Wednesday, December 21, 2016

“From a Paris Balcony” by Ella Carey – Surf the Timeless Waves of Parisian Love

From a Paris Balcony by Ella Carey
Paris is one of those rare cities with a reputation bigger than itself. No matter where you go in the world, Paris will always stand as a symbol of France, love, and probably croissants for some people. No matter how many years pass, what events shake it up or which people come and go from it, the city always retains a certain spirit, or an atmosphere if you will. It's that kind of romanticism that drew countless people in from all corners of the world, leading them on grand quests for love and happiness until the end of time. Some succeed, others fail, but none can deny the all-powerful allure of the ageless capital, just like Sarah West couldn't in From a Paris Balcony by Ella Carey.

Like most love stories, this one has a rather tragic and uncertain beginning as Sarah West, a Boston art curator, is mourning the loss of her parents and the extremely untimely end of her marriage. While cleaning out her father's closet she comes across something rather curious: an 1895 letter from a famous Parisian courtesan wherein he discusses the peculiar death of Sarah's great-great-aunt Louisa. The family story is that Louisa committed suicide, but after reading the letter Sarah knows better and decides this to be a good enough reason to head down to Paris. This sudden and impulsive decision pays off more than she expected, crossing her path with that of Laurent Chartier, an artist and her flatmate. As Sarah dives deeper and deeper into the past where the truth lies about Louisa's death, she also delves into herself and learns to open up her heart to love once again.

The quest for love is perhaps one of the oldest literary subjects in existence, while the murder mystery is certainly one of the most popular one in the past couple of centuries. Mixing them together is a real winning formula and in this case, the two genres were integrated well enough into each other to bring in fans from both camps. Whether you start reading the book for the mystery or the romance, they will both slowly grow on you and subtly drag into the whole overarching story and make you forget which storyline you prefer to follow.

The fact that there are two narratives to follow keeps things quite fresh and interesting in my opinion. First, we have Sarah's perspective, the modern woman mending her life after the worst heartbreaks one can ever endure. We see her resilience in the face of life's overpowering darkness, the strength of will and courage it takes her to overcome the amalgamation of tragedies that hit her over the head. She makes for a very likeable protagonist, sensitive and complicated enough to share many curious thoughts and observations about life in general. We can certainly relate to her troubles in one way or another, and the more we get to know her, the more we just want to see her succeed and find the happiness she no doubt deserves at this point.

The second perspective takes us into the 1890s where we see a young Louisa, a wealthy woman whose life is dedicated to fighting for love and equality. Through her story we explore different sides of romanticism that don't really pop up in Sarah's story, mostly relating to the torturous passion it can become and how it can lead people to beautiful and yet tragic endings. We see the painful side of it and how much strength is needed to make it work when the whole world seems to be plotting against you.

At the same time as the two stories unfold, we are fed more and more information about Louisa's mysterious death, with the suspense slowly building up and leading to a rather surprising denouement. While I wouldn't venture as far as saying that the mystery gets as much attention as the romantic plots, it does get enough exposure in my opinion to make it a major part of the story and one of the factors that keeps pushing you from one page to the next. Ultimately though, keep in mind that all threads revolve around Sarah's quest for love and it remains the primary focus of the story.

In summary, From a Paris Balcony is a well-written romance and mystery book that takes a few steps to stand out from all your typical dime-a-dozen love stories. We visit modern day and 1890s Paris, are treated to two different stories of women struggling for and seeking love during dark times in their lives, without forgetting the engaging murder mystery that only gets more engaging as the pages go by. It's a novel that offers a unique and multifaceted experience, one I believe you will really enjoy if you're a fan of romance and mystery books.

Ella Carey

Ella Carey

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Ella Carey is an Australian author who has claimed Paris as her second home, with all of her stories so far being set in the timeless city of love. Paris Time Capsule was her first novel and the one that launched her into literary notoriety, after which followed the highly-acclaimed The House by the Lake and the widely-beloved From a Paris Balcony.

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