I’ve only read a couple of Nancy Bilyeau’s novels, which was a good read but for some reason I didn’t get back to any of her other novels. I saw this one floating around various book sites and was intrigued.
I was interesting in this book because I thought it was going to be about china and porcelain and somehow circle back and become a historical thriller. In sort, that’s exactly what I got with this one—-porcelain and a little bit of suspense.
In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.
For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice.
When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelein, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue…
The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage.
With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue? (summary from Goodreads).
I love when I get to read a book and learn about odd or unique bits of history. I am one of those people who lives for random trivia knowledge and I love when I get to experience something like that with a book I am reading. This book had a lot of wonderful historical detail about the porcelain trade and I loved learning about it and picking up odd bits of information.
What I wasn’t expecting in this book was the depth of the narrative. I loved how Bilyeau crafted, not just a historical novel with fun historical details…..but something that explored the human condition in the period. In this book, Genevieve our protagonist, is struggle to enter into an artistic society. She is strong and has her own opinions, she knows who she is and what she wants and it was a thrill to see her struggle in the society and time period that she was placed. For me this added so much to the novel and moved the story along while holding my attention.
As a historian myself, the meat of any historical fiction novel is the period and the details for me. This book started off a little on the slow side because there was a lot of historic set up to do. While as a historian I don’t mind that, I think some readers might get a little bored—however I encourage you all to push past the historical details and world set up because the story itself is wonderful to see come alive.
This is a period in history that I didn’t know much about and I didn’t know anything about porcelain so I loved reading about the historical period and didn’t necessarily mind the tedious and detailed set up, but I also know that style isn’t for everyone.
While this is a completely separate novel from Bilyeau’s earlier series featuring her well known heroine, Joanna Stafford, I think there are similar themes in this story about Genevieve. If you liked The Chalice and The Crown, you will certainly like this book and enjoy meeting a similar heroine but in a different time and place.
And one final note—-I loved this cover. This cover is everything. It’s elegant, eye catching, interesting and made me want to read this book. It’s different and elegant and I would pick it up in a bookstore without hesitation. The cover designer was top notch!
- Review copy provided by: Publisher/Author in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own
- Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5
- Genre: historical fiction
- Memorable lines/quotes