I am honoured to be part of the blog tour for this amazing title from Eleanor Brown. Thanks to Borough Press/Harper Collins UK for inviting me to participate as well as supplying an excerpt and five copies of The Light Of Paris as a giveaway. To be in with a chance of winning, just enter via rafflecopter link below (four copies up for grabs) or RT pinned tweet on @margaretbmadden (One copy to giveaway). Good Luck!
THE LIGHT OF PARIS- The Blurb
From the bestselling author of THE WEIRD SISTERS comes an enchanting tale of self-discovery that will strike a chord with anyone who has ever felt they’ve lost their way.
‘I adored The Light of Paris. It’s so lovely and big-hearted’ JOJO MOYES
‘Soulfulness and emotional insight meet laugh-out-loud humour’ PAULA McLAIN, author of The Paris Wife
Madeleine is trapped – by her family’s expectations, by her controlling husband – in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. But when she finds a diary detailing her grandmother Margie’s trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets a woman she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict family and spent a summer living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.
When Madeleine’s marriage is threatened, she escapes to her hometown to stay with her disapproving mother. Shaken by the revelation of a family secret and inspired by her grandmother’s bravery, Madeleine creates her own summer of joy. In reconnecting with her love of painting and cultivating a new circle of friends, the chance of a new life emerges – but will she be bold enough take it?
Inspired by letters that the author found belonging to her own grandmother, The Light of Paris is a dual-time novel written with obvious care and attention to detail. The two stories link together with ease with Madeleine and Margie brought to life within the 320 pages.
In recent time Chicago, Madeleine goes through the daily chore of being at her husbands beck and call, forgetting what her own purpose in life is. After an argument she flees to her childhood home and is shocked to realise just how much she misses it. Helping her mother clear out the family home, she discovers her grandmothers journals and is transported back to 1920s Paris and all its post-war optimism. Art, music and literature are all part of Margie's new world and Madeleine begins to question her own purpose in life. An only child, who had always seemed a let-down to her mother, she now sees her hometown in a new light and is reluctant to return to a stale marriage and a soulless existence.
There are parallels within the pages of her grandmothers journals. She too was not living up to her mothers expectations and felt that Paris could bring out the missing elements required to add much-needed joie de vivre to her life. Surrounded by artist, writers and musicians, she glimpses a new world. A world with opportunity, inspiration and freedom. Her love of Paris is deepened when she meets Sebastian, a french man who shows her around his world of relaxed and bohemian joy. How is a young woman, with stifling expectations chained around her neck, supposed to return to America after experiencing the joys of such an iconic city?
Each protagonist has equal standing in this wonderful novel. The vastly different worlds they inhabit seem all too familiar, as they both struggle to choose their fate. The streets of Paris are brought to life with ease and the atmosphere of a new beginning in the aftermath of World War 1 is subtly woven through the prose. Margie is hesitant at first but soon falls under the spell of the French capital. In comparison, Madeleine is also unsure of her surroundings and has no real plan for her future. Both women are embraced by their different surroundings and change becomes a real possibility.
Eleanor Brown has introduced us to two women, from two different eras, linked by a timeless theme of change. She has breathed life into the streets of Paris and the outskirts of Chicago and added two strong women. Both characters are experiencing tentative changes in their lives and are linked by a family tree. This is a warm novel with witty dialogue and stunning descriptive passages. An easy read, you can find yourself immersed in the sights and sounds of Paris as you stroll along with Margie and Sebastian while suddenly sensing the shift back to Chicago and its structured restrictions. It would almost be a shame not to sit outside a bistro or cafe, with an obligatory glass of red, and slip into the worlds of these two women. Views of the Eiffel Tower are not essential...
Excerpt from The Light of Paris
My grandmother Margaret (Margie) Pearce was first and foremost a daydreamer, and as soon as she was old enough to write, she began to record the stories she told herself. They were adventure stories some- times, love stories often. They were stories of escape, of romance, of the future she thought she might have, of the life she wished to live.
And in the same way I thought my life would begin with my wed- ding, my grandmother thought hers would begin with her debut. She believed her life had been a closed bud until that moment, waiting politely until that rite of passage came to bloom, to bring her all the things she dreamed about—romance and beauty and adventure and art—with the certain cultivated wildness of a rose.
Of course that wasn’t the way it worked out. In fact, if Grandmother and I had given it any thought at all, we would have realized debutante balls and weddings were the precise opposite of freedom: a courtly cementing of our futures into the concrete of the families and society in which we had been raised. But at the time, they seemed nothing more than a chance, for once, to be beautiful, and how could either of us turn that away?
