A captivating novel based on the story of the extraordinary real-life American woman who secretly worked for the French Resistance during World War II—while playing hostess to the invading Germans at the iconic Hôtel Ritz in Paris—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue.
“A compelling portrait of a marriage and a nation at war from within.”—Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network
Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous doors to be welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude, the hotel’s director. The Auzellos are the mistress and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamour and glitz to take their minds off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets that they keep from their guests—and each other.
Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann Goëring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even more secrets and lies. One that may destroy the tempestuous marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very proper Frenchman. For in order to survive—and strike a blow against their Nazi “guests”—Blanche and Claude must spin a web of deceit that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish.
But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone—the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself.
Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.
Advance praise for Mistress of the Ritz
“No one writes of the complexities of women’s lives and loves like Melanie Benjamin. In Mistress of the Ritz, Benjamin brings wartime Paris brilliantly to life. . . . Intense, illuminating, and ultimately inspiring!”—Elizabeth Letts, New York Times bestselling author of Finding Dorothy
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 3.40(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Melanie Benjamin is the New York Times bestselling author of Alice I Have Been, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, The Aviator’s Wife, The Swans of Fifth Avenue, and The Girls in the Picture. Benjamin lives in Chicago, where she is at work on her next historical novel.
Read an Excerpt
It’s her shoes that worry her, if that can be believed. Of all the things this woman should be concerned about on this horrific day, it’s her shoes.
But in her defense, given who she is and where she is headed, her shoes are a problem. They’re filthy, caked with dried mud, the heels worn down. And all she can think about, as her husband helps her off the train, is how Coco Chanel, that bitch, will react when she sees her. How they’ll all react when she shows up at the Ritz with filthy, worn-down shoes, her ripped stockings practically disintegrating on her shapely calves. While she can’t do anything about her stockings—even Blanche Auzello would never dream of changing her stockings in public—she is desperate to find a bench so that she can rummage through her suitcases and find another pair of shoes. But before she can speak this wish, she and her husband are swept up in the wave of bewildered—well, what the hell are they now? French? German? Refugees?—who are flooding out of the Gare du Nord, eager, terrified, to see what has become of Paris in their absence.
Blanche and her husband are part of the great unwashed; dirt and cinders have coagulated in pockets of perspiration beneath their chins, behind their ears, their knees, in the crevasses of their elbows. Greasy faces streaked with soot. They haven’t changed clothes in days; Claude packed away his captain’s uniform before they left his garrison. “To be worn again,” he assured Blanche—or more likely, she suspected, himself. “When we fight back. As we most certainly will.”
But no one knows when, or if, that time will come. Now that the Germans have taken France.
Outside, the pair finally push their way out of the crowd so that they can catch their breath, try to corral all the luggage that is slipping out of their hands; when they packed, nine months ago, they had no idea how long they’d be away. Automatically, they look for a taxi in the usual line outside the station entrance, but there are none; there are no cars at all, only one lone cart, hitched to the saddest horse Blanche has ever seen.
Claude glances at the horse, takes in its heavy breathing, the foam dribbling from its mouth, ribs so defined it’s as if the flesh has been carved, and shakes his head. “That animal will never see another morning.”
“You!” Blanche marches over to the man sitting on the cart, a man with small eyes and a gap-toothed smile.
“Yes, Madame? Ten francs. Ten, and I take you anywhere in Paris! I have the only horse and cart within twenty kilometers!”
“You unharness that horse right now. You bastard, that horse is about to collapse, can’t you see? He needs to be stabled, fed.”
“Crazy bitch,” the man mutters, then sighs and gestures toward the street, teeming with humans on foot. “Don’t you understand? The Nazis took every healthy animal when they came. This nag is all I have to make a living.”
“I don’t care. I’ll pay you twenty francs if you just let this animal lie down for a while.”
“If he lies down, he won’t get up again.” The man glances at the poor animal swaying on its crooked legs, then shrugs. “I figure I have three, maybe four jobs left, and then he’s done. And so am I.”
“I’ll do it myself, you—”
But Claude has reached his wife and dragged her away, even as she still lunges toward the hapless horse and his owner.
“Shh, Blanche, shh. Stop. We need to go. You can’t save every broken thing in Paris, my love. Especially not now.”
“Try and stop me!” But she does allow her husband to steer her away from the station. Because one important fact remains. The Auzellos are still a long way from the Ritz.
“I would have telegrammed to have someone meet us,” Claude says, mopping his forehead with his filthy handkerchief; he looks at it and winces. Blanche’s husband craves a clean handkerchief as much as she craves clean shoes. “But . . .”
Blanche nods. All the telegraph and telephone poles linking Paris to the outside world had been cut during the invasion.
“Monsieur! Madame!” Two enterprising young boys appear, offering to carry the Auzellos’ bags for three francs. Claude agrees, and they start to follow the urchins through the streets of Paris, normally so chaotic. Blanche can’t help remembering the first time she tried to navigate the circle around the Arc de Triomphe, so many lanes full of honking vehicles going every which way. But today, she’s stunned by the complete absence of traffic.
“The Germans are confiscating every car,” one boy, a tall, pale lad with blond hair and a broken front tooth, says with the cockiness of a youth in the unusual position of knowing more than his elders. “For their army.”
“I would blow it up first, rather than give my car to the Boche,” Claude mutters, and it’s on the tip of Blanche’s tongue to remind him that they don’t own a car. But she doesn’t; even Blanche knows that now is not the time to make that particular point.
While the ragtag little group straggles along, she becomes aware of something else: silence. Not just from the crowd of stunned citizens stumbling out of the station, spreading out through the city like a muddy puddle of rain, but everywhere. If there is one constant in Paris, it is talk: Café tables crammed with volatile patrons arguing about the color of the sun. Sidewalks, too, crowded with Parisians stopping to make a point, jabbing a finger in a companion’s chest as they debate politics, the cut of one’s suit, the best cheese shop—it doesn’t matter, it never matters. Parisians, Blanche knows too well, love to gab.
Today, the cafés are empty. The sidewalks, too, are bare. There are no noisy schoolchildren in uniforms playing in the vacant gardens. No vendors singing while they push their carts; no shopkeepers haggling with suppliers.
But she feels eyes upon her, she’s sure of it. Despite the warmth of the cruelly sunny day, she shivers and tucks her hand beneath her husband’s arm.
“Look,” he whispers, nodding his head skyward. Blanche obeys; the windows beneath the mansard roofs are full of people peering out furtively behind lace curtains. Her gaze is pulled toward the sky, caught by something shining, reflecting the light, up on the very rooftops.
Nazi soldiers, carrying polished rifles, looking down at them.
She starts to tremble.
They haven’t encountered any soldiers until this moment. The Germans had not reached Nîmes, where Claude had been garrisoned at the start of the Phony War. Even on the train to Paris, where everyone was terrified that they would be strafed by bombers as so many people who fled had been; even though every scheduled—and unscheduled—stop caused all conversation to cease as they held their breath, afraid of hearing German words, German boots, German gunshots. Through it all, the Auzellos hadn’t encountered a single Nazi.
But now that they are here, home, they do. It’s really happened, goddammit. The Nazis have really conquered Paris.
Blanche takes a breath—her ribs ache, her stomach churns, and she can’t remember when they last ate—and walks on in her destroyed shoes. Finally, they come to the enormous paved square of the Place Vendôme; it, too, is empty of citizens. But not of soldiers.
Blanche gasps; so does Claude. For there are Nazi tanks in the square, surrounding the statue of Napoleon. An enormous Nazi flag, with its twisted black swastika, hangs above several doorways—including that of the Ritz. Her husband’s beloved Ritz. Hers, too. Their Ritz.
And at the top of the stairs leading to the front doors stand two Nazi soldiers. With guns.
There’s a clatter. The boys have dropped the bags and are sprinting off like hares. Claude looks after them.
“Perhaps we should go to the flat instead,” he says, taking out his dirty handkerchief again. For the first time today—for the very first time since Blanche has known him—her husband looks uncertain. And that’s the moment when she understands that everything has changed.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was the first of Melanie Benjamin’s historical fiction books I have read, and it certainly will not be the last! Based on the lives of Blanche Rubenstein Azuello and her husband, Claude, managing director of the Ritz Hotel in Paris at the time of its Nazi occupation, Mistress of the Ritz looks at a side of World War II that I had never considered. In this intriguing story, different worlds collide when American-born aspiring actress Blanche comes to France and meets Claude, a devout Catholic and Frenchman to the core. The two marry after a whirlwind romance and only then discover that their expectations of love and marriage are highly divergent. Young and free-spirited, Blanche is dubbed “Mistress of the Ritz” because her dynamic personality spurs growth in the hotel’s business. When the Nazis take over “his” hotel for use as a headquarters, Claude must cater to the wants and demands of those who are defiling the country he loves dearly as he fulfills the responsibilities of his job. Because of the services he is forced to provide and the growing feeling of distance in their marriage, Blanche loses respect for her husband and is drawn into the French Resistance movement by her outspoken friend, Lily Kharmayeff. The story alternates its focus between Blanche and Claude while jumping back and forth in time. Although at first this was a bit hard to get used to, the formula worked, giving me a fuller appreciation of both sides of this complex, fascinating couple and the world in which they lived. The intensity picks up greatly in the second half of the book, which is filled with unexpected twists and turns that make it hard to put down. I also loved how so many famous people were included along the journey, including Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, and Marlene Dietrich, among others. I highly recommend Mistress of the Ritz to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or has a special interest in World War II. I am grateful to have received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley but was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are entirely my own.
Melanie Benjamin never disappoints! Her prose and her heartfelt story lines pull you into the story. Not only are you a voyeur of the story, but you become part of the story. I have not loved a character in such a long time as I do Blanche. Knowing this is based on true events, makes it even better. 5 stars across the board. Thank you Melanie!!!!
Mistress of the Ritz by bestselling historical fiction author Melanie Benjamin, features four main “characters”. The Mistress herself, Blanche Ross, an exuberant American flapper girl, is married to Monsieur Claude Auzello, the director/manager of the Hotel Ritz, Place Vendome, Paris. The Auzellos were real people and did live in the Ritz and run it, although not much is known about them. The iconic Hotel Ritz, designed and built in 1898 by the equally iconic Cesar Ritz, is the third and perhaps most fascinating character. (Cesar’s partner was also iconic-Auguste Escoffier.) Many well-known and illustrious guests inhabited the elegant rooms and exquisite bars and dining rooms. And the fourth “character” is World War II and the German occupation of Paris, with its Luftwaffe headquarters in the Hotel Ritz. (All true, too.) The story is told in the third person, alternately by Blanche and Claude, beginning in 1923, when they first meet. The debonair Frenchman’s heart “popped” when he beheld Blanche’s youthful beauty and flamboyant American personality. She gave him the nickname, “Popsy”. “Blanchette”, as he calls her, is fond of throwing vases at him- her passion is boundless. The coming World War II, and subsequent German occupation of Paris looms over the story of Blanche and Claude, who it turns out have many secrets. When the Germans march past the Arch of Triumph, will the Auzellos cope, and will they and the Ritz survive? Haunting, compelling, troubling, emotional are all words I would use to describe this book. If we changed the character’s names, the city and the war- we would have the story of “Gone With Wind.” Claude is Ashley, Atlanta is Paris, Tara is the Ritz and perhaps Hemingway can be Rhett. Certainly, Blanche is Scarlett and both women dealt with a major war. (And Scarlett liked to throw vases, too.) We readers love epic stories where seemingly ordinary people are shaped by a profound moment in history. But will Blanche succeed in growing up and finding herself, better than Scarlett did? “As an armchair historian, I've always been drawn to stories from the past, stories that still resonate today—stories we may not know or remember. Untold stories, that explore the hidden corners, the locked closets behind the known historical record. Deeply personal stories, because history only comes alive when we remember that it was made by real people, people just like us. This is why I write novels about these people: Because facts are for the historian, but emotions are the province of the novelist.” Melanie Benjamin, Author Author Benjamin has made the story of the Ritz, the war and the real people, just like us, come alive in a way that will continue to resonate with me. Readers will feel like they are sitting in the Ritz bar drinking martinis with Blanche. Did Blanche and Claude live happily ever after? Just like Scarlett, we don’t really know what their “tomorrow” brought, but I’m glad their story has been told. Thanks to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine and Delacorte Press for a digital review copy. This is my honest review.
If you love historical fiction this story is for you. I enjoyed how well the story intertwined real historical events and what could have been on these real people's minds during the time the Nazi's occupied Paris. Melanie Benjamin's storytelling will engage you from the first page. This was a novel that was hard to put down, and you rooted for the Resistance all the way through. Love the author's note at the end about the real lives of the characters in the book and the history of the occupation of France during WWII.
Give me any book,written by Melanie Benjamin, and I’m happy. This one, her latest is as good and interesting as all her other Novels! Set in Paris, at the famous hotel, The Ritz, it. tells the breathtaking story of Blanche and Claude Azuello. It’s the time of the German occupation, and it’s heartbreaking. I don’t want to give any secrets away, just suffice it to say...you must read this book. I could not put it down. Melanie Benjamin has a way with words that is so wonderful, she tells her stories in the most unique way...it is so very easy to become involved! I absolutely and unabashedly loved it! Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing for the egalley! In exchange for an honest review..
I am a sucker for a good historical fiction. I love being transported into a different time, a different place, and learning something new. I loved being thrown into a story that is painted so beautifully that I feel like I am there living in the past through the character's eyes. That’s exactly what Melanie Benjamin provided for me. Mistress of Ritz is set in Paris during WWII that paints a whirlwind of a love story between American Blanche and Frenchman Claude. The book explores cultural differences, the rich and the famous, infidelity, passion, and struggle. There is a slight slow-down section towards the middle but the second half picks up and becomes addicting. It was so easy to lose myself in the book and become completely invested in the characters and the story. I also loved the mention of familiar names in the book such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. It just added another aspect of familiarity, warmth, and comfort to the book for me. Thank you Netgalley and Delacorte Press for an e-ARC of this beautiful book in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.
True-to-life stories are the best, and Mistress of the Ritz is no exception. It moves us into the Hotel Ritz, Paris, during WWII and right into the remarkable lives of Claude and Blanche Auzello, the hotel manager and his wife. We are so swept into the lives of the hotel guests and the life of the city that the two are as vivid and well- developed as characters themselves. The appearances of Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso, Marlene Dietrich and other famous guests are not mere mentions; their residences in Paris and particularly at the Ritz are well-chronicled, exposing interesting and revealing incidents about their own lives and their relationships with each other. Also famous, or infamous as it were, are the Germans who commandeer the Ritz as their headquarters: Goering, Stulpnagel, and others provide an accurate depiction of the men who so thoughtlessly and cruelly consumed the lives of others. Claude and Blanche Auzello keep the Ritz running like the heart of Paris that it is for discreet and discriminating patrons. Claude manages everything hotel and does it well. Blanche is the heart of the social atmosphere, the perfect companion to Claude's management acumen. Then they come. The Nazis. Life as it has always been is drastically changed, and the duties of Claude and Blanche must be adjusted, without appearing to be so. What the Auzellos and so many others are able to accomplish, under brutal and dangerous conditions, requiring unbelievable sacrifice and suffering, is miraculous and inspirational. This is a love story, on so many levels. Claude and Blanche Auzello were married for over twenty years and were never so in love as at the end. Parisians' devotion for their city and their love of France permeates the narrative, declaring the patriotism of postwar humility and pride in their countrymen. Mistress of the Ritz will win your heart. It is to be savored - and remembered. Thank you to Netgalley and to Random House.
Mistress of the Ritz is a typical historical fiction novel. Good plot, good research and the book will take you back in history allowing you to see what the world was like when Blanche was Resistance while Claude used his contacts to convey wartime messages. Of course all of this is delightfully wonderful fiction. Recommend. Review written after downloading a galley from NetGalley
This book is about the lives of Claude and Blanche Auzello. It alternates back and forth, between the time they first met and the time during the German occupation at the Ritz. It tells about all of the ways that both Claude and Blanche helped the resistance without the others' knowledge. It tells how Blanche went from the life of an actress who partied her way through life to becoming a war hero, although that was only a select few. It also tells about her love/hate relationship with her husband and the thing that he put above all else.....the Ritz. This book was fascinating. I have read a lot about the Nazi's commandeering the Ritz for many of their higher up officers, but I have not read anything about Blanche. She was truly a brave and heroic woman who deserves to be remembered as such. I highly recommend this book, not just for fans of historical fiction, but by anyone with a love for a good story.
The best historical fiction novels entertain and move me while I’m learning about a time, place, event and characters that are new to me—Mistress of the Ritz ticks all those boxes and much more! A fresh new take on WWII novels, this story takes us to the Ritz, an elegant and world-renowned hotel in Paris which became headquarters of the German army during the occupation. Blanche and Claude, the hotel’s director and his wife, become caught up in a web of deceit, suspense, and survival. The characters were fascinating and multi-layered, and the author does a wonderful job of transporting readers to Paris and especially to the Ritz itself.
Thank you NetGalley and Delacorte Press for an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review. For anyone that's read Melanie Benjamin's works before, you know she dedicates considerable time towards researching all aspects of her novels. It clearly shows in Mistress of the Ritz, taking readers back in time to 1940s Paris amidst the chaos of World War II. This becomes the backdrop for Blanche and Claude Auzello's story, a Parisian couple living a life of exquisiteness as Director and Mistress of The Ritz Hotel. As the novel unfolds the story is told in alternating perspectives and sometimes alternating years, which at times can be tricky to follow. Nevertheless, readers become acquainted with the challenges of Blanche and Claude's marriage and the hardships endured during the Nazi occupation in France. Although this wasn't my favorite novel by the author, this was still an enjoyable historical fiction read that I'd recommend for any lover of the genre or WWII history.
“Mistress of the Ritz” was both an engaging and enjoyable read that I thoroughly recommend! For me, it was not only the amazing story it focused on but the captivating characters that were nuanced and as complicated as the time they lived in. The author was able to convey a tenderness between Claude and Blanche (the Master and Mistress of the Ritz) despite the constant tension that existed in their relationship. This tenderness and tension were woven throughout their tale of resistance and subterfuge that defined the Ritz during the German occupation. While the author notes actual history and biography were limited with regards to Blanche and Claude this does did not take away from the novel but rather only makes clearer what the author has done is create historical fiction at it finest. She has taken a fascinating story, researched it and colored in the details with her imagination and skilled writing. For all these reasons, “Mistress at the Ritz” did not disappoint and kept me reading well into the night! I was honored to receive a free advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the Publisher Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine in exchange for an honest review.
A fascinating glimpse of what life was like at the Paris Ritz during the German occupation and American liberation. We get to know Claude, the French manager of the Ritz and his American wife Blanche. Their tempestuous marriage is chronicled in this historical fiction story by Melanie Benjamin. Part of their issues stem from cultural differences, part result because they aren’t completely honest with each other. There are many famous patrons who flow in and out the story and the luxurious setting of the Ritz – Coco Chanel and Hemingway to name a few. And Germans too – Goring and Stupfnagel are real characters that populate the book. The book alternates timelines, but it is easy to keep the flow of the story straight. Like many French during the war, Claude and Blanche find ways to disrupt the German war machine. On the surface, Claude must serve the Germans who take over the hotel, but he has unique insight by their very presence at the hotel. Blanche plays a unique role as an American who also now speaks French and knows German from her childhood. She gets drawn into some dangerous assignments by a dear friend Lily. It was fascinating to read at the end that this was inspired by real people – I always find these to be the most interesting of historical fiction books. I had the pleasure of meeting Melanie Benjamin in February 2019 at a Denver book event and she spoke a bit about writing this book, so it was thrilling to read this. I recommend this one if you are a fan of WWII historical fiction.
This was an incredible story that needed to be told. In “The Mistress of the Ritz,” we learn about Blanche and Claude Auzello from the skilled storytelling of Melanie Benjamin who has done an excellent job in all her books with real people as her characters. Unlike her previous novels, this remarkable story was virtually unknown and in the words of Ms. Benjamin is indeed a “great big fat juicy story.” The setting is the Ritz between the 1920s and 1940s during the German occupation of Paris, where the Nazis make the glitzy hotel their headquarters. The life of the proper Frenchman and his free-thinking American wife is turned upside down as they each deal with the dangers surrounding them. The glamorous and colorful guests they serve add to this compelling story. Thank you NetGalley and Random House for providing me with an ARC of this excellent book.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this complimentary ARC in exchange for my honest review. Mistress of the Ritz, to paint it in broad strokes, is a story about love and war in France during the Nazi occupation. However, it isn't a flowery romance in the midst of a crisis, like some historical fiction that I've read. The story of Blanche Ross, an American who hoped to be a movie star, and Claude Auzello, a French hotel manager, is told through a combination of flashbacks and present-time (for the characters) storytelling. Sometimes flashbacks in stories can be a little confusing or hard to keep up with, but the dates are all at the tops of the chapters as things go back and forth between Blanche and Claude's point of view, so things were pretty easy to follow in this novel. When the story begins, Blanche and Claude, who met and were engaged to be married in the whirlwind space of about two weeks a few years back, have just returned from fighting for the French in World War Two. They return to the Ritz hotel in Paris, of which Claude is the manager, dirty, bedraggled, and tired - only to find that just as Paris is now occupied by the Nazis, so the Ritz has become a Nazi headquarters. They must now cater to the every whim of those evil men that Claude just fought against, and keep up the remarkable service that the Ritz has always been famous for. What's more, Claude and Blanche seem to be fighting kind of a war of their own in their marriage - against each other. Their marriage was spur of the moment, and as the book progresses they by turns fight each other and love each other - and learn at times how little they've really known about each other, despite having been married for several years now. It took me a bit to warm up to the book, as a lot of the beginning was just Claude and Blanche's back-and-forth arguing, however, things do progress past that and things turn more to the historical side, focusing on both the Resistance and those who collaborated with the Nazis. I found this interesting because there's lots of historical fiction that takes place during World War Two, but not as many that focus on Paris during that time, especially from the point of view of the wealthy who had less to worry about during the time, but all the same saw what was going on and played their own part in the events that were taking place. All in all I think this is a good addition to your historical fiction shelf!
Mistress of the Ritz is an engrossing historical fiction novel. It tells the story of Blanche and Claude Auzello during WWII, in occupied France. After a quick, whirlwind romance in Paris, Claude and Blanche married. Claude never considered the possibility that his new American wife would have difficulty in accepting her role as a French wife. He should have. Claude expected Blanche to cook, clean, satisfy his needs, and then look the other way when he took a mistress. Blanche assumed that her husband would be faithful to her. She realized too late that she’d made a big mistake. Although their marriage was turbulent, bitter, and hurtful at times, they stayed together. Blanche enjoyed her role as mistress of the Ritz until the Nazis stormed in, took over, and used the Ritz as their headquarters. During the German Occupation, the Auzello’s marriage difficulties rose to a new destructive level. Blanche looked upon her husband with disgust whenever he bowed to the Nazis and fretted over them. She was also fed up with him leaving in the middle of the night to be with another woman. So, Blanche changed, made friends, drank, and worked on a new purpose for her life. And, Claude didn’t like it one bit. Claude really wanted to tell Blanche his secret. He just wasn’t convinced that she was trustworthy enough. What Claude didn’t realize was, that Blanche was hiding something as well. A secret, that was as dangerous, and risky as his own. Although the pace of the book slows down at times, it is still captivating and enjoyable. If you love reading WWII historical fiction books, this may be just the read for you. Thank you, Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and NetGalley, for my advanced review copy.
Melanie Benjamin delivers a lusty rendition of the marriage of true life characters Claude and Blanche Auzello, spanning the time period between the 1920s and 1940s. Claude is the fiercely devoted Managing Director of the illustrious Hotel Ritz in Paris. There is an array of glitzy guests which include Hemingway, Picasso, Cole Porter etc. Iconic fashion designer, Coco Chanel has established residency at the hotel and is featured as a supporting character in the story. During June 1940, when the Nazis occupy Paris and take over the Ritz, everything changes. Claude must come to grips with serving the high-ranking Nazis who are billeted at the Ritz, despite his hatred of them. Claude himself is a former decorated French soldier who vehemently loves his country. Blanche is a former American actress who is struggling with a marriage to a “Frenchman.” The amazing wartime exploits of the pair is meticulously detailed . During the course of the story, a pivotal secret about Blanche is revealed. The true shocking ending to their story brought me to tears. I highly recommend this book.