Book Tour Review: Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson

Monday, March 21, 2016
Title: Moonlight Over Paris 
Author: Jennifer Robson
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 352
Published: January 2016
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

It’s the spring of 1924, and Lady Helena Montagu-Douglas-Parr has just arrived in France. On the mend after a near-fatal illness, she is ready to embrace the restless, heady allure of the City of Lights. Her parents have given her one year to live with her eccentric aunt in Paris and Helena means to make the most of her time. She’s quickly drawn into the world of the Lost Generation and its circle of American expatriates, and with their encouragement, she finds the courage to pursue her dream of becoming an artist.

One of those expats is Sam Howard, a journalist working for the Chicago Tribune. Irascible, plain-spoken, and scarred by his experiences during the war, Sam is simply the most fascinating man she has ever met. He’s also entirely unsuitable.

As Paris is born anew, rising phoenix-like from the ashes of the Great War, Helena realizes that she, too, is changing. The good girl she once was, so dutiful and obedient, so aware of her place in the world, is gone forever. Yet now that she has shed her old self, who will she become, and where, and with whom, does she belong…?

Through these three historical books and her three different women protagonists, Jennifer Robson has faithfully recreated some of the most fascinating times of the 20th century with a keen eye. From before the Great War's devastation to after it, Robson has carefully imagined how women like Helena, or Lilly before her, would have coped, dealt, and lived during such trying times. Even without the benefit of having previous reading Somewhere in France and After the War is Over, Robson's newest makes for a cohesive story than can be read as a standalone novel. With the fighting of WWI over, Helena's individual struggles here in Moonlight Over Paris -- to belong and to live the life she chooses, not one that is chosen for her -- might not have the same scale of emotion as the two earlier novels, but still leaves an impression.

Helena's journey really begins when she leaves scandal and England behind to spend a year in France. As a 28 year old unmarried woman, Helena wants a chance to live the life that would make her happy on her terms and takes steps to do so. Once she claims the first victory and makes it to France on her own, with her eccentric and wonderful aunt Agnes to help, she begins to flex her independence and her artistic talents. Here, the story and Helena really began to grow as a character. Early on Helena is a bit wide-eyed and naive with a worrying lack of curiosity, but her sheltered existence as an invalid daughter of an earl makes it believable. Once she lives a little, loves a little, she sounds and feels more like a rounded person with a circle of friends and hobbies. She grows into herself, and truly becomes her own person, with her own choices and mistakes. It's a slow and subtle journey, but one that is authentic and realistic.

There are a few main reasons that this novel isn't rated higher than 3 out of 5. First among them is that I never really felt strong emotions and the love between Helena and her love interest, the awkward and freckled American Sam Howard.  I liked this novel, but this was the central romance that should have caught me up with feelings of longing, and happiness; and it just wasn't the engaging relationship I needed in order to invest feelings. Helena took a bit of time to really come alive as a character, as Sam did when introduced later, but the two of them as a couple did not work for my romantic preferences. Other readers' mileage may and will vary, but the story of Helena and Sam being a couple just lacked passion promised. It also feels way to drawn out -- the outcome is foregone and the time spent getting there feels overextended.

Contributing to my continued lack of personal emotional connection to the novel were Ellie's circle of friends. Like Sam, there is very little depth to any of their presentation. They pop in and out of Ellie's life, but she rarely asks about their home life, or gets to know them individually. It's frustrating because Etienne, Mathilde, and even Daisy had potential to be more. I loved Helena's eccentric Aunt Agnes and her progressive attitude, but even she is hardly a well-rounded and dimensional character when looking back on Moonlight Over Paris. Helena is the best example of the novel's available characters, but the secondary and tertiary characters definitely suffer in comparison and in development.   

Set during the 1920s and set in picturesque places like Antibes or Paris, it's easy to see the version of history that Jennifer Robson invents here. Art is as much a part of the novel as a character; the feel of Paris in the 20s is vibrant and alive. Moonlight in Paris is a descriptive novel and shows itself in setting details large and small. Though this ended up not a perfect read for me, I did enjoy the few hours I spent in this France with Robson's vivid version of what life may have been like. I needed more depth from the characters to fully engage in this specific novel and while that didn't happen, I can definitely see myself trying her other novels and protagonists to try and find a bitter fit.

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Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 29
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book

Tuesday, March 1
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, March 3
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Monday, March 7
Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, March 9
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Friday, March 11
Review at Bookish

Monday, March 14
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, March 16
Review at Reading Is My SuperPower

Friday, March 18
Review at She is Too Fond of Books
Review at Worth Getting in Bed For

Monday, March 21
Review at I’m Shelf-ish

Wednesday, March 23
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, March 24
Review at Creating Herstory

Friday, March 25
Review at A Holland Reads
Review at New Horizon Reviews

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