In eighteenth-century England, the price of beauty is death, and porcelain is the most seductive of commodities. Fortunes are made and lost upon it, and kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces—and the secrets of their manufacture. Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, wants to be an artist—and while nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London, she fancies that things may be very different if only she can reach Venice. A journey via Derby and Venice takes her to the the presence of the French king, her mortal enemy. On the way she must manoeuvre through the worlds of art, love, betrayal and politics. In particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue… Will she be able to stay calm and decide exactly how much she is willing to suffer, in pursuit and protection of The Blue?
First of all, please take a moment to admire this glorious cover!
I wasn’t sure about this one, to be honest. When it first became available at The Pigeonhole, I thought I might give it a miss: historical novels are not always my thing and I wasn’t feeling very history-minded at the time. However, the synopsis and that gorgeous cover seduced me into joining anyway, and I’m so very glad I did: I really would have missed out.
This story is very informative, yet very entertaining. I feel like I learned so much: Huguenots, porcelain, the colour blue, … I know describing a book as informative doesn’t make it seem very enjoyable, but it was, learning has never been more fun! Nancy has obviously done her research and writes with enviable knowledge and skill. I am by no means a history buff, but the story is written so well and has such a great flow that I just lapped it all up. It never came across as educational because I was so completely wrapped up in the events. It has mystery, it has romance, it has a little bit of many things, all blending together in a riveting tale featuring the most fabulous female main character of the year: Genevieve. I’ve read many books this year, some of them featuring female MCs, some of whom I really liked, but Gen has them all beat. She’s feisty and outspoken, she’s stubborn and fierce, she knows what she wants in a world where women are supposed to want very little. She has very modern ideas, wants to be an artist in a time when only men could be, and is willing to do anything to make her dreams come true. However, despite her ambition, she is also loyal and honest and willing to sacrifice all she has ever wanted for those she loves.
If you’re looking for an highly entertaining historical novel, look no further, this is it!
Many thanks to Nancy Bilyeau, Endeavour Quill and The Pigeonhole for the opportunity to read this wonderful novel for free.
About the author
Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, DuJour, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She is currently a regular contributor to Town & Country. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel and an Oprah pick, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. The third in the trilogy, THE TAPESTRY, was published by Touchstone in 2015. The books have also been published by Orion in the UK and seven other countries.
Some earlier milestones: In 1661, Nancy’s ancestor, Pierre Billiou, emigrated from France to what was then New Amsterdam when he and his family sailed on the St. Jean de Baptiste to escape persecution for their Protestant beliefs. Pierre built the first stone house on Staten Island and is considered the borough’s founder. His little white house is on the national register of historic homes and is still standing to this day.
Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.