit Kat Jourdan’s present day world with its focus on fashion when I was fascinated by Skye Penrose, the young English girl born in Cornwall whose mother was a pilot and fortune teller, an interesting combination.
However, when the two stories intertwined to the degree that I needed to know what happened next, I didn’t mind the alternating years. Much of that is due to Lester’s beautiful, intriguing writing. She even made me care about Dior dresses–a bit.
The Secret of Paris is Skye’s story for all intents and purposes, a love story, a story about one woman whose sense of right and adventure prevail. But this is also the story of the women who flew planes when it was not acceptable, who joined the WAAF during WWII and proved themselves time and time again, despite derision. And, it’s the story of Resistance efforts and what people will do to survive evil. Lester provides an intense and well-researched story (no, this is not a dry history lesson) that makes the reader not only care about the characters but also care those who experienced hardship that we cannot imagine.
As part of Skye’s story, we are introduced to the real life Catherine Dior, sister to Christian. She was a member of the French resistance and a woman who I’d very much like to read more about. A true heroine.
The Secret of Paris is part-mystery, part-love story, part-family but all fascinating and heart-felt. This one, especially in the latter half, was very hard to put down.
While there are sad moments, gulp-worthy moments, there are also many, many satisfying moments. This may be the first novel I’ve read by Natasha Lester, but it certainly won’t be my last.
I received a copy of the novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
5 out of 5 butterflies