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Mademoiselle Victorine    by Debra Finerman order for
Mademoiselle Victorine
by Debra Finerman
Order:  USA  Can
Three Rivers, 2007 (2007)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Lisa Respers France

Paris, France in the 19th century is one happening spot. Art reigns, and over the next few years, salons featuring artists, writers and intellectuals are all the rage. It is in this world that Victorine Laurent lives, seeking only to be the kept mistress of a wealthy man. But when she becomes the muse of avant-garde painter Edouard Manet, her life changes and she becomes one of the most sought after women in the city of lights.

The lushness of historical detail and inclusion of real life figures like Edgar Degas, James McNeill Whistler and Sarah Bernhardt help push the story along even if the protagonist is not the most sympathetic. As a young girl alone in the city and with no family, Victorine is forced to do what she must to survive. After a scandalous nude portrait of her debuts, Victorine is elevated to the status of an extremely desired courtesan, and the young girl who was previously sympathetic seems to grow more petulant and hard.

It is her affair with the Duke de Lyon, the power behind the throne of Emperor Louis-Napoleon, which opens up to her a world of luxury and opulence that she has always craved. Yet Victorine quickly learns that all that glitters is not gold and her feelings for the enigmatic genius Manet complicate her life and force Victorine to look deeper inside herself.

The novel really gets it right when it comes to the period detail. The reader can practically taste the pastries and champagne. With art, politics and social commentary as a backdrop, Mademoiselle Victorine will appeal to lovers of historical fiction who don't mind a healthy dash of romance thrown in, and a main character who takes a bit to grow on you.

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