Winter is a great time to get lost in a book especially when that book is I’ll See You in Paris by Michelle Gable. I am new to Michelle Gable as she is also the author of the bestseller A Paris Apartment. I’ll See You in Paris is her second novel and sets place between London and Paris. Gable goes back and forth between past and present as she takes the reader into the colorful life of Gladys Spencer-Churchill, The Duchess of Marlborough, through the search for answers for a young woman questioning her past.
Annie is a young woman who is newly engaged. Laurel, her mother needs to settle some legal matters over in London and decides it’s the perfect mother-daughter trip. The night before their departure Annie finds her mother reading an old, ancient book. When asked about this book Laurel plays dumb and secretly tucks it away. Annie, now wondering what its all about finds it and puts it safely into her suitcase. What she doesn’t know is she is about to embark on a journey she never knew existed.
Once they land in London, Laurel is booked with meetings which leaves Annie to get lost in this mystery book. Annie discovers this book is based on the life of the Duchess of Marlborough. Why would her Mom hide this book? It makes no sense to her but she wants to continue her research and takes the book to a local pub. While at the pub she meets Gus. Gus is intrigued that Annie has this book as it is a very rare book. A friendship is sparked and Annie discovers Gus has more to do with his book then she thinks. From the cobblestone streets of London to to the allure of Paris, Annie, Gus and Laurel uncover secrets and truths they never knew existed all the while learning about the zany and mysterious Duchess.
Part mystery and part heart-warming family story, I’ll See You in Paris is a classic page turner. I loved the weaving in and out of past and present. The story of Annie and her Mom fit seamlessly within the factual, bold life of Gladys. Gable has a way to entice the reader from the beginning and take them on a journey where you never know what’s around the corner. I was surprised at what I learned at every chapter and where the story went, more reason to make this hard to put down. I can’t wait to see what Gable has in store for her readers next as I heard her next novel will be set in Nantucket! Hello, perfect setting by a fabulous author? Can. Not. Wait. In the meantime I was excited to send Michelle some questions about her ideas for this book and some fun facts about her as well. See my interview below and make sure to add I’ll See You in Paris to your must-read list ASAP!
BLISS BEAUTY BOOKS INTERVIEW with Michelle Gable
- What brought you to the idea to write about the Duchess of Marlborough?
Artist Giovanni Boldini is a central character in my debut novel A Paris Apartment. Back in the Gilded Age, you weren’t anyone unless he painted you and so I studied every person Boldini rendered. When I stumbled upon Gladys Deacon, I knew she had to get top billing in a future novel. She’s too delicious to leave to history!
I used dozens of the Duchess’s expressions, mannerisms, and real-life stories throughout the novel. Yes, she disappeared from her palace. Yes, she turned up in a dilapidated Grey Gardens-style manse forty years later. Yes, she chased people with guns. My only problem was picking from the litany of crazy.
- Your descriptions of the settings within the books were so real. Did you visit the locations within London and Paris that you discuss in the book?
Thank you so much for the compliment! I try to visit the settings of my books. I’ve been to Paris several times for work but after A Paris Apartment launched I went with my husband and daughters. I wrote bits of I’ll See You in Paris while we were there and parts of our trip made it into the manuscript. My youngest daughter was interested in Notre Dame’s gothic architecture, including its famous rose windows, so I made reference to that. My oldest daughter noticed that tourists bought luggage at Galeries Lafayette to cart home their purchases, another sidebar from the book. Also Île Saint-Louis enchanted us all and so I decided it’d be center stage in the conclusion!
Visiting the locales isn’t necessary, but it gives added context and texture and provides an excellent excuse to travel!
- What was your favorite fact that you learned through your research about Gladys?
It’s impossible to pick! One fact that first attracted me to Gladys Deacon was the rumor she had paraffin wax injected into her nose to maintain a “perfect Hellenic profile.” There’s some dispute as to whether this really happened and so it didn’t feature strongly in I’ll See You in Paris.
Also, I found her relationship with Winston Churchill comical. He was her husband’s cousin and best friend. He drove Gladys bonkers, and she tried to repay the favor. One of her favorite ways to irritate both Winston and her husband was to compare Churchill (unfavorably!) with Hitler: “When you think how hard it is to create a rising in a small village, well, [Hitler] had the whole world up in arms! He was larger than Winston. Winston couldn’t have done that!”
She had moxie, I’ll give her that.
- How did you come up with idea of Annie and Laurel? Do you find it difficult to weave in a fictitious story with factual events?
I wanted a modern-day element to the story, but couldn’t use the 2010s as the timing wouldn’t mesh with the true-life aspects of the novel and the fact I wanted to use the 1970s as backdrop. The 9/11 angle struck me as ideal because the tragedy affected so many. Those weeks after the attacks were so insecure and unsure and that very much reflects Annie’s life when we meet her. In addition, since large portions of the story take place at the tail end of the Vietnam War, the two periods serve as interesting contrasts. Two wars: one very much supported (at least at first), and one vastly out of favor.
Regarding the character of Laurel, I wanted to tackle a mother-daughter relationship in this novel. It’s again a counterpoint to the historical storyline as Gladys had a challenging relationship with her own mother and was never a parent herself.
Sometimes it’s difficult to weave together truth and history. Other times it aligns perfectly and you can’t believe it worked out! Both of my novels are based on lesser-known historical figures—perfect for fiction. Not much is documented so I can fill in the details with my imagination. I adhere to real timelines and events as closely as possible but sometimes tinker with things for the sake of plot.
- As a writer, where is your favorite place to write?
Unfortunately I don’t usually have a choice! I write whenever and wherever I have a spare minute. I wrote much of I’ll See You in Paris in pencil at various softball complexes throughout Southern California. If given a choice, however, I prefer to write outside, specifically at the pool or beach. We are a few blocks from the ocean and in the summer I love going in the late afternoon and writing while my girls play in the surf.
- Name 3 blissful things that you can’t live without?
Massages, lightweight cashmere for San Diego “winters,” the ocean.
- What is the first thing you do when you complete a book?
I am terrible about “shutting down” and resting before jumping into the next thing. If it’s a first draft I force myself to take a break before editing. For final drafts I force myself to wait before starting a new project. Other than that, I’m like most writers…we take a photo of the screen where it says “THE END.”
- What was the last book that you read?
The Ambassador’s Wife by Jennifer Steil. So great!
- While on tour what is a must-have beauty product in your make-up bag?
Neutrogena makeup remover wipes and La Prairie eye cream.
- Are you looking forward to any books that are coming out in 2016?
So many! The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelly Rowley, Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood, The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield, Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany, to name a few. I read an early copy of The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and it’s as amazing as everyone says!
*Thanks to St. Martin’s press for sending a copy for review.