Friday, April 12, 2013

City of Lights by Melika Dannese Lux

Title: City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier
Author: Melika Dannese Lux

Genre: Fiction (Historical / 19th Century / Paris / Cabaret Singer / Romance / Adventure)
Publisher/Publication Date: Books in My Belfry, LLC (10/23/2012)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked enough.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A beautiful cabaret singer with a tragic past fights her evil Russian patron to find her true love and her estranged brother.
Reading Challenges: 7 Continents, 7 Billion People, 7 Books, Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: I'm not wild about it, but it fits the book -- the Eiffel Tour features rather prominently in the story.

First line: It was an age of glistening enchantment--the perfumed night air, the verdant trees lining the Champs Elysées, the decadent cabarets and dance halls offering solace in a glass of champagne, or comfort in a lady's arms.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow if you want something quick, diverting, and Parisian.

Why did I get this book?: I love all things Paris!

Review: This 156-page novel harkens back to the Victorian potboiler and 19th century penny dreadful: the characters are a bit predictable and the plot is breakneck, and that's where the pleasure of this book comes from -- you know what you're going to get, and it's fluffy, junky fun.

Set in 1894, the novel follows the angelically beautiful, likely virginal, excessively talented Ilyse Charpentier, star of Paris' cabaret scene. Affectionately nicknamed 'La Petite Coquette', she's been financially supported by the cartoonishly evil Count Sergei Rakmananovich whose obsessive designs have ruined more than one rising star (including Ilyse's bestie Manon).

Still, the Count is especially obsessed with Ilyse and goes to wild lengths to force her to marry him, including an elaborate scheme to befriend her estranged brother, threatening Ilyse's One True Love (a feisty Englishman named Ian), and kidnapping her. There's some insta-love for Ilyse, a harrowing family loss, lots of pep talks, and some over-the-top insidiousness that is laughable and entertaining. (With the kind of week I've had, this book was just what I needed!)

Jenny Q from Let Them Read Books summarized this book perfectly, I think, and if you read this as a kind of vaudevillian take on the damsel-in-distress motif, you'll have a good time. At the moment, the book is available to borrow for Amazon Prime members, so if you're also in need of a Moulin Rogue-ish dramatic adventure, give this one a try!


  1. I was wondering what you would think of this! Thanks for mentioning my review. I had fun with it, but I was surprised to see all of the 5-star ratings. I kept thinking that if it had been fleshed out into a longer, more realistic and meaningful story, it could have been pretty good.

    1. I was grateful