Margie made her debut on a blustery, icy December day in Washing- ton, D.C. It was so cold
the clouds had been chased away, leaving a clear sky, bright with stars against the darkness.
The week before, she had come home from her first semester of college, the months of classes a blur as she dreamed of the moment when she would finally descend the hotel’s staircase and make her grand curtsy, when everything would change, everything would begin.
Margie’s appetite had all but disappeared in the excitement, so her collarbones stuck out prettily, her cheekbones high, her face flushed. She tried to read, to sew, anything to pass the hours, but she couldn’t sit still. Instead, she found herself running to the window again and again, watching people stepping quickly along the sidewalk, their heads bent to break the wind. The weather made everyone hurry, rushing to get back inside, so it looked as though the entire scene had been sped up, the cars hurtling down the street, the tram at the corner buzzing recklessly by. But when she stepped away from the window and looked at the clock again, time had barely moved.
When five o’clock finally came, she rushed upstairs to her room and was already stripping off her day dress and putting on her own corset and petticoat by the time Nellie, the maid, came in.
The gown fell over her head in a rush of silk and the scent of flowers. Nellie had placed rose petals inside the dress while it was hanging, and a few of them fluttered to the floor when Margie slipped her arms into the sleeves. The gown was made with the palest cream silk and had a wide V-neckline. Despite the season, the sleeves were short, and she had a pair of long white gloves sure to make her hands sweat. But the dress’s loveliest feature was the delicate pink silk roses crossing the bodice and trailing their way down the skirt, tiny buds of spring pink with green leaves set behind them. To Margie, it looked like a garden come to life.
Other girls, in high school and in college, had suitors, even beaux, though Margie had never thought of such a thing for herself. Her parents would have forbidden it, for one, and for two, who would look at her, with her fat ankles and her broad shoulders, when there were girls like
Elizabeth Tabb or Lucinda Spencer around, delicate little things with
the girlish smile of Mary Pickford and dramatic eyes like Gloria Swan- son? But that night, listening to the rustle of the silk against her petticoat as she walked slowly down the stairs, her head held high under the unfa- miliar weight of a tiara, she thought she might, for once, be worth look- ing at. This was it, she thought. This was the night her life would begin.
At the hotel, the debutantes waited in an anteroom. Some of their dresses, Margie thought as she looked around, were shockingly modern— casual, even, a loose flow of fabric draping over their bodies without pause, making them look elegantly boyish and square. The dressmaker had offered Margie a similar gown. “It’s the newest fashion,” the woman had said, showing a dress of thin satin with a lace overlay, loose and flowing.
Margie’s mother had been horrified. “You can’t even wear a corset under that!”
About the corset, Margie didn’t mind, as she was rather fond of breathing, but she did mind that tender afterthought of a dress. It looked so plain compared to the gown she had imagined. And it was all well and good for someone who looked chic in dresses like the one the pleading designer was holding out to her. Those women didn’t have broad shoul- ders or large bosoms or muscular calves like she did. Margie knew well what she would look like in that kind of dress.
But clearly a number of the other girls had been brave enough to take the plunge. Anne Dulaney and Elsie Mills, who had been the first to bob their hair (to their mothers’ fury and everyone else’s shock), were, of course, wearing those dresses and, of course, being tall and so slender, looked stunning. They were lounging on a pair of fainting couches as though the very thought of the evening exhausted them. Two other girls in shorter dresses huddled together by an open window, smoking (and she was fairly sure the flask they were sharing wasn’t lemonade), and another cluster of girls in more traditional gowns stood at the opposite
end of the room, pretending to talk while catching admiring glimpses of
themselves in the mirror above the fireplace.
Feeling desperate, Margie kept looking for someone she knew well enough to sit with, until she spied Grace Scott and Emily Harrison Palmer, with whom she had gone to school until the ninth grade, when she had left for Abbott Academy and they for Miss Porter’s. Their dresses were as formal and old-fashioned as hers, and she felt a sense of relief as she settled down on a sofa beside them, the slight and familiar tremor she had felt upon comparing herself to the others, girls who would always be more beautiful, more fashionable, more right than she was, fading.
“Who are they?” Margie whispered, leaning forward and cocking her head toward the smokers.
“Southern,” Emily Harrison said, with a touch of haughty contempt, which was rich, considering her parents had come to Washington from Atlanta and her mother had an accent so thick you could have spread it on toast. “But those girls,” she said, nodding toward the group at the fireplace, “are European royals. Can you believe it? Minor, of course. Rumor has it they’re making the rounds looking for husbands here because their parents are flat broke.”
“Don’t gossip, Emily Harrison,” Grace scolded. Grace had always been overly kind, the sort of girl teachers selected to pal around with the new student, and prone to fits of tears over the tiniest of disappoint- ments. “I’m sure they’re perfectly nice.”
“I didn’t say they weren’t perfectly nice, I said they were perfectly broke,” Emily Harrison said. She lifted her hands and examined her fingernails. “Everyone in Europe is broke. Everyone here, too, it seems. My mother says there never would have been a ball with this many deb- utantes in her day.”
“They’re so glamorous,” Margie said dreamily, looking at the Europeans. They faced away
from her, a few of them with dresses cut low enough on their backs to reveal skin luminous
as snow. Were they princesses?
Margie wondered. Two of them wore tiaras, sparkling in the firelight, but Margie wore one herself and she was hardly a princess. It was just that they seemed so graceful, so perfect, every movement of their hands expressive as ballerinas, the curves of their throats, the bones of their faces as though they had been carved from marble. Their spines were stiff, their shoulders straight, and Margie self-consciously pulled herself back from slouching. Even if they weren’t princesses, they were royalty, and they would be walking down the steps with her.
“Isn’t it exciting?” Margie asked. She couldn’t contain herself. She supposed she ought to be blasé, like Anne and Elsie, so languidly aloof on their fainting couches, but she couldn’t. The night lay in front of them like a glittering promise, the sparkle of it, the elegance, the mystery of the excitement to come. Oh, Anne and Elsie were old poops, that’s all there was to it. She was going to dance with Robert Walsh, the terribly handsome friend of the family who was to be her escort, and drink champagne even if her parents didn’t approve, and she was going to enjoy every moment.
“Dreadfully exciting,” Grace said, and the sparkle in her eyes matched Margie’s, even though Grace was assured of marrying Theo Halloway— their families had arranged it long ago—and might not have bothered coming out at all if her mother hadn’t practically run Washington soci- ety. “I saw the ballroom on the way in, Margie. It’s simply gorgeous. And your gown is really stunning. You look lovely.”
“Thank you,” Margie said demurely, though inside she fluttered at the compliment.
Her father had said, “You look pretty, kitten,” but that was his job, and her mother had
said, “Your tiara’s on crooked,” and then, after she had fixed it, “Nellie didn’t do a horrible
job with your hair,” which was the closest thing to praise Margie had ever gotten from her
mother, a tiny, precise woman who had never understood the starry-eyed, lead-footed daughter she had managed to produce.
“You look pretty too,” she said to Grace. Under normal circumstances that might have been an exaggeration—it was a good thing Grace was so kind and her parents were so wealthy, because Grace was so plain—but not that night. Grace was dark and the pale yellow of her gown glowed against her skin, and she looked happy, and Margie felt a little rush of sentimental nostalgia for the girls they had once been and the women they were becoming.
“Ladies.” Grace’s mother, Mrs. Scott, appeared at the doorway. The Southern girls quickly pitched their cigarette ends out the window and Margie saw the flask of not-lemonade disappear into one of their skirts. Mrs. Scott sniffed the air and looked at them disapprovingly. “We are ready to begin.”
Margie’s last name, Pearce, put her solidly in the middle of the line, right behind Emily Harrison Palmer, but that night she wished it were Robertson, or better yet, Zeigler, so she could savor the anticipation, the shiver in her stomach, the heat in her face. At first all she could see was the hallway and the line of debutantes in front of her, but as Emily Har- rison began her slow descent, Margie saw it all laid out before her: the chandelier brilliant above, the pale glow of the girls’ dresses, light spark- ing prisms off hundreds of diamonds, setting the hall aglow. Her breath caught hard in her chest and she didn’t breathe, didn’t move, holding the moment in her hand like crystal, like snow, terrified it might disappear, shatter and whirl away in the air.
She promised herself she would remember it all, hold on to every moment. But as soon as
she set one satin-slippered foot on the stairs, it became nothing more than a lovely blur. She
stored away memories of everything she could—the plush carpet beneath her shoes, Robert’s
hand under hers, the fall of her dress around her knees when she executed her
curtsy, graceful and slow as a dancer’s plié. The sparkle of champagne on
her tongue, and Robert standing beside her, stiff and formal in his white tie, and the kiss her father dropped on her forehead as they waltzed, and the sight of all the debutantes with their escorts, swirling around the enormous dance floor like flowers, like snowdrops, like everything beautiful and bright and enchanted.
The Light of Paris is published by Borough Press and is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below: