The Paris Apartment
Forever, Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Kelly Bowen’s historical romance, “The Paris Apartment” interweaves the lives of two women during WWII with the efforts of a granddaughter and a grandnephew to uncover the women’s war role.
It begins in 2017, when Aurelia LeClaire inherits an exclusive, high-end apartment from her grandmother, Estelle Allard. The existence of the apartment, unoccupied since 1943, came as a surprise to Aurelia and her family. She also inherited a painting by an unknown artist named William Seymour.
As Aurelia inspects the apartment, she discovers many more pieces of art including works by Degas. Aurelia concludes the paintings were stolen by the Nazis and her grandmother had been a Nazi collaborator. In her determination to find the owners of these art works, she contacts Gabriel Seymour, William Seymour’s grandson, telling him that she has a painting she assumes belongs to him. Gabriel acknowledges the painting was done by his grandfather, and as fate would have it in fiction, Gabriel is also an art appraiser, and offers to partner with Aurelia in finding owners of the paintings.
… based on real people and events …
As the Aurelia and Gabriel search the apartment, they discover a hidden room behind a closet which suggests the room had been used to hide people. They also learn Allard had posed as a socialite and frequented the Hotel Ritz where German Luftwaffe officers were staying.
In the interweaving, the author has Allard tell her own story about Allied soldiers and a young Jewish girl she hid in her apartment. Sophie Seymour, Gabriel’s great-aunt, relates how she became an English spy, and outlines a mission by her and Allard at the Ritz aimed at gathering information on Nazi encryption devices.
Meanwhile Gabriel and Aurelia search archives, and make inquiries with relatives who piece together the truth, to gain an understanding why the apartment had remained sealed all those years.
It’s a fast-paced book with interesting historical information about the German occupation of France. And the novel is based on real people and events during this period, so readers get both facts and an intriguing story.