Thrilled to share this PW review of BELLE EPOQUE!
Sixteen-year-old runaway Maude Pichon is ugly—so much so that she lands a job as a “repoussoir,” an unattractive girl paid to be seen with a lovelier girl to make her appear even more beautiful by comparison (in a note, Ross explains that this fictional profession derives from an 1866 Zola short story). Maude is humiliated by the idea, but her poverty leaves her few options. When chance sends a dashing composer Maude’s way, and a countess hires her to befriend her independent-minded daughter, Isabelle, readers will see the potential for a happy ending. Ross offers not one, but two strong heroines in her debut novel, both navigating the choppy waters of the Paris debutante season, albeit from different social classes. Though Maude is the chief protagonist (and narrator), Isabelle is highly engaging as a young woman determined to challenge the expectations of her gender and study science at a university. Both touching and fun, this is a story about many things—true friendship, real beauty, being caught between two worlds—and it will delight fans of historical fiction.