Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Black Swan of Paris

Title:  The Black Swan of Paris
Author:  Karen Robards
Publication Information:  MIRA. 2020. 480 pages.
ISBN: 0778309339 / 978-0778309338

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and the Summer 2020 Historical Fiction Blog Tours from Harlequin Trade Publishing free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "When the worst thing that could ever happen to you had already happened, nothing that came after really mattered."

Favorite Quote:  "As she'd already learned to her cost, there were no guarantees in life, no guarantees that the person you loved would be here from one day to the next, no guarantees about anything all all. And this was war. Death waited around every corner. It came rocketing out of the sky, zipping through the air, blasting up from the ground. It came with no notice, no warning, no chance to say goodbye."

The Black Swan of Paris is a nickname "... inspired, she assumed, by her coloring - black hair, milky skin, and changeable blue-green eyes." The woman behind the nickname is Genevieve Dumont, a performer with star power. She is French, and yet she entertains theaters full of Nazi soldier and the Nazi elite. Some view her as a Nazi collaborator. No one, not even those closest to her, know who Genevieve truly is or what she hides in her past.

Paris 1944 - war, espionage, family, personal and community losses, danger, and a love story. This story has so many elements of a great read. The one thing I could do without, however, are some graphic descriptions of torture. Yes, that was real during World War II. Yes, it happened. I think the inclusion of the graphic descriptions in this book do not add to the story. I think the horrors of war are terrible enough without the descriptions.

Putting aside those descriptions, the book does a wonderful job of finding a balance between the different elements of the book. That, for me, has to do with creating a strong, believable main character in Genevieve. In each element - espionage, family, the past, and the love story, this is very much Genevieve's story. The reading has some slow parts, but overall, this story really does make for a wonderful, fast paced book. In fact, I could see it becoming a movie. The writing paints a vivid image  

I love when books  I read, although unrelated to each other, touch upon the same stories. This book makes several references to another entertainer who made Paris home, Josephine Baker. "... in the summer of 1931 when her parents brought their daughters to Pairs to celebrate her sister's fifteenth birthday. The highlight of that trip had been being Josephine Baker..." Josephine Baker is an inspiration for Genevieve. The parallels are interesting. Both women are performers, and both use their "star" status as part of the war effort. Their stories, of course, are completely different, but they shed a different light on the history of the Resistance.

What I love about books is that they tell the story of the role of civilians - particularly women - in the Resistance. In this book, the primary focus is Genevieve, but many of the other main characters - Lillian, Emily, Berthe - are also strong, independent women fighting for their lives and their freedoms. The conquest of this war effort is a true collaboration of a team not fettered by gender stereotypes. Genevieve's strength and the courage of these women is the real story.

These two books also highlight the risks artists and performers took. Their positions allowed unique access and freedom of movement. Genevieve is, at the beginning, a reluctant participant. She feels like she has no choice, and with everything that has gone before in the her, nothing much to lose. Over the course of the story, though, the resistance becomes much more personal.

The Black Swan of Paris
Blog Tour

Author: Karen Robards
ISBN: 9780778309338
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Publisher:  MIRA Books


Author Bio:
Karen Robards is the New York Times, USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of more than fifty novels and one novella. She is the winner of six Silver Pen awards and numerous other awards.

Book Summary:
For fans of The Alice Network and The Lost Girls of Paris comes a thrilling standalone by New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards about a celebrated singer in WWII occupied France who joins the Resistance to save her estranged family from being killed in a German prison.

In Occupied France, the Resistance trembles on the brink of destruction. Its operatives, its secrets, its plans, all will be revealed. One of its leaders, wealthy aristocrat Baron Paul de Rocheford, has been killed in a raid and the surviving members of his cell, including his wife the elegant Baronness Lillian de Rocheford, have been arrested and transported to Germany for interrogation and, inevitably, execution.

Captain Max Ryan, British SOE, is given the job of penetrating the impregnable German prison where the Baroness and the remnants of the cell are being held and tortured. If they can't be rescued he must kill them before they can give up their secrets.

Max is in Paris, currently living under a cover identity as a show business impresario whose star attraction is Genevieve Dumont. Young, beautiful Genevieve is the toast of Europe, an icon of the glittering entertainment world that the Nazis celebrate so that the arts can be seen to be thriving in the occupied territories under their rule.

What no one knows about Genevieve is that she is Lillian and Paul de Rocheford's younger daughter. Her feelings toward her family are bitter since they were estranged twelve years ago. But when she finds out from Max just what his new assignment entails, old, long-buried feelings are rekindled and she knows that no matter what she can't allow her mother to be killed, not by the Nazis and not by Max. She secretly establishes contact with those in the Resistance who can help her. Through them she is able to contact her sister Emmy, and the sisters put aside their estrangement to work together to rescue their mother.

It all hinges on a command performance that Genevieve is to give for a Gestapo General in the Bavarian town where her mother and the others are imprisoned. While Genevieve sings and the show goes on, a daring rescue is underway that involves terrible danger, heartbreaking choices, and the realization that some ties, like the love between a mother and her daughters and between sisters, are forever.

Social:
Author Website: http://karenrobards.com/
TWITTER: @TheKarenRobards
FB: @AuthorKarenRobards

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