Author: Natasha Lester
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publication Date: 31 March, 2020
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher via NetGalley/Purchased Personal Copy
The Paris Secret is haunting, captivating and will leave your emotions raw. Lester has woven an intricate tale of love, betrayal, secrets and war in a story that spans decades, and generations. For fans of Lester and those who have read The French Photographer there is a cameo that brought a smile to my face.
Lester has brought together some very different elements that had me intrigued from the outset as I eagerly awaited the strands linking an extensive priceless collection of Christian Dior gowns with groundbreaking female pilots in the second world war. The Paris Secret is a fictional tale that takes it’s inspiration from real people and real events; these are the tales I find fascinating because it’s left to the imagination what may actually have happened.
Skye and Liberty Penrose were raised by their mother on a hilltop by the sea, theirs was an interesting childhood and the two girls couldn’t have been more different. Skye loved the freedom, the proximity to the beach and her unique mother. I have to say that I drew the wrong conclusions about Vanessa Penrose from early descriptions but I think the effect on the children and the opinions of the townsfolk is about the same.
One day Skye meets a newcomer to town, a young American boy who has moved to the English coast with his widowed mother to live with his aunt. Nicholas Crawford is new and different, and not a local which means the Penrose reputation hasn’t made him keep his distance. The two become firm friends and spend the following years almost inseparable.
Skye is fearless and adventurous, and has been learning to fly planes at the capable hands of her mother since long before she probably should have. Flying is something that connects her with her mother and a passion that they share. It makes her more than capable of helping in the war effort and what she, and other female pilots, had to go through was maddening.
The relationship between Skye and Liberty is complex, until Nicholas came along they really only had each other and Liberty can be quite clingy. Liberty was a complex character that I found very difficult to like. Even when her motivations were understandable her behaviour was deplorable.
I could go on all day talking about the large and colourful cast of The Paris Secret, all who had their secrets; all who were intriguing and complex.
The present day story arc features fashion conservator Kat Jourdan, raised by her grandmother and passionate about all things fashion. The discovery of an extensive collection of Dior gowns in a Cornish cottage, which she has only just learned exists, is enough to set her conservator’s heart afire and raise a million questions about their origin and her grandmother.
So follows a captivating tale of wartime, the plight of trailblazing female pilots, spies, romance, family, friendship and fashion.
Lester has done extensive and meticulous research to bring us a fictional tale that feels authentic and her Author’s Note gives us a lot of information about where she took her inspiration from.
The intriguing tale of the Dior dresses is drawn out slowly and many of the dresses are given their slice of the spotlight as they are taken out and worn by Kat, described in exquisite detail by Lester so they really stand out on the page.
The women of The Paris Secrets are brave and bold but far from fearless on the inside. They all saw, felt and suffered way too much and Lester has brought them beautifully to life.
Elliott Beaufort is a biographer looking for links to a survivor of the war, he is writing a biography and he comes across Kat in his search. The pieces of information he has create more questions for Kat as she is set on a course of discovery about the grandmother she adores, whom she is beginning to wonder how well she knows. He is a character that was easy to like, he made some mistakes in the way he approached things but his heart was pure.
And then there’s the ending…. pure perfection. I have no other words.
The Paris Secret is well worth picking up for it’s wartime insight, exquisite fashion and captivating characters not to mention the vivid scenery captured so beautifully on the page by Natasha Lester, an author whose work gets better with every book. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
The Paris Secret is book #12 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2020.
The Paris Secret is published by Hachette and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold. In these uncertain times it would be great to try and support a local bookstore, many of the ones in my area have put systems in place to fulfil orders even though their physical stores may be closed to the public.