Now I really want to go to Paris… in 1889…

  • The book: To Capture What We Cannot Keep
  • The author: Beatrice Colin
  • Dates read: September 28, 2016 – October 21, 2016
  • Where to get it: Amazon (on November 29, 2016)

25901561.jpgI’m gonna be honest here, I requested an ARC of this novel for three reasons; 1) it takes place in Paris(!), 2) it is historical fiction – i.e. the stuff I live on, and 3) the cover looked like the covers on a lot of “must-have” books that I’ve been too cheap to buy in recent months. See? Honesty.

Anyway, that third thing on the list is the lucky, if silly, reason I found myself getting lost in Beatrice Colin’s lyrical, fantastic novel of love, mostly unrequited in Paris, France as it was during the years that Eiffel Tower was being built for the World’s Fair in 1889. Sometimes it really does pay to be cheap and stubborn.

It is the story of Caitriona Wallace, a thirtysomething widow from Scotland who, because widows in the 19th century had few prospects, takes a job as chaperone to the newly adult niece and nephew of a Scottish engineer as the brother and sister leave for a tour of Europe, as the children of the wealthy did then. Alice and Jamie Arrol are essentially as I expect wealthy kids of their era were – a whole lot of spoiled and just a little bit naive. The fourth person who makes the story is Emile Nouguier, who is an actual historical person – an engineer and architect who was one of the designers of the Eiffel Tower.

Books are nothing without characters to care about (love them or hate them, so long as you feel them) so they are what makes or breaks a story for me and, god, did Cait, Alice, Jamie, and Emile make this story for me.

Let’s start with the siblings. You would be forgiven for worrying that spoiled rich kids could come across as annoying cliches, especially in the realm of historical fiction. The Arrols do not. Perhaps it’s because Colin writes them with a slight air of being proverbial fish out of water, and more “nouveau riche” than cushioned by centuries of wealth, but both Alice and Jamie struggle mightily to balance the world they want to live in with the world they do live in. Alice is perpetually obsessed by making a good marriage, and there is even a line where her uncle tells Caitriona that she’d marry a lamppost if it asked her, but she is still a girl at heart, one who wants to have fun and toe the line and figure out who she is before she marries. She might not always recognize those things but, through Colin’s writing, it is easy to see that she is really an ordinary girl. Alice’s brother Jamie, a few years older, can also be seen as typical – the young man who wants to impress not only the nearest eligible female but his uncle and the older men in his world. Jamie’s struggles with this are almost tragic, it’s clear he’s got little interest in his uncle’s ironworks but he knows he should so he manages to secure a job, that he fails at rather spectacularly, working on the Eiffel Tower when he, Alice, and their chaperone returned to Paris to live. Likewise, he is driven by the urges of young people everywhere and, much to his very real shame, he ends up designing a room at the famed, and real, Le Chabanais brothel to pay off his debts.

Caitriona and Emile are the opposites of Alice and Jamie (and it should be noted I only just Googled Emile and discovered he was real so I cannot say how… true to life Colin wrote him). She married who she was supposed to marry, and suffered terribly for it. He never had any interest in marrying, despite his mother’s desperate wishes, and kept a mistress he was misguidedly, to put it mildly, enamored with. He was, to be fair, more married to his work. And then Emile met Caitriona by chance and Beatrice Colin managed to write one of the least cheesy, most beautiful loves-at-first-sight I have ever read. The novel is the story of them not being together. They travel parallel with one another, occasionally intersecting as Jamie decides Emile is the man to marry his sister – irregardless of neither Alice nor Emile wanting that, and finally pulling apart when the shame that an amateur historian knows came with being a woman in the late Victorian period.

Maybe there’s a happily ever after, maybe Cait and Emile find each other again. Maybe there’s no happily ever after, maybe he stays married to his work and she does just what Victorian widows were expected to do.

You’ll have to read this breathtaking book to find out!

(I received a copy of TO CAPTURE WHAT WE CANNOT KEEP through NetGalley and Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

Reviewed: “The Undying” by Ethan Reid

Maybe AMC’s “The Walking Dead” spoiled me when it comes to zombies and the undead but I just couldn’t get into it when it came to Ethan Reid’s THE UNDYING.

I gave up at 40%.


1) Jeanie has too many flashbacks mixed with voices in her head. It’s hard to tell sometimes what’s going on.

2) Jeanie is apparently the only one who can see the zombies, if that’s what they are – and I feel like maybe tThe Undyinghat should’ve been known by 40%, though since it’s THE UNDYING (The Undying #1), maybe that’s for another book.

3) I wish there was an explanation of why Paris was turning to ash, better than the quickly dead guy’s random theories that went too fast and floated over my head.

4) Whiny, ugly American stereotype Ben hit himself in the face with a freakin’ padlock.

I wanted to love this book, in part because I love Paris and I love zombies so putting them together seemed genius but… it just wasn’t to be.

I’m absolutely sure this book is perfect for many, many people. Just not me.

(I received a copy of THE UNDYING through NetGalley and Simon451 in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

Reviewed: “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George

The Little Paris BookshopMy review of Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop can be done in threes:

Three things attacked me to the book: 1) Paris 2) books and 3) romance.

I had three distinct thoughts about the main character, Monsieur Jean Perdu (translated that means John Lost), literary apothecary: 1) “ah, Monsieur Perdu, you and I share the same love for books!” 2) “please, Monsieur Perdu, surely Manon was not worth two decades of pain… is anyone?” and 3) “alright, Jeanno, you’re moving on to Catherine and learning to live again, good for you!”

There were three phases to my enjoyment of this book: 1) love and understanding followed by 2) impatience and reluctance to finish followed by 3) simple satisfaction that it turned out well enough.

It seems strange, possibly scandalous to some, for me (a woman) to be saying this about a book written by a woman with a man as the lost-love protagonist but… maybe it would have been better with Jean Perdu being Jeanne Perdu, being a woman. Not that women should be typecast into the “he left me, so I’ll spend two decades shutting myself off from entirely every character in the world who is NOT fictional” role but I think the way Jean Perdu is written, it would make more sense. Otherwise it seems like typecasting French, Parisian men into tortured lover roles and that’s been done too.

I like the book, though, and I’ll probably even read it again to catch the rich details I know I missed during my period of impatience and reluctance. Because the details are rich. The books that focus most heavily in Perdu’s apothecary are fictional but there is no doubt that George herself is a lover of all books and as a lover of all books, I absolutely respect that.

(I received a copy of The Little Paris Bookshop from NetGalley & Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest an original review.)