The Paris Secret
I’m always up for some good romantic suspense. I don’t care if it’s a paper book or an eBook – if it’s good, I want to read it. I had high hopes for The Paris Secret as I started it. The heroine’s voice is likable, and the setup of the story sounds like any traveler’s worst nightmare. However, a few too many over-the-top secondary characters dampened my enthusiasm.
Maya Sinclair is a rather interesting heroine. She comes from a mixed-race background of some sort, but even she does not know her true heritage. Though she mentions this fact on a few occasions during the story, it does not overwhelm the story; it’s simply who she is. Despite having just survived a nasty breakup, Maya seems comfortable in her skin. She’s upset and grieving the relationship, but you can tell she’s not completely lost and helpless over it. She still has herself even if she doesn’t have a man. As the story begins, she has cashed in the ticket for what was supposed to be a romantic getaway and is going to drown her sorrows while seeing France.
When she arrives in Paris, she learns that due to a mixup with hotel rooms, she will need to temporarily share her room with a snooty art history professor. On her first day Maya goes sightseeing with her tour group and happens to witness the art history professor struggling with a man. She tries to intervene, but the only thanks she gets for her efforts is a confrontation with the professor back at the hotel. When Maya later goes up to her room, she finds the professor dead. Due to the manner in which the professor was found, French police consider Maya a suspect and she finds herself trying to get to the bottom of the mystery while also trying to clear her name.
What ensues is quite the adventure story. As it turns out, a reporter had been in contact with the professor not long before her death and this man, Simon Gerard, takes an interest in the case – and in Maya as well. As the two try to unravel the secrets of what the professor was up to in Paris, they find themselves drawn into the world of a secret society allegedly created around artifacts given to the Black Nun of Moret, an illegitimate mixed-race daughter of Maria Theresa, Queen of France and wife of King Louis XIV. They find themselves in numerous tight spots that will have readers on the edge of their seats and, while the plot is somewhat Da Vinci Code-esque, it is not overwhelmingly so. In addition, while the romance between Maya and Simon is a little slow to get started, once it heats up, it really gets going.
Even though the mystery at the heart of this book is purely fiction, the Black Nun was a real person named Louise Marie Therese, and the interplay between modern day suspense and 17th century secrets makes for a rich, fascinating story. The story of the Black Nun’s life has some poignant qualities to it and the author captured this well, allowing readers to sympathize with this long-dead woman’s story as well as connecting it to a present-day mystery.
The main weakness for me in this book lay with some of the secondary characters. Sometimes it really does not matter if secondary characters feel rather flat, especially if all they need to do is move along certain parts of the story. However, in this case, some of the characters seemed more like types rather than people. For instance, Maya befriends a gay couple on her tour. Rather than seeming like real people with interests other than their sexual orientation, they just presented as “the gay guys.” They’re not at all unlikable, but I did find their limited characterization disappointing and it also made it difficult to see why these people in particular would mean so much to Maya, especially considering that she had just met them at the begining of the action in the story.
Still, even with some of the flat supporting cast, the book is an exciting read. The romance takes a bit of a backseat for much of the book, but it’s still important to the the story, and Maya and Simon are both appealing leads. Those who enjoy plot-driven thrillers will no doubt want to try The Paris Secret. It’s not perfect, but it is enjoyable.