All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: April In Paris, 1921 by Tessa Lunney

on June 20, 2018

April In Paris, 1921 
Tessa Lunney
Harper Collins AUS
2018, 307p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Meet the glamorous, witty and charming Kiki Button: socialite, private detective and spy. We all have secrets – it’s just that Kiki has more than most … For fans of Phryne Fisher and Julian Fellowes.

It’s 1921, and after two years at home in Australia, Katherine King Button has had enough. Her rich parents have ordered her to get married, but after serving as a nurse during the horrors of the Great War, she has vowed never to take orders again. She flees her parents and the prison of their expectations for the place of friendship and freedom: Paris.

Paris in 1921 is the city of freedom, the place where she can remake herself as Kiki Button, gossip columnist extraordinaire, partying with the rich and famous, the bohemian and bold, the suspicious and strange.

But on the modelling dais, Picasso gives her a job: to find his wife’s portrait, which has gone mysteriously missing. That same night, her old spymaster from the war contacts her – she has to find a double agent or face jail. Through parties, whisky and informants, Kiki has to use every ounce of her determination, her wit and her wiles to save herself, the man she adores, and the life she has come to love – in just one week.

Full of witty banter, gorgeous frocks, fast action and skulduggery galore, April in Paris,1921 is playful, charming, witty, sexy, and very, very entertaining – and Kiki Button, the fearless, beautiful and blonde-bobbed Australienne ex-Army nurse, gossip-columnist-turned-detective, and reluctant spy, is a heroine to win hearts.

I have some mixed feelings about this one.

I love the idea. The 1920s are an interesting time – the war is over, it was a time of regrowth, some decadence, etc. It’s still a bit early for the threat of Germany to rise (although there are rumblings) and there was good clothes, music, dancing, eating, drinking, laughing etc. I don’t really care about Paris as a setting – someone told me recently that Paris sells books and I know it’s super high on a lot of people’s wish lists and loves. But I don’t really have much of an interest in it and I’m not drawn to it, so that part of the story didn’t really fill me with excitement.

Kiki (short for Katherine) is an Australian woman who has fled her wealthy family back to Europe, landing in London to link up with a friend whom she hopes can help her out with a job. Kiki’s father wants her to find a suitable husband and he’s cut her off from the family funds until she does. So Kiki gets herself a job as a sort of gossip columnist in Paris, attending lavish parties and writing about them for a London paper. It’s a whirlwind of dresses, cocktails and beautiful people.

But Kiki also has a bit of a secret past in the war. She worked as a nurse but also as a spy for an enigmatic ‘handler’ type who immediately knows when she’s back in Europe and sends her a message. He’s holding something over her head in order to get her to comply with his wishes for her to flush out a mole within his ranks.

Kiki is exhausting. I found the constant whirlwind of dances and drinking and events and socialising trying to be honest. They wake up late, meet in a cafe and drink and eat then go home and get dressed up for some event or other and spend more time drinking until the wee hours before stumbling home to bed and repeat forever. I’m not really into drinking, I get super bored reading about characters where all they do is drink from the time they get up. I find it incredibly tedious and although it’s probably true to the time it just becomes very repetitive and I tend to lose focus on the more important aspects of the story.

The spying plot was really interesting but it got bogged down a lot in Kiki’s phone interactions with her handler Fox which basically involves them quoting Romantic poetry at each other. I’m not sure why that’s a thing – Fox seems like one of those “cruel to be kind” type people who breaks someone before rebuilding them in his own mould. Kiki definitely has a lot of mixed feelings about Fox. She claims to not want anything to do with him and that if not for the blackmail she wouldn’t but there’s no denying she gets a rush from the spy work and that she’s quite good at it. Kiki is much more intelligent than she probably gets credit for – perhaps that’s all part of it. The pretty blonde partying Australian woman, the last person you’d suspect. I really liked reading about Kiki investigating, planning, extricating herself from situations, putting everything together. That was really enjoyable. By far the best part of the book. Despite the fact that I don’t really enjoy the character of Fox, I want to know more about him (not in relation to Kiki, just in general). Kiki does suffer in this book from the “everyone they know falls in love with them” sort of thing – even Fox, it would appear. This seems the first in a series, because several things go unresolved at the end, so I’m sure Kiki will reappear in another adventure in the future.

I liked parts of this but I found some sections a little bit of a struggle. However I think I’d probably read another Kiki book just to see where things go.


Book #103 of 2018

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