Paris is always the perfect idea. The French capital has long led the way in
fashion, culture and art-but during the late nineteenth century, Paris was
something else. The city of love resonated with everything modern and luxuriant
and uproarious and risqué-Paris was, quite simply the epicentre of the Belle Époque.
In FROM A PARIS BALCONY,
we meet the Parisian courtesan Marthe de Florian-inspired by the real life
demimondaine, whose real abandoned apartment in Paris was rediscovered
in 2010 after being locked up for seventy years. I wanted to delve into both
Marthe’s world and her feelings, but first, what was the scene in Paris when she
Three world fairs, in 1878, 1889 and 1900 contributed to Paris being the leading
cultural capital in the world. Life in the city was an intertwine, an
entanglement of burgeoning industry, artistic modernity and the pursuit of pleasure.
The Third Republic, starting in 1870, is considered the Golden Era of the
highest class of prostitutes, Parisian ‘It girls’ now known as
‘demimondaines.’ A generation of young men from all over Europe came to
France’s capital to play with the forbidden fruits.
Enter one of my characters, the charming heir to one of Britain’s greatest
Estates, Henry Duval. Conflicted about the role he is supposed to take on at
home, and frustrated by the constant expectations that have been placed on him
since he was a child, Henry is drawn to Paris.
There he meets one the city’s most fashionable demimondaines, the famous Marthe
de Florian. These women dictated fashion, became the ultimate Parisian women,
and were the trophy companions of powerful men. It is now well recognised that
top courtesans were some of the first women to run their own lives- but of
course, the duality of their role was extraordinary. They were hidden, yet
utterly on display- often seen out in places such as the Opera, the Bois de
Boulogne and The Folies Bergère.
But what if you were a young American girl, what if you were a girl named
Louisa Duval, a ‘problem’ who had been tutored by a governess who believed in
women’s rights, only to be sent over to England as a debutante to do what was
expected of her- marry well. But what if, even as a debutante moving in the
highest circles of society, Louisa still had aspirations of her own to be
independent, to run her own life, to be more than simply someone’s wife? So what
if she fell for a man like Henry Duval beguiling, fun, charming and theatrical?
What if she married him and became drawn into a passionate adventure of her own…
What if, in 2015, Louisa’s great-great-niece in Boston, Sarah West, heartbroken
and lonely after her husband left her, found something that led her on a journey
to Paris to investigate the unsolved mystery surrounding Louisa’s tragic death?
What if she stayed in Marthe de Florian’s abandoned apartment, which she had to
share with a talented wunderkind of an artist, the handsome Laurent Chartier-
exactly the sort of man she is trying to avoid after the way her ex-husband
And what would happen when all these worlds came together to crash around the
death of a girl, a story that had been swept under the carpet, like an
unimportant woman’s life, wiped away, dismissed for over a hundred years? What
if that mystery came to the fore again, exposing the passionate, heartfelt story
of a girl who lived in a world where women couldn’t make their own choices…
The novel is set in two eras- the 1890s and 2015.
Thank you for reading this article.
I hope you enjoy FROM A
Ella Carey xx
Ella Carey is a writer and Francophile who claims Paris as her second home.
She has been studying French since the age of five, and she has degrees in
music, majoring in classical piano, and English, majoring in nineteenth century
women's fiction and in modern European history. Her debut novel, Paris Time
Capsule, has captured global attention and her second novel, The House By The
Lake, was released in March 2016, remaining in top 100 of all kindle books in
the US for six months. Her third novel is From a Paris Balcony and is releasing
in October, 2016. She lives in Australia.
Heartbroken and alone, Boston art curator Sarah West is grieving the recent
deaths of her parents and the end of her marriage. Ultra-sensible by nature,
she’s determined to stay the course to get her life back on track. But fate has
something else in mind. While cleaning out her father’s closet, she finds a
letter from the famous Parisian courtesan Marthe de Florian, dated 1895. The
subject? Sarah’s great-great-aunt Louisa’s death. Legend has it Louisa committed
suicide…but this letter implies there’s more to that story.
Determined to learn the truth, Sarah, against her nature, impulsively flies
to Paris. There she’s drawn into the world of her flatmate, the brilliant artist
Laurent Chartier. As she delves deep into the glittering Belle Époque to unravel
the mystery, Sarah finds that her aunt’s story may offer her exactly what she
needs to open up to love again.
Following Sarah in the present day and Louisa in the 1890s, this moving novel
spans more than a century to tell the stories of two remarkable women.
Women's Fiction | Historical [Lake
Union Publishing, On Sale: October 11, 2016,
Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781503940505 / ]
Have you read about the abandoned apartment in Paris? What do you imagine the
reasons were for abandoning it for 70 years? One reader will win a signed copy
of FROM A PARIS BALCONY
15 comments posted.
No, I haven't read about the apartment, though I'd love to. From a Paris Balcony (as well as The Paris Apartment--is that the name of the book about it?) appeal very much to me.
(Susan Illis 7:03am October 16)
No, I must admit I have never read about the abandoned apartment. It sounds so interesting.
(Bonnie Capuano 8:54am October 16)
I have not read about the abandoned apartment in Paris, but not I am going to. I think it is rather romantic, yet tragic to continue to make rent payments on an apartment that holds such memories.
(Lettetia Elsasser 12:38pm October 18)
I haven't read about the abandoned apartment in Paris, but something extremely tragic must have happened for it to remain empty.
(Anna Speed 12:56pm October 19)