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BOOK REVIEW: The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester

| 3 August 2021 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester

Hachette Australia
March 2020
Paperback, $32.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Fiction / Historical Fiction

90% Rocking

Natasha Lester certainly knows how to dress her stories for success. The historic fiction writer has published half a dozen books which blend romance with great storytelling. The Paris Secret brings together some engaging characters and crafts them into her most complex and mysterious narrative to date.

A group of friends by the seaside. So normal. Nothing at all out of the ordinary. Except that the mist had lifted and Skye could see it now, the large and shining thing: she was wholly and overwhelmingly and undeniably in love with Nicholas Crawford.
Which was just about the worst thing that had ever happened to her.

There are three main settings to this story. The first is at a fashion show where Christian Dior is showcasing his wares for the first time outside of his homeland. It’s glamorous and fun but not really delved into in any great detail. In fact if we’re really nit-picky, this probably could have been left out without really detracting from the other main story arcs.

The first few pages of Nicholas Crawford’s diary were lovely: recollections of a childhood spent locked in the kind of ferocious friendship only children are capable of; sigma bonds, unbreakable…
This was not manipulation or a plea for forgiveness. This was a story of love. Love shattered by war.

In the present day, Kat Jourdan is a fashion conservator and Mum. Kat’s grandmother invites her to visit a cottage in rural Cornwell. Whilst there, she stumbles across a wardrobe filled with haute-couture Dior gowns. She is intrigued, as these are considered a veritable goldmine in fashion circles. But the key question is, where did they come from?

Impulse made Kat hold the dress up against her body as if she were contemplating buying it from a store. She turned to face the mirror and was stunned. Even though she hadn’t yet stepped inside the dress, she was no longer Kat. She was the woman she had always meant to be, the woman she’d forgotten to become beneath the demands of working full-time and having two children and divorcing one husband.

The other major setting in this story involves two sisters, Skye and Liberty Penrose. The former is a strong-willed aviatrix who flies planes to RAF bases during World War II. She is like many of Lester’s other main heroines, determined to forge ahead in her chosen career, despite living in a man’s world. Liberty meanwhile, is a bit more flighty and hedonistic.

‘If you read Wing Commander Crawford’s report, you’ll know that I can hardly be blamed for anything – except being an unarmed woman. I know the RAF tries to make my gender into an offence, but as far as I’m aware it hasn’t yet succeeded.’
Wylde sat heavily in a chair. ‘Deference is not part of your makeup, is it?’
‘Sorry I should have appended “Air Marshall Wylde” onto my sentence.’ Skye pressed her lips together. She’d gone too far. How was it possible for her to have such impeccable control of herself in the sky and to have none whatsoever on the ground?

Skye falls in love with her childhood friend, Nicholas Crawford. But he is engaged to Margeaux Jordan, an enigmatic French woman. What ensues are some emotional twists and turns through love, lies, and betrayal. Lester once again has completed meticulous research and this attention to detail shines through in her rich and detailed prose.

She opened the door of one and a blaze of bright red caught her eye, followed by a shimmer of pink, a beam of sunflower-yellow. Slowly, she reached in. Her hand touched fabric. Expensive fabric: a froth of tulle, a glittering of sequins, the purr of velvet.

Lester’s latest novel is a more grandiose adventure than her other works. Her fans will ultimately find this a highly satisfying read. Once again, strong female characters are front and centre. She also pays tribute to some overlooked individuals from history. This includes Christian Dior’s sister, Catherine, who worked for the French resistance and inspired the name of his perfume: Miss Dior.

The Paris Secret is an elegant, multifaceted story traversing various times and continents. Readers will be swept through the skies and eyes of its fearless heroine. This novel is a real showstopper, which you can imagine soaring on the silver screen. It will keep you sitting on the edge of your seat guessing, with some great women for company.

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Category: Book Reviews

About the Author ()

Natalie Salvo is a foodie and writer from Sydney. You can find her digging around in second hand book shops or submerged in vinyl crates at good record stores. Her website is at:

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