Maude Pichon, a runaway from Brittany avoiding a lurid arranged marriage, had no other choice but to fall prey to being the "average-looking friend" next to Isabelle, a girl desperately in need of a husband in order to soothe the fretting heart of her social climbing mother, the countess.
Things swirl into action as she meets the rest of the "Repoussoirs" in the agency, normal to ugly looking girls in need of jobs and willing to be drab for the sake of a decent income and attending social gatherings, balls, operas, and other highly exclusive festivities. Dukes with dreamy gazes, artists with scruffy composures, and elegant gatherings encompass Maude's world as she attempts to keep her identity a secret from Isabelle, who she was hired to be "ugly" next to. But at the turn of the century with advancing technologies, gorgeous fashion, and the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Belle Epoque Paris, secrets don't stay secrets for long. And everyone knows it.
I really enjoyed the simplicity of Belle Epoque! It was an easy read and truly captured the perfectionism of the beauty era in Paris, France. Historical fiction is sure to be a rising genre and Elizabeth Ross does not fall short of the intriguing stories intertwined with flowing dresses and forbidden glances! Ross made me ponder the value society puts on beauty and the inner-motives of friendships. She opened my eyes to the necessity of not only genuine feelings in relationships, but following one's own dreams as opposed to what others want you to do. I recommend this novel to anyone searching for a quick, Euro-historical read displaying strong, compelling, and developed characters with classic plot twists!