My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m a big, big fan of Karen Swan so was very excited to receive her latest book from NetGalley, particularly considering the title. I love a bit of mystery and j’adore Paris so it seemed like the perfect summer read, and it almost is.
It’s packed full of glitz and glamour, from the clothes and the parties to the exotic locations and rich and handsome men. There’s an exciting story set in the world of art and antiques and a passionate and fiery romance. Just what you need when you’re relaxing on the beach on holiday or like me hiding from another rainy day.
The story begins with the discovery of an apartment in Paris which no one has set foot in for a long, long time. Inside, under a mountain of dust they discover hundreds of works of art. High flying fine art expert Flora is called in by the Vermeil family, who discover they own the apartment, to catalogue the collection and discover it’s history.
As she starts to dig into the history of the pictures and the apartment she has to spend more and more time with the family which would be fine if son Xavier didn’t unsettle her so much. He seems to hate her and wants her prying eyes out of the families lives but what is he hiding and why does he fascinate her so much?
Meanwhile back home Flora’s own family are dealing with a shock that leaves them all reeling and Flora finds herself torn between supporting her family and getting to the bottom of the mystery behind the paintings.
I absolutely loved the story in this book and found the whole thing fascinating. I have to admit I don’t have a huge knowledge of art or provenance but the author gives just enough details for it to be interesting without bombarding you with a lot of facts. It’s almost like a detective story as Flora traces back through the history of the paintings to get to the bottom of the mystery and there are a few shocks and twists along the way which took me completely by surprise.
The other highlight for me were the locations. I absolutely love Paris and France in general and the author creates such a vivid picture that you can almost imagine yourself there in the heat of summer. There’s a real sense of atmosphere particularly when the story moves to the south of France to Antibes. It’s hot, sensual and completely enthralling.
Main character Flora is likeable enough. I didn’t totally take to her as she came across a little bit weak and indecisive (not sure those are the right words but I can’t think of better ones). She clearly loves her job and her family, and is very determined but there just wasn’t a lot of fun in her. She’s not in the easiest situation but there was something about her that just frustrated me a little. I think I just wanted her to let loose a little (and not in the ways she did).
Xavier was also a little bit of a let down. He’s the dark and brooding type, who doesn’t really say much throughout the book. He mostly seems to glare or stare at Flora which is a little on the creepy side and I think this is what made this book a little less than perfect for me. You can feel there is something brewing between Xavier and Flora but it’s difficult to see it as any kind of serious relationship given they never have an actual conversation.
Despite these minor flaws I did enjoy it immensely and would recommend to anyone looking for a great summer beach read.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.