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BOOK BIZ — Gripping tale of intrigue shows dark side of Paris

» The Paris Winter By Imogen Robertson Published by St. Martin's Press $25.99 hardcover

» The Paris Winter
By Imogen Robertson
Published by St. Martin’s Press
$25.99 hardcover

I’m a sucker for books with Paris in the title. Undoubtedly, many readers feel the same about the

City of Light. However, this novel portrays a dark side of the French capital. The season, winter, is almost a character in the book. It’s a cold and bleak backdrop amidst the art and culture of Paris. This story of deceit and malice begins a little slow, but hang in there because the wait is rewarded with a gripping story that’s a real page turner.

Paris is cold physically and metaphorically for Maud Heighton who came to a famous art academy to paint and flee the constraints of her small English town. The story begins in the waning months of 1909 and continues into the early months of 1910, the year of the historic Paris flood — which also becomes an integral part of the tale.

It took all Maud Heighton’s 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, Heighton 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. Heighton 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, she can devote herself to her art.

But all is not as it seems. The Morels, Heighton 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 powerful tale progresses, Heighton 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.

One of the things I like most about this book are the titles of famous paintings and explanations of each extracted from the catalogue notes to the exhibition of The Paris Winter: Anonymous Treasures from the de Civray Collection at the Southwark Picture Gallery in London in 2010.

— Lynn Lofton, mbj@msbusiness.com

About Lynn Lofton

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