Before I get to the review, I just signed up for Bloglovin’, so feel free to follow my blog with Bloglovin. Which I know you could do anyway, but still. It’s, like, official now or something.
Like any person, an ugly woman’s looks are transformed by her conversation, humor, intelligence, and even grace. But all this reverses during the selection process. When a client enters the salon, I’ve seen a girl change from her giddy, laughing self to her repoussoir guise in an instant.
I was so excited to read Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross. For starters, the premise speaks to my soul. Some dude starts a service for rich women to hire less attractive women so they can appear more attractive. Which, hello, totally speaks to my life experience of always having pretty friends but feeling like I fade into the background when I’m around them because I’m not even a fraction as cute as they are. Then, the main character (Maude) is hired as a beauty foil for Isabelle, but Isabelle doesn’t know that Maude is the help because her mom wants her to think Maude is her friend, which also adds female friendship stuff and mother/daughter drama. So excited!
But then the book was a total letdown, sigh.
First, while the premise is excellent, Maude is so, so boring. She moves to Paris to follow her hopes and dreams! She reluctantly becomes a repoussoir because it pays a whole lot more money than working in a laundry! And then she fades in the background whenever Marie-Josée or Isabelle are in the same scene. What I’m saying is that I wasn’t particularly interested in Maude or her journey.
Second, I don’t understand why this story isn’t told from Isabelle’s point of view. Maude really doesn’t do anything. Yet, Isabelle has all these interests and is full of personality and gets betrayed by her mom and Maude and is courting and and and. I’m not saying Maude couldn’t have been an interesting character whose arc through her relationship with Isabelle could have taken the reader someplace interesting; she just wasn’t. Isabelle seemed to have the true conflict. I think part of the problem is that Maude is just so passive.
Third, the relationships are not well-developed at all aside from Isabelle/Maude and Isabelle/her mother. Maude’s closest friend at the agency is Marie-Josée except I don’t think they’re really friends. M-J serves as a mentor to Maude, yes. Maude wants to run things by M-J. But I get no idea whatsoever of why Marie-Josée would be disappointed because Maude has to work on Christmas. Seriously, why does she care? Because I didn’t feel like I as a reader would be missing out on M-J’s dinner nor did I feel betrayed that Maude blew it off.
The same goes with the love interest. They have maybe three or four interactions and suddenly he’s pissed at Maude and disappointed in her, and she has to apologize. And I was honestly like, “Who cares what this drunk dude that I’ve spent maybe three scenes with thinks?” But I guess the reader is supposed to, which means that relationship was shallow at best.
Fourth, Maude goes to a lot of parties and balls and thinks a lot. That’s really what happens in the whole book. Oh, and she’s kind of taken with the glamor of it all. I guess there was some kind of conflict with Maude thinking she might one day belong in that world or something? I don’t know. I didn’t really care about her.
Fifth, the love interest is so terrible. He’s drunk all the time, and he’s judgmental, but he’s nice once or twice, so I guess that’s all that matters.
Sixth, I wanted to stop reading about 3/4 of the way through, but I really did want to know what happened to Isabelle at the end.
Also, is it wrong that I wish Maude had really been ugly instead of plain? I guess that would have made her more interesting.
SO DISAPPOINTING. The language is lovely, and the premise is great, but the underdeveloped relationships made it difficult for me to like this one. I did enjoy Isabelle a lot, though, so there’s that.