Heartbroken and alone, Boston art curator Sarah West is grieving the recent deaths of her parents and the end of her marriage. Ultrasensible by nature, she’s determined to stay the course to get her life back on track. But fate has something else in mind. While cleaning out her father’s closet, she finds a letter from the famous Parisian courtesan Marthe de Florian, dated 1895. The subject? Sarah’s great-great-aunt Louisa’s death. Legend has it Louisa committed suicide…but this letter implies there’s more to that story. Determined to learn the truth, Sarah, against her nature, impulsively flies to Paris. There she’s drawn into the world of her flatmate, the brilliant artist Laurent Chartier. As she delves deep into the glittering Belle Époque to unravel the mystery, Sarah finds that her aunt’s story may offer her exactly what she needs to open up to love again.
Sissy: This is the third book by Ella Carey linked to the true story of the abandoned Paris apartment once owned by the famous courtesan Marthe de Florian. In this one, our main character Sarah actually gets to live in the apartment whilst trying to solve the decades old mystery surrounding her great-great aunt Louisa’s supposed suicide. As in the other stories, (Paris Time Capsule and The House by the Lake), the narrative is told from both the past and the present. The weird thing is that Sarah has to share the apartment for the summer with artist Laurent, and that sets up some interesting scenarios.
Bubby: You’d think that a chance to live with an artist whose star is on the rise, and who is quite attractive, to boot, would be a good thing. But in the beginning it’s just plain awkward. Fortunately, the relationship between the two improves as the book continues and Laurent ends up playing a rather important role in unraveling the mystery as well as contributing to the romantic aspect of the book. Let’s just say this: without Laurent, there’s no happy ending. I was fascinated to see Marthe de Florian’s story from another point of view. Up till now we’ve only seen the viewpoint of Marthe herself, her immediate family, and a few of her “clients”. This time, we get to see how seedy the whole situation was in that part of Paris and how devastating the effects of the courtesan culture were on the wives who were left behind to fend for themselves while their husbands were out carousing.
Sissy: Yes, it was intriguing to me that Marthe de Florian could love a man who seemed to be so utterly despicable outside of their relationship. I really hated Henry Duval and what he did to Louisa . There is a tragic love story here, a happy love story, and true to Ella Carey’s form, a whole host of twists and revealed secrets. I absolutely love it when I get to the part where the puzzles are unraveled in such a clever, creative manner. From a Paris Balcony is a delicious treat well worth the read.
Bubby: I would love to be able to go to France and see this apartment for myself, wouldn’t you? But as that will never happen, reading From a Paris Balcony is the next best thing. You’ll be drawn into the underbelly of Belle Époque era Paris, agonize with Louisa as she is betrayed again and again and revel with Sarah as she finally solves the family scandal. Make yourself some crepes, butter up a croissant and curl into your favorite chair with Ella Carey and her masterful cast of characters. You won’t regret it!
Click HERE to buy From a Paris Balcony by Ella Carey