A wow of a cover, for sure! But, what about the story…
It’s winter, 1886, and Caitriona Wallace and Émile Nouguier ( real engineer ) meet on a hot air balloon ride over the great City of Light. Ahhh, Paris. I love you so. And who are these two? Cait is a beautiful but tragic young Scottish widow. Emile is the right-hand engineer for Gustave Eiffel as he builds the tallest building on earth.
The Eiffel Tower is quite possibly the most recognizable landmark anywhere in the world. And it’s my favorite! I smile just thinking of it. This photo on the cover totally captures the mood and sense of place for the story.
Cait Wallace is in Paris as a paid chaperone to Alice and Jamie: both simpletons. Alice has been spoiled to death and Jamie is chomping at the bit to just get loose. Paris is way too much for either of them. While Alice is husband-hunting, Jamie seems determined to lose himself in the city’s brothels and gambling halls. He’s supposed to be working for Gustave Eiffel…
Cait is penniless and seems a tortured soul. Then she meets Émile and falls in love. But he’s from a wealthy old family. His mother is deathly ill and his father passed away recently. Émile’s mother is determined to convince him to dump his day job and run the family business. He is loathe to do that, plus, he’s quite taken with the lovely Scottish woman..
Colin has managed to paint a very accurate picture of Paris in this time period. She also has done her homework adding much attention to detail and historical facts. She tosses into the mix exciting touches such as a real duel. She does a bang up job showing us the fashions of the day. She even visits the opium dens and artist’s lofts. Some of it is quite compelling, until it isn’t.
The Parisian people feared that the new tower would ruin the city. I will admit that the photos of it while it’s being erected do look pretty bleak. They wondered if it would stand the test of time, after all. It was meant to stand for twenty years. Hm. And it was being built to center the World’s Fair that would open in two years.
Even with all the theatrics and hysterics, I found this novel lacking. The characters were dull and the romance just never got off the ground. I really wanted to love this book. But in the end, it was more of a fizzle than a firework.