August 16, 2021
Genre/Categories/Setting: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction, Famous Author, WW11, London
*This post contains Amazon affiliate link
Welcome to my stop on Harlequin Trade Publishing’s 2021 Summer Blog Tours for Historical Fiction.
Thanks #NetGalley @HarlequinBooks for a complimentary eARC of #TheBookSellersSecret upon my request. All opinions are my own.
The Bookseller’s Secret is a story about real-life literary icon Nancy Mitford told in two timelines: present day and the 1940s. In the past timeline, Nancy is a discouraged writer who is tempted to abandon her writing career when she decides to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is fighting in the war. A French officer encourages her to write a memoir to reignite her passion for writing. In the present day timeline, a young woman also searching for writing inspiration in the midst of her own life changing events joins the search for Nancy Mitford’s long lost manuscript. There is a great deal of mirroring between the past and present day timelines in this dialogue-driven story.
Hotel de Bourgogne, Paris VII
There they are, held like flies in the amber of that moment—click goes the camera and on goes life; the minutes, the days, the years, the decades, taking them further and further from that happiness and promise of youth, from the hopes…and from the dreams they dreamed for themselves. —Nancy Mitford,The Pursuit of Love
“Alors, racontez!” the Colonel said, and spun her beneath his arm.
Nancy had to duck, of course. The man was frightfully short.
She laughed, thinking of all the times the Colonel made this demand. Racontez! Tell me!
“Allô—allô,” he’d say across some crackling line. “Were you asleep?”
He might be in Paris, or Algiers, or another place he could not name. Weeks or months would pass and then a phone rang in London and set Nancy Mitford’s world straight again.
“Alors, racontez! Tell me everything!”
And she did.
The Colonel found Nancy’s stories comical, outrageous, unlike anything he’d ever known, his delight beginning first and foremost with the six Mitford girls, and their secret society. Nancy also had a brother, but he hardly counted at all.
“C’est pas vrai!” the Colonel would cry, with each new tale. “That cannot be true!”
“It all happened,” Nancy told him. “Every word. What do you expect with a Nazi, a Communist, and several Fascists, in one family tree?”
But the Hon Society was the past, and this gilded Parisian hotel room was now, likewise Nancy’s beloved Colonel, presently reaching into the bucket of champagne. How had she gotten to this place? It was the impossible dream.
“Promise we can stay here forever,” Nancy said.
“Here or somewhere like it,” he answered with a grin.
Nancy’s heart bounced. Heavens, he was ever-so-ugly with his pock-marked face and receding hairline, the precise opposite of her strapping husband, a man so wholesome he might’ve leapt from the pages of a seedsman catalogue. But Nancy loved her Colonel with every part of herself, in particular the female, which represented another chief difference between the two men.
“You know, my friends are desperate to take a French lover,” Nancy said, and she tossed her gloves onto the bed. “All thanks to a fictional character from a book. Everyone is positively in love with Fabrice!”
“Bien sûr, as in real life,” the Colonel said as he popped the cork.
The champagne bubbled up the bottle’s neck, and dribbled onto his stubby hands.
“You’re such a wolf!” Nancy said. She heaved open the shutters and scanned the square below. “At last! A hotel with a view.”
Their room overlooked Le Palais Bourbon, home to l’Assemblée nationale, the two-hundred-year seat of the French government, minus the interlude during which it was occupied by the Luftwaffe. Mere months ago German propaganda hung from the building: DEUTSCHLAND SIEGT AN ALLEN FRONTEN. Germany is victorious on all fronts. But the banners were gone now, and France had been freed. Nancy was in Paris, just as she’d planned.
“This is heaven!” Nancy said. She peered over her shoulder and coquettishly kicked up a heel. “A luncheon party tomorrow? What do you think?”
“Okay, chéri, quoi que tu en dises,” the Colonel said, as she sauntered toward him.
“Whatever I want?” Nancy said. “I’ve been dying to hear those words! What about snails, chicken, and port salut? No more eating from tins for you. On that note, darling, you mustn’t worry about your job prospects. I know you’ll miss governing France but, goodness, we’ll have so much more free time!”
Nancy was proud of the work the Colonel had done as General de Gaulle’s chef du cabinet, but his resignation made life far more convenient. No longer would she have to wait around, or brook his maddeningly specific requests. I’ve got a heavy political day LET ME SEE—can you come at 2 minutes to 6?
“It’s really one of the best things that could’ve happened to us,” Nancy said. “Oh, darling, life will be pure bliss!”
Nancy leaned forward and planted a kiss on the Colonel’s nose.
“On trinque?” he said, and lifted a glass.
Nancy raised hers to meet it.
“Santé!” he cheered.
Nancy rolled her eyes. “The French are so dull with their toasts. Who cares about my health? It’s wretched, most of the time. Cheers to novels, I’d say! Cheers to readers the world over!”
“À la femme auteur, Nancy Mitford!” The Colonel clinked her glass. “Vive la littérature!”
Excerpted (with permission) from The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable, Copyright © 2021 by Michelle Gable Bilski. Published by Graydon House Books.
Meet the Author, Michelle Gable
Michelle Gable is the New York Times Bestselling author of A PARIS APARTMENT, I’LL SEE YOU IN PARIS and THE BOOK OF SUMMER. Her fourth book, THE SUMMER I MET JACK, is based on the real-life romance between Jack Kennedy and Alicia Darr.
Michelle grew up in San Diego and attended The College of William & Mary, where she majored in accounting, as most aspiring writers do. After a twenty-year career in finance, Michelle now writes full-time. She lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband, two daughters, and what is quickly becoming a menagerie: one cat, one bunny, and a lab/jindo mix recently rescued from the dog meat trade in Thailand.
Michelle can be reached at http://www.michellegable.com or on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest at @MGableWriter.
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