She leaves behind her society boyfriend and travels to France to handle the practicalities. There she learns that Isabelle de Florian and her grandmother had been friends long ago, but the situation becomes complicated when it is discovered that Isabelle de Florian had a daughter and grandson who should rightfully have inherited the home.
When she and Loic, the handsome grandson of Isabelle de Florian, go to view the apartment, they discover it has been locked up since the 1940s, and it is a veritable ‘time capsule’ containing furniture and objects tracing back to Paris’ earlier Belle Époque. Isabelle de Florian’s grandmother had been a courtesan during the Belle Époque, and the discovery of the apartment is based on a true story.
The novel itself is engaging and reads quickly, who wouldn’t be drawn to the mystery of why the house was left to Cat and what the connection to the world of courtesans at turn-of-the-century Paris? As a Francophile myself, I was also interested in reading as Cat is absorbed into the daily life of France, and grows closer to Loic as they work together to unravel the mystery. A reader is also unsurprised by the growing feelings between Cat and Loic.
Nevertheless, I felt this could have been a much better book than it was. A lot of the internal dialogue felt forced, and Cat grew tiresome rehashing thoughts the reader could grasp him/herself. The American boyfriend and the wedding planner, who inexplicably follows Cat through France, felt very thin as characters and felt invented merely to throw obstacles in Cat’s path. The race through France to solve the mystery felt rather forced, too, in a romantic comedy movie type of way.
Nitpicky here, but in French, as in many languages, Madame or its equivalent in another language is a ‘courtesy title’ for any woman out of her early 20s. It was odd having the novel’s characters – even a Frenchman – going around automatically addressing widows and octogenarians as Mademoiselle.
I think more editing could have greatly improved this book. But overall, I enjoyed the story and will look forward to reading more by this author.