Auntie M wants to travel with Anita Hughes when she researches her books. With a penchant for combining wonderful settings in her previous books (Lake Como, Rome in Love, Santorini Sunsets, et al), Hughes makes those places spring alive with her mix of high-society settings and romance.
From time to time, Auntie M veers away from crime to give readers a chance to see what else is out there, and what else is a holiday treat Hughes is serving up this time in Christmas in Paris. Talk about Christmas in October! This one will be in the stockings of several of Auntie M’s friends for sheer delight. It is unabashedly a hearty romance with a fairy-tale bent, set in the City of Light, and while “La Ville Lumière” really refers to the City of Enlightenment, it’s also divine to be amongst this most romantic capitol at the holiday time.
Isabel Lawson may have the kind of brain that can compute calculus spreadsheets for fun, but the banking executive has a rocky road behind her in the romance department. She’s cancelled her wedding three days before the big winter event, and this is her second broken engagement. Her very tolerant Main Line Philadelphia parents, especially her mother, seem to understand Isabel gets numbers in a way she doesn’t distinguish between romantic love and true love.
In a gesture that shows he wasn’t a bad guy, her ex Neil has told Isabel to use their tickets and honeymoon stay at the Hotel de Crillon herself. Auntie M and Doc had a lovely evening at the Crillon on one of our own Paris trips, and Hughes’ descriptions of the elegant lobby and restaurant took her right back to that special evening. But then they’d returned to their tiny guest room with the bathroom on a different floor, while Isabel has an 800 square foot suite with heated marble floors all to herself.
One of Isabel’s first acts upon arriving is to check out the magnificent view from her balcony, filled with holiday lights and bustling shoppers. She’s convinced herself she’s made the right decision a week ago to cancel the wedding–and then realizes she’s freezing cold.
Only the balcony door has locked shut behind her. What’s a girl to do? She hurls one shoe after another (Ferragamo’s, of course) at the balcony door to the next suite. When the door finally opens and reveals a rather scruffy young man who promises to call Housekeeping to let Isabel into her suite, she soon finds out his fiancé left him for an Australian cricket player.
What happens next combines the best tour of French food and history, Paris museums and sights, and more of that haute-couture, as Isabel cements her friendship with Alec Braxton, a children’s book illustrator, even as she tries to find the the French aristocrat a fortune teller has told her she will marry. Somehow the originator of Gus the Cocker Spaniel books doesn’t seem to fit the bill.
Readers will be captivated by the way Isabel, wealthy in her own right, can spend money on pricey evening gowns in her quest to find her French count, while still enjoying all that Paris has to offer with Alec on a picnic. And Alec has his own ghosts, besides that of his broken engagement: French law means if he’s not married by a certain date, his mother will lose the home she loves. And that seems a certainty if his wicked stepsister has anything to say about it.
How it all works out is half the fun of getting to an ending that won’t surprise the reader but will delight them. The attention to detail is wonderful, and Auntie M can see many more trips to the romance that is Paris being booked.