Review: The Paris Affair by Maureen Marshall

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A queer historical romantic suspense novel about a young engineer working for Gustave Eiffel caught in a web of deceit that could destroy both him and the famous tower.

Fin Tighe is clinging to respectability by his nail-bitten fingers. He may be the illegitimate son of an English earl, but he hasn’t spoken to his father in a decade, and his engineer’s salary is barely enough to support him and his cousin Aurelie. A dancer in the corps de ballet, Aurelie is at constant risk from groping, leering men who assume any dancer is a prostitute in training.  And Fin’s evenings spent in the clandestine gay community may be legal through a loophole in the Napoleonic Code, but they leave him vulnerable.

So, when Fin’s employer, Gustave Eiffel, announces that he needs additional investors to pay for his pet project, a 300-meter tower that will dominate the city’s skyline, Fin jumps at the chance. If he raises enough money, the commission will earn him a fortune, and hopefully, some protection.

Capricious stranger Gilbert Duhais appears to be a boon from the gods. Gilbert is handsome, wealthy, connected, and somehow privy to Fin’s background. Gilbert persuades Fin to masquerade as his father’s heir—which couldn’t be further from the truth—and introduces him to every nouveau riche speculator in the city. Each provocative interaction heightens Fin’s risk of exposure. But also brings Fin closer to his dream of financial security.

When a dear friend of Fin’s is murdered above a clandestine gay club, the stakes rise even higher. Fin must untangle the disparate threads of his past—and his current romantic gamble—before they become his noose.

 

Review:

Dear Maureen Marshall,

I saw a mention of your book on a Good reads lists of historical romances coming soon. I still do not feel as if I am finding nearly as many of those as I would have liked so I one clicked despite an expensive price tag, refusing to even see whether my library may offer this title. Paris and the building of Eiffel Tower and a love story unfolding on that background – Of course I wanted this book. I still did not make it to Paris, still hope to see it and the Eiffel Tower one day, but for now books and movies will have to do.

So, first thing first, while I do not feel as if I am fully capable of evaluating the authenticity of France in 1880s as portrayed in this book, I definitely felt that the writer transported me *somewhere* that felt like France for a person who has never been there :). I certainly did not feel as if the characters thought and acted as people who live today would and that alone is already something that I really appreciate. I mean, it is not as if the characters’ mindset was *completely* alien to me, after all people at the end of the 19th century had a lot of similar values to us as well, but I did not feel as if I was reading about my contemporaries dressed in pretty costumes.

I think the whole storyline – which unfolds as a backdrop, or more precisely as part of Fin and Gilbert’s developing love story – just felt unusual to me. I actually never before read anything about the building of the Eiffel tower, not in any work of fiction or non-fiction. It seemed that the author did her research even though I only looked up the basics in Wiki, but more importantly I think that she incorporated it well in the fictional story.

There is a developing romance and I ended up really liking it, but I cannot really talk much about it, because I do not want to spoil the circumstances of that romance, specifically how and why Gilbert appears in Fin’s life. You will either like it or you won’t. I did!  Those are the kind of complexities that I do love in romantic characters, but opinions may differ of course.

I love them both, their blinders and issues notwithstanding and hoped they would be together for the long term after the book ended :).  A lot of secondary characters were wonderful too, and I much appreciated several interesting female characters.

Despite the murder mentioned in the blurb, I do not feel as if the story was a mystery, because there was no real investigation, but we do learn who did what and why. I do think that romantic suspense is a perfect qualification for this book.

Grade: B+

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