Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a review copy of the book.
This book was another case where I wasn’t sure where to begin. My verdict was simple however: I didn’t like it, not a single part of it. Getting through it was challenging enough and I consider that to be an accomplishment in itself. “The Paris Winter” was another shining example of a book that doesn’t live up to the promise of its summary, and the loud praise printed on the back cover made me wonder whether I’d read the same book as everyone else.
At best this book is can be described as dry which, for the most part, it is. Let’s start with the foundations of it, the characters which are responsible for making the reader connect with the story and want to keep reading. The main character, Maud, had nothing interesting or memorable about her. She was bland, just like the rest of the book. There was a plus in the writing, the fact that the reader can see what Maud is thinking and how she’s reacting to the world, but this wasn’t utilized properly. Instead we have a main character that gets herself into a huge dilemma and then tries to get out of in in an equally messy fashion as how she got into it. I didn’t like her at all, couldn’t sympathize for what she was going through or even bring myself to care about her situation. She’s there as the main character and there’s nothing left but to accept that fact. Tanya and Yvette aren’t any better than her, their only benefit being the fact that they don’t swallow up as much space in the book as Maud has. Tanya has some pluses, the biggest perhaps being how she isn’t exactly as snobby and princess-like as Maud felt she was in the beginning, and her decision at the end in terms of marriage proves that. It is a dim light in a very dark tunnel however and does almost nothing to bring up the book in my eyes. Yvette is difficult to judge from the fact that she felt undeveloped. There’s a lot of info dumping about the characters, no matter who it was in particular. The integration of this information into the plot however was the huge problem, because it felt more like an expectation to now sympathize with the characters after reading about how difficult or emotional their past/current life is. Christian and Sylvie didn’t surprise me at all either, your standard liars and villains, really, with nothing that sets them apart from the thousands of other Victorian scoundrels that have already been written about.
Which leads to the next big fault of this book, mainly the plot itself. The intrigue that was promised I could smell from a mile away, which isn’t a problem. Predicting the plot becomes even more fun when there’s a new twist to the story that comes into play later and keeps you on your toes and revising your theory. This is far from the case with this book. It follows your standard recipe for any story set around this time period: lies lead to some kind of crime, which sets all the protagonists off on a search for the truth, with an ending that is dramatic (or in this case one that tries to be so), after which all the characters go back to their happy lives. I wouldn’t mind this recipe if at least the characters had so sort of dimension to them, apart from feeling like flat creations trapped on the paper. Even with the explanation of why the plot was as it was I still don’t understand why things worked the way it did. Again, it was another example of having to take things for what they were without second guessing or wondering about them. Otherwise the whole interest would evaporate.
Other things just didn’t work, like the random painting descriptions which appeared throughout the story. I understood what the author was trying to do in this case but it turned into a rather failed attempt where, after a certain point, I simply started to skip over the painting descriptions as they added nothing to my understanding of the story in terms of setting or characterization or visualization. Perhaps if they were all placed at the beginning of each chapter then the structuring would make reading them less tedious. Alas, not the case here.
I think I shall end my rant here as I have practically nothing positive to say about this book. It was bland. It was boring. It was nothing new and a good example of promises that weren’t realized and potential that was tossed to the wind. It was the kind of book that turned reading into a chore where you got more pleasure from finally getting through the entire thing rather than taking the time to sit and read it.