Friday Book Whimsy: Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding

I was 3 years old when the bell of Hollywood — Grace Kelly — married Prince Rainier III of Monaco. Had I been older, I would undoubtedly have been as enamored of that romantic story as I have been of all of the love affairs and marriages of the Windsors in Great Britain. I love me some queens and princesses.

I recently read a novel about two women who helped make the wedding gown for Princess Elizabeth, now queen of Great Britain. I found that I loved that story primarily for the descriptions of the gown and the wedding. Because I so enjoyed that story, when  Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding showed up as a recommendation, I was on it!

The novel is like eating a French pastry and drinking a cup of café au lait in Paris. Or more accurately for this book, in the French Riviera. It is light and delicious and I loved every word of it.

It is a novel, so except for the wedding, not much of it is factual. Still, every time the authors — Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb — would describe how Grace Kelly was dressed, I would get busy with Google images to see for myself. The book took way longer to read because I spent a considerable amount of time looking at pictures of the oh-so-beautiful Grace.

It is a love story, but don’t let that put you off. The romance is part of the fun. Sophie Duval is the proprietor of a perfume shop in Canne, France. She inherited the love for the making of perfume from her father, from whom she learned about flowers and herbs and the chemistry involved in perfume making.

It is 1956, and Hollywood actress Grace Kelly is in Canne for the film festival. The immensely beautiful woman is one of the most popular people in the world, and her presence is noted by the papparazi who follow her everywhere. One day, to escape a photographer, she runs into the perfume shop and asks Sophie to hide her, which she does. The two women become friends. But Sophie is unexpectedly attracted to the English photographer, and they, too, develop a friendship.

The story told by the two authors is — well, to use a word that would have been popular in the late 1950s when the story takes place — DREAMY. In addition to the romance involving Sophie and James (the photographer), you also have the romance involving Grace Kelly and her prince.

The descriptions of the area are so vivid that I actually could see the colors of the Mediterranean and taste the food and wine. It really was great story-telling.

Great romantic fluff for a day when a reader is feeling blue.

Here is a link to the book. 



Friday Book Whimsy: The Dollhouse

searchThe Barbizon Hotel for Women is/was a real thing. The hotel was a residence for women only from its inception in the late 1920s until it began allowing men as guests in 1981. The Barbizon was a safe place for young women new to the big city to live. Located on the upper east side of Manhattan, it was the home for many women trying to make their place in the world – women such as Lauren Bacall, Sylvia Plath, Grace Kelly, Eudora Welty.

The Barbizon Hotel may as well be one of the characters in author Fiona Davis’ captivating debut novel The Dollhouse. The Barbizon is the star of the show.

The novel is a back-and-forth story of two women, both who live in the Barbizon. One of the women, Darby McLaughlin, comes from a small town in Ohio, and is sent to New York City in 1952 by her bossy and obnoxious mother, who pays for her to attend a secretarial college in NYC. The second story is contemporary. Rose Lewis is a journalist who lives with her boyfriend in what used to be the Barbizon, but is now condominiums. However, a few of the units are still inhabited by former residents of the old historic hotel.

Rose is dumped by her boyfriend, and through a series of somewhat admittedly unlikely events, she becomes acquainted with a couple of the women who still live in their original apartments. Originally interested in these women primarily to write a story for the magazine for which she works, Rose eventually gets caught up in these two women’s compelling and interrelated stories about life in the 1950s, love, jazz music, and murder.

It is all quite delicious.

I think part of me liked the story so much because I found the whole notion that there was a hotel for women in NYC so interesting, and when I did some research and learned about some of the real-life residents who lived there, I was hooked.

Sometimes novels with back-and-forth storylines can become confusing and jumbled, but I found Davis’ handling of the style to be smooth and flowed well. Despite the fact that I was horrified at some of the choices Rose made in her search for the story, I liked the characters and found them to be realistic and interesting.

I think The Dollhouse would be a great read for a book club.

Here is link to the book.