Our world is in turmoil, but it’s all happened before. The Belle Époque, from the late 1800s to World War I, saw sumptuous wealth, dizzying technological development, revolutionary art, tectonic change in society, bitter - even deadly - political clashes, and the cataclysm of war.
My new novel shows how people in Paris, New York and Constantinople lived through the turmoil, rising to astonishing heights in society, fortune, fame and art; plummeting, enduring and surviving.
Prince André, young, handsome, suave, the toast of the Parisian salons; the Dequaine family of Chicago, from modest roots to Mrs Astor’s New York ballroom and a château on the Loire; two young men from Constantinople, one Jewish, one Muslim, making their way, their lives and their fortunes in Paris, where the Belle Époque was changing the world.
Resplendent in a shimmering gown of golden silk by Paquin and a fortune in jewels, the stately brown-haired woman paused in the high arched doorway and swept her eyes over the scene in the chandelier-lit dining room of the Paris Ritz: elegantly-dressed women and substantial men in white tie and tails gathered at tables filled with glinting crystal glasses and shining silver service.
She glanced to her right at the tall, long-limbed young woman of nearly twenty years crowned with a mass of deep red but somewhat unruly hair. The girl, her elder daughter, had a figure destined to attract only a modicum of attention, even if sheathed in a quietly sumptuous and obviously expensive evening dress, as tonight it was. She wore an expression on her youthful face of beleaguered apprehension.
Turning her eyes to the left, the woman smiled benignly at a girl a few years younger, shorter and more slender than her sister, dark-gold hair bundled into a flawless chignon. With cheekbones high and fine, eyes dark and sparkling, skin the color of fine ivory, the younger girl smiled serenely. Her hourglass figure was enhanced by a relatively modest gown chosen to offer no competition to her striking physical beauty. She saw with pleasure that most eyes in the room were on her, those of the men with admiration and desire, of the women with a well-disciplined but still apparent envy.
Monsieur Beauvais, the maître d’hôtel, approached the party with a practiced bow, a formal smile, an expression of welcome, and the sweep of an arm that signaled for the way to be cleared….
©Tom Brosnahan 2022. All rights reserved.
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