BOOK REVIEW: belle epoque by elizabeth ross

03 November 2013

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Published: September 5th 2013
Pages: 323
Book: For Review*
Format: Paperback, Finished Copy
Genre: Young Adult (YA), Historical Fiction, Romance, Cultural,
When sixteen-year-old Maude runs away to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Increasingly desperate for money, she answers a mysterious advert: 'Young Women Wanted for Undemanding Work. Apply In Person To The Durandeau Agency.' But the work is very strange indeed. Maude discovers she is to be a repoussoir - an ugly young woman hired by Parisian socialites to enhance their beauty.
Maude is humiliated - but faced with destitution, what choice does she have? Quickly (and secretly) selected as the perfect companion for the Countess Dubern's daughter Isabelle, Maude is thrown into a decadent world full of parties, glamour and astonishing cruelty. Maude finds that academic Isabelle is equally disenchanted with the Parisian social scene, and the girls form a tight bond. But when bohemian artist Paul and the handsome Duke d'Avaray are introduced into the girls' lives, their friendship will be tested to its limits. The girls are about to discover the true meaning of being beautiful...-from goodreads
"Look at the orchid compared with the dandelion: one exotic and rare, the other a common weed...And so with beauty. Some have an advantage, some a cross to bear. Some just fade into the background, forever plain and obscure---invisible, inconsequential.'"
Captivating, vivid and poignant, this book is about beauty, and how it doesn't always have to come from the outside, it can come from within a person, how much beauty is treasured in people's lives and how you can come about to achieve it.
Elizabeth Rossi has managed to capture France, in all its ups and downs, so authentically that you feel as if you are there and I applaud her for creating such genuine characters, that you can honestly feel for them and relate to their dreams, and hopes and wishes; their sorrows and hardships. The unique characters light up the book with their sincerity and bona fide personalities that make you want to keep reading, to find out their futures, and travel with them along the way.
“Groping in the blackness seems an appropriate metaphor for the creative life. You are compelled to do this work but cannot know the end result...”
I loved how Maude was such a credible person that i felt like i could step into her shoes quite easily and be the one having a whirlwind of a life, handling becoming a repoussoir, making friends, keeping friends and at the same time having a dream to strive for, to make life better. Characters can make or break a book: if they are sloppily shaped, unrelatable, stereotypical, those are all signs of a bad book, but these characters made this book in style!
re·pous·soir  [ruh-poo-swahr]
Noun || Painting.
a figure or object in the extreme foreground: used as a contrast and to increase the illusion of depth.
1870–75;  < French,  equivalent to repouss ( er ) to push back
Belle Epoque is a book about self-discovery, the worth of inner and outer beauty, chasing dreams and above all else, being yourself. The writing was exquisite, the characters beautiful;  Elizabeth Rossi has delivered, with great elegance, her debut novel, and it has gone straight to my 'favorites' list. Please write another book? Please?
*Thank you to Hot Key for sending me this book free of charge in exchange for an  honest review.


  1. Glad you enjoyed this too! I thought it was such a great example of historical YA and I loved the characters and the Paris setting. I'm also really looking forward to her next book, I've heard there's one in the works and that it's another historical, although I'm not sure when it's out... Fab review, Hawwa!

  2. This sounds really cool, I am intrigued! Great review, will have to keep an eye out for it now :)

  3. This sounds like an excellent read! The characters sound like people I could relate to, really glad you enjoyed this, hoping to buy it soon :)

    Happy Reading xo -
    Erika @ The Red Bookmark


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