“Letters from Paris,” by Juliet Blackwell

Juliet Blackwell

Reviewed by Johnnie Bernhard

Juliet Blackwell’s Letters from Paris is solid reading entertainment with a lovable protagonist, Claire Broussard, whose small-town Louisiana beginnings lead to tragedy. Blackwell builds suspense without sacrificing seriousness or believability, two common victims of the mystery genre.

Perhaps that’s the key to Blackwell’s novel – everything about it is “just right.” It’s neither overdramatic nor simplistic. The plot is not complicated, although it does provide enough intrigue to keep the reader turning the page.

While some characters may border on cliché, Blackwell’s inimitable Claire is well-rounded and possesses the kind of Cinderella charm unique to those strong, working-class women with workaday smarts.

Claire returns, in this story, to her south Louisiana roots, leaving a high-paying job in Chicago for the end-of-life care of her beloved grandmother.

While home, she finds a sculpture that her great-grandfather mailed home from Paris after World War Two. With her grandmother’s blessing, Claire travels to Paris in search of the subject and artist of the sculpture.

During her journey, Claire finds a series of letters written by the woman immortalized in that work of art. Uncovering the tragic life of this Belle Epoque woman, Claire discovers, as well, a new love—and nothing can be better than falling in love in the City of Lights.

The sharp contrast between South Louisiana and Paris supplies the right backdrop for rendering Claire’s new life and love, for representing her changing fortune during trying times.

The prose, here, is comfortable, and the story is romantic in an old-fashioned sense but rendered in refreshingly modern tones. The sweet reminder of true love and the powerful meaning of family is neither mawkish nor silly, and it extends the remarkable precedent set in Blackwell’s women’s fiction debut novel, The Paris Key.

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