Lady Helena Montagu-Douglas-Parr is determined to escape her existence in England. She is still being shunned and whispered about five years after a broken engagement. It is of no matter to society that her fiance wanted out of their bloodless connection much more than she did and has gone on to marry for love and have children. Helena still takes the brunt of disapproval, becoming a virtual social pariah. After she nearly dies of scarlet fever, her Aunt Agatha writes her from France, offering Helena an escape from this shame-filled and judgmental existence. First Helena will travel to Antibes to fully recover from her illness and then go to Paris with her wealthy, unconventional aunt to spend a year studying art under a demanding and respected master. She will pursue her passion.
Under her aunt's wing, Helena is introduced to many of the major players of the Lost Generation, Sara and Gerald Murphy, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Ernest and Hadley Hemingway, and many more. She finds her world enlarged by this eclectic bunch of ex-pat artists and writers. She collects her own circle of friends from among the students at her art school and they enjoy the glittering, bohemian decadence of the era as Helena pursues her dream to become a true artist. As she breaks free of the judgment and censure that dogged her in England, she recognizes the value and importance of following her own path. One way of breaking with convention is her deepening friendship with American journalist Sam Howard. But she finds herself conflicted over what kind of relationship she can have with him now that she's finally her own person, in charge of her own destiny.
Robson has really captured the sparkling atmosphere of Paris and the ex-pat community there in the 1920s. Helena herself is a child of wealth and lives a very privileged life with her aunt, giving her entree into this fascinating group of people. She is stretched and attracted by the passion she finds in a life where she can grow to follow her own dreams. Despite her near death experience, she is still sometimes afraid to reach for what she really wants though. Helena's character feels younger than her years but perhaps that's because of the sheltered life she's lived and the way that she has previously just always acquiesced to what was expected of her. Her sister's brief visit gives the reader a chance to see what her life would have been like, had she not broken out. Sam as the romantic interest is pretty perfect. The parallels between their journeys to courage and self-fulfillment are quite clear and make them well matched in ways far beyond just their initial attraction. The push and pull between them feels real and recognizable. The writing is well done and engaging and readers and Lost Generation fans will be tickled by the glimpses of the famous personalities included in Helena's social milieu. The truth and economics of the art world are not explored in great detail but there are flashes of the not always pleasant reality of it that help ground Helena's dreams to make it all believable. There are a few interesting twists in the novel although the end itself is no surprise. This is over all a satisfying, romantic read about coming into your own and really living on your own terms to find your happily ever after.
web page, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter. Check out the book's Good Reads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours.