Belle Epoque – Elizabeth Ross


When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service—the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive.

Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when the Countess Dubern needs a companion for her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, Maude is deemed the perfect foil.

But Isabelle has no idea her new “friend” is the hired help, and Maude’s very existence among the aristocracy hinges on her keeping the truth a secret. Yet the more she learns about Isabelle, the more her loyalty is tested. And the longer her deception continues, the more she has to lose.


I had such high hopes for this book, and none of my expectations were met.

Maude was whiny. She was very angsty, but a lot of her problems were mental hang-ups. If she swallowed her pride, half her problems wouldn’t have happened. I felt like her internal monologue wasn’t authentic at all. I found myself rolling my eyes at the descriptions of her reactions and her supposed feelings.

The conflict in the story was wrapped up in such a simple little box. Why would Maude WANT to reconcile with Paul, when he obviously didn’t respect her enough to listen to her? Especially after she had such unkind thoughts towards him. Maude seemed desperate for attention (from anyone), and validation for her physical insecurities.

Really, was was she so against her family? I’d have more sympathy for her if her whole escapade to France wasn’t caused by her father’s desire to look out for her in the first place. She made a huge life decision based on ASSUMPTIONS and conversations she overheard. There was no evidence that she tried making things work with her dad, which is so unbelievable since they’re each other’s only family.

If it was so easy for Maude to get a job she wanted by the end of the book (without even revealing her involvement as a repoussoir), why didn’t she do that from the beginning? Also, I don’t think it was fair of her to expose all the other repoussoirs without revealing herself. While that allowed the ultimatum to occur, it’s not as though she got consent from the other girls. She wouldn’t want to be all over the newspapers as an “ugly woman,” and I’m sure no one else would either.

Regarding Isabelle, the final scene with the Countess left a bitter taste in my mouth. Did the Countess really have no redeeming qualities? There wasn’t even a glimmer of hope that the two would forge a better relationship one day — just “revenge.”

How “sweet.”

Related Reading

  • Save yourself the trouble with this one
  • Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins (France done right)
  • The Elite – Kiera Cass (royalty done right)

Rating: 1/5


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