Pub. Date: February 9, 2016
Source: ARC + finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)
Summary: After losing her fiancé in the Vietnam War, nineteen-year-old Laurel Haley takes a job in England, hoping the distance will mend her shattered heart. Laurel expects the pain might lessen but does not foresee the beguiling man she meets or that they’ll go to Paris, where the city’s magic will take over and alter everything Laurel believes about love.
Thirty years later, Laurel’s daughter Annie is newly engaged and an old question resurfaces: who is Annie’s father and what happened to him? Laurel has always been vague about the details and Annie’s told herself it doesn’t matter. But with her impending marriage, Annie has to know everything. Why won’t Laurel tell her the truth?
The key to unlocking Laurel’s secrets starts with a mysterious book about an infamous woman known as the Duchess of Marlborough. Annie’s quest to understand the Duchess, and therefore her own history, takes her from a charming hamlet in the English countryside, to a decaying estate kept behind barbed wire, and ultimately to Paris where answers will be found at last.
Back in 2014 I read Michelle debut, A Paris Apartment and enjoyed it – only to later discover it was based on a true story! If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you know I love fictionalized accounts of real people, places, and events. (I love it so much in fact, that I have a feature, Get Your Fix, dedicated solely to this!) Skip ahead to the end of 2015 when a book showed up at my door. I had no idea Michelle had anything new in the works but I knew I was going to be diving into it very soon.
As though she knows exactly how to get my heart beating wildly, I’ll See You in Paris is a dual era story (complete with a wartime romance ♥) It’s 2001, the Twin Towers just fell, and Annie’s fiance is headed off to war. Until now her life had consisted of her mother and the horse ranch and that was fine..but she’s curious about her father, this mysterious man she never knew. With the help of a slim book, a biography of the Duchess of Marlborough, Annie boards a plane headed for the English countryside – and hopefully some answers.
What Annie doesn’t realize is that the infamous Duchess is very much a part of her own story…and her mother’s. In the early 1970s Laurel lost her fiance in the Vietnam War. Desperately needing an escape, she blindly applied for a companion position – the ad stated no experience was necessary but that a love of literature and the countryside was required. Little did Laurel know that this ‘cultured older woman’ was a true force to be reckoned with.
Again, I had absolutely no idea Gladys Deacon was a real person. She was just 11 when her father murdered her mother’s lover and from there her life became legendary. She was the mistress of everyone who mattered (princes, dukes, you name it,) Proust praised her beauty, Rodin gave her sculptures. She became obsessed with breeding her dogs and they soon took over the house. She wouldn’t bat an eye while threatening to shoot someone (namely, her husband) and was eventually sent to an asylum. Surely this character couldn’t possibly be real, I thought multiple times while reading of her increasingly eccentric exploits. But, no, the Duchess truly did exist and I am now absolutely fascinated!
I’ll See You in Paris bounces back and forth between the two storylines and, while I enjoyed them both, I felt a little thrill when turning the page and seeing the story was back in the 70s. Laurel, the Duchess, a charming (and bumbling and lazy and mysterious and…) man claiming he wants to write a biography, the dogs. There was just so much going on – and so, so much to love! The 2001 storyline was lovely as well and I was fully invested in unraveling the circumstances of Annie’s father (I guessed incorrectly, by the way.)
Yet again Michelle Gable has done it. I really enjoyed her debut, but I’ll See You in Paris is something special and if this is how her writing is growing and maturing, well, I cannot wait to see what book three brings! Remarkable characters (seriously, the Duchess!) and a way of breathing life into little-known events, Gable is truly honing her craft and it shines here.