Tuesday, May 8, 2012

PARIS NOIRE by Francine Thomas Howard

Publisher: Amazon Encore
Date Published: September 20, 2011
ISBN 9781935597971
Historical Romance
Reviewed by Lynne
Obtained via publisher.

It is Paris, 1944, at the end of World War II, years since Caribbean immigrant Marie-Thérèse Brillard left Martinique to begin a new life in Paris. Now fifty years old, Marie-Thérèse is enjoying her independence since being deserted by her fortune-seeking, white, French husband. Her two children, of mixed race, Collette and Christophe, are her main concern, and she worries over their future happiness since her own interracial marriage was such a failure.

As France celebrates the American forces driving the Germans from France, both Collette and Christophe soon find themselves involved with their hearts’ desires, Collette with a white Frenchman, Jean-Michel, and Christophe with a sultry waitress, Genvieve, who never shares that she is actually married and whose husband is a soldier in France’s guerilla liberation force. Meanwhile, Marie-Thérèse unexpectedly finds herself enamored with a black American soldier who sets her pulses to racing but whom she feels will never give her the time of day, believing he will instead choose her friend, Glovia Johnson, a flamboyant jazz singer who has her eye on him, too.

As things heat up amid the turbulance of this unforgettable era, the Brillards are soon forced to come together as a family and make difficult decisions that will forever affect their lives in ways none could have predicted.

PARIS NOIRE by Francine Thomas Howard is a unique story that shares an experience between African-American, Caribbean, and French cultures that few may ever have a chance to know.

I admit that I expected much more from PARIS NOIRE than what I received. There were so many foreign terms throughout the story, especially in the beginning, that it interfered with the pacing of the novel. I do understand why they were used but, for someone with little knowledge of French, it made PARIS NOIRE difficult to read at a comfortable pace. I literally struggled in my attempt to read this story quickly. I was halfway through PARIS NOIRE before I finally got ‘engrossed’ in it. Then, it became more understandable and enjoyable. Only then did the pace of the reading pick up, which helped me make it to the end.

I am not one to write negatives about a book, but I was so disappointed with PARIS NOIRE. I had devoured Howard’s debut novel, PAGE FROMA A TENNESSEE JOURNAL, and expected PARIS NOIRE to afford me what I enjoyed with Howard’s first novel. Unfortunately, such was not the case.

In the beginning, there were so many characters, I had difficulty keeping them all straight. They were good characters but confusing to the reader. It just seemed boring as I tried making sense of everything. When halfway through, PARIS NOIRE picked up steam, and only then was I able to sort things out and go with it. I finally understood where Howard was going with her book, and by the end, I did come to really enjoy the characters and care about them.

I think the main puzzle here is that there were so many characters to keep track of in the beginning, so many different stories going on in PARIS NOIRE, that it took something away from the overall plot of the story. Fortunately, however, Howard does a nice job of tying up all the loose ends, so the reader does not go away feeling as if something was missing or left out.

If one is interested in enjoying a cultural mix in a historical setting, such as PARIS NOIRE delivers, then by all means, pick up a copy of PARIS NOIRE and kick back for a few hours. Once you get past the boring, confusing aspects of this story, I guarantee things will fall into place, and you will begin to enjoy the best that PARIS NOIRE has to offer. Any fan of historical or romantic fiction will enjoy this by book’s end. But, if you lack patience, then I doubt you will be able to plow through PARIS NOIRE and give it a fair read.

Other than what I have mentioned, I still believe Howard to be a very talented writer and will not put aside any of her future work just yet. PARIS NOIRE contains a lot of interesting history that may appeal to a wide range of readers. Just be forewarned that it may take a bit of work to get through it all. Although not as good as her debut novel, I still liked it by the time I finished reading it. The overall concept is original and interesting.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

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