After surviving the accident that took her mother’s life, Claire Broussard worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown. But these days she feels something lacking. Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother. There, she unearths a beautiful sculpture that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II. At her grandmother’s urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the centuries old mask-making atelier where the sculpture, known only as “L’inconnue”—or the Unknown Woman—was created. With the help of a passionate sculptor, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offer insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art. As Claire uncovers the unknown woman’s tragic fate, she begins to discover secrets—and a new love—of her own.
Bubby: Sometimes you find a story that just ticks all the right boxes – beautiful location, heroine who has overcome a difficult childhood, brooding yet handsome male lead with a secretive past – and in addition, we have a fantastic historical drama and just the right amount of romance. I have loved Juliet Blackwell’s books for years, but I say that Letters From Paris is absolutely her best work yet. If a story has me Googling historical details late into the night, you know that I’m completely hooked!
Sissy: We seem to have a penchant for books that have dual story lines, set in both the past and the present. Also, I am entranced when actual historical artifacts or details are woven into the plot. Letters From Paris had a lot of secrets revealed at appropriate points throughout the tale and while I pretty well knew that the outcome of the romance between Claire and Armand would be, I still took great pleasure in the journey. The thing that I Googled besides the mask, “L’Inconnue” was the gruesomely fascinating 18th and 19th century practice of morgues displaying on ice the bodies of unidentified victims. People would parade through the specific display hall in the morgue to see if they could identify bodies or, more likely, for a grim form of entertainment.
Bubby: We used to joke about stuffing Dad and using him as decoration for various holidays, but we were kidding. (No worries, he’s safely buried in the family plot in a nice cemetery. Really.)
Sissy: Before you become appalled at Bubby’s inappropriate gallows humor, you must realize that our Dad would be the one who brought up such things in the first place, and actually distributed plans for a coffin/coffee table that he wanted our brothers to build for him as a sort of multipurpose furniture and money-saving deal. We didn’t do that, either.
Bubby: In case our readers are as curious about “L’Inconnue” as I was, here is a picture of the famous mask:
We don’t know in reality who she was or how she died, although most suspect drowning. It’s not even certain that the mask was, in fact, a death mask. All we know is that she was lovely and became a fashionable icon for decades. And, of course, she makes a great basis for a story!
Sissy: It is fascinating how Juliet Blackwell weaves a fictional story around the legend of the mask. It is beautifully done and the surprise ending is delightful.
Bubby: I now feel the need to travel to Paris and find a mask shop in which to wander about. I don’t think I’ll be decorating my home with death masks any time in the near future, though. It’s a bit macabre, don’t you think? I do think that I’ll continue to read and adore Juliet Blackwell’s books. Great characters, excellent settings, and the requisite happy ending. Perfect.
Sissy: I won’t be offended if you don’t hang my death mask on your wall after I kick it, Bubby. I realize that gazing upon my likeness in death would keep you in a constant state of frenzied grief. Our readers will definitely not be offended by Letters From Paris, which is a complex, compelling tale by a wonderful author. Rather, they will be thrilled with reading time very well spent.
Click HERE to buy Letters From Paris by Juliet Blackwell