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13 January 2014

Belle Epoque

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross is the story of an unlikely friendship in 1880s Paris.

Maude Pichon ran away from home to make a life in Paris. But Paris is more difficult to manage that the young woman from Brittany realized. She when she sees an advertisement in the paper she decides to apply - even though the ad asked for ugly girls.

The Durandeau Agency places plain women in social situations. Their job is to make whomever they are with look better by comparison. They are often hired for events during the season - when young women attend social events in the hopes of catching a good match in marriage.

Maude will be hired for a similar job, but the young woman she is to act as a foil with will not know. Countess Dubern has hired Maude to accompany her daughter Isabelle during her season. While Maude is being paid well and will get a significant bonus is Isabelle gets engaged, Maude likes Isabelle. While she cannot be honest with her new friend, she sees that Isabelle has plans other than marriage.

Ross has written a wonderful and fascinating book based on a real ad she saw in a old Paris newspaper. Her writing transports readers to 1888 and immerses us in the rich life of Paris. A must read for historical fiction fans and people who love Paris.

Ross, Elizabeth. (2013). Belle Epoque. New York: Random House.

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