I always rather like reviewing a book on publication day – particularly when it’s by an author I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several times, and whose previous book I enjoyed so very much (you’ll find my review of Little Pink Taxi here). Marie Laval’s second book for Choc Lit, A Paris Fairy Tale, is published today for kindle, on all other major e-book platforms, and as an audio download – and the more I saw of that gorgeous cover, the more I wanted to fit it into my reading list rather sooner than the late August I’d promised the publisher. So, with thanks to Liz at Choc Lit for my advance reading copy, there was no housework done here on Sunday afternoon – instead I spent it reading this one cover to cover, and loved every moment…
Is Paris the city of happily ever afters?
Workaholic art historian Aurora Black doesn’t have time for fairy tales or Prince Charmings, even in the most romantic city in the world. She has recently been hired by a Parisian auction house for a job that could make or break her career. Unfortunately, daredevil journalist Cédric Castel seems intent on disrupting Aurora’s routine.
As Aurora and Cédric embark on a journey across France, they get more than they bargained for as they find themselves battling rogue antiques dealers and personal demons, not to mention a growing attraction to each other.
But with the help of a fairy godmother or two, could they both find their happily ever afters?
This book was rather a lovely surprise – I’d expected the modern-day fairy tale and the romantic Paris setting, but I really wasn’t prepared for such a gripping story, a real depth of intriguing research into the intricacies of palaeography, and a pacy read set against the dark world of art theft and human trafficking. I suspect that the blurb might lead you too towards the notion that it’s a rather light read – and the romance that runs through it is absolutely lovely – but the whole has a very satisfying edge of suspense and mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
The main characters are wonderful – both damaged, both hiding the experiences of their pasts. Cédric is bad boy turned good – with the added plus of being distinctly hot – with many secrets that give him considerable depth, and allow his character to develop as the story progresses. Aurora’s damage is rather more visible, her buttoned-up Ice Queen persona concealing so much childhood hurt – and it was an absolute joy to see her opening up, slowly unpeeling her layers of protection, allowing others to get a little closer. The interaction between them both is wonderfully handled – two steps forward, three steps back – and their exchanges are so well written, with plenty of gentle humour, and that clever parry and thrust as they feel the power of their mutual attraction and struggle to fight it.
The great characterisation applies to the secondary characters too – particularly the superbly drawn older characters of Luigi and Simone (and I just loved the jazz club), the sultry and predatory Carmen, and Aurora’s grandmother – and those who play smaller but significant roles as the story unfolds.
The plotting is excellent, the whole story considerably more convoluted than you might be expecting – there’s some fascinating detective work as the tension builds, with detail that feels particularly authentic, and a considerable amount of threat and real danger. It must have been difficult to marry the fairy tale romantic thread with those thriller elements, but this book really succeeds at every level, neither element taking anything away from the other – this really is very accomplished and confident writing.
And for the romantics, what setting could be better than Paris – so lovingly and vividly recreated by the author, those lovely corners the passing tourist might never see, the little details like the balconies and the blossoms on the paulownias trees, the squares and bridges and gardens, behind the scenes at the Opéra. And, in keeping with the story’s harder edges, we see Paris’ darker and hidden side too, the alleys and doorways, the realities of life on the streets, the areas the tourist really wouldn’t want to visit.
This was a book I thoroughly enjoyed – and I recommend it most highly.
About the author
Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in the beautiful Rossendale Valley in Lancashire. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors, she writes contemporary and historical romance. Her native France very much influences her writing, and all her novels have what she likes to call ‘a French twist’!
Her titles include A Spell in Provence, Angel Heart, The Lion’s Embrace and Dancing for the Devil, all published by Accent Press. Bestselling contemporary romance Little Pink Taxi is published by Choc Lit.