In 1928, the Penrose sisters are living in Cornwall, England with their unmarried mother, a true independent woman. She is a fortune teller for the wealthy, throws parties and encourages her daughters to be adventurous. She has even taught her older daughter Skye how to fly a gypsy moth plane. When Skye meets her neighbor Nicolas Crawford, the children become great friends enjoying the beach and exploring the outdoors. Younger sister Liberty feels left out. When Nicolas heads to the U.S. to attend school, they vow to stay in touch but he never answers Skye's letters.
Skye grows up to be a talented pilot. In 1939, she joins the British forces in the war effort and soon becomes part of a small group of elite women flying planes. As she continues to prove herself as a valuable asset, she is sent to Paris where she reunites with Nicolas who is engaged to Frenchwoman Margaux Jourdan and also reconnects with her sister Liberty.
In 1947, top fashion designer Christian Dior presents his breakthrough “new look” which revolutionizes fashion for the post-war woman. Margaux is his top model. Christian’s sister Catherine had also been involved in the war effort and is friends with Margaux.
The story brings us to 2012 and Margaux, having settled in Australia, is raising her granddaughter Kat. Kat is a fashion conservator and discovers that her grandmother has a treasure trove of rare Dior gowns kept in her cottage back in Cornwall. Her grandmother offers no explanation as to why she has this valuable collection and refuses to discuss her past. When journalist Elliott Beaufort contacts Kat about her grandmother, as he is researching the Penrose women, Kat realizes that he might be able to help her solve the mystery of the gowns as well as uncover her grandmother’s hidden past during the war. The stories and fates of Skye and Liberty Penrose and Nicolas Crawford start to unfold as well.
This well-researched book brings us deep into the war and the heroic efforts of the men and women who worked to deliver arms and supplies by air as well as the covert SOE (Special Operations Executive.) We are also taken into Ravensbrück, the tragic German concentration camp which was exclusively for women.
Natasha Lester is a wonderful storyteller. The Paris Secret offers a compelling story with interesting characters, insights into the war efforts, the world of Paris fashion and a beautiful love story.
Historical Fiction, which take place during WWII, is one of my favorite genres and having read most of the best ones, it takes an excellent book to fully engage me and tug at my heartstrings. If you seek books that truly transport you, this is one not to miss.
Many thanks to NetGalley, Forever/Grand Central Publishing and the author for an advance copy.
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: September 15, 2020.
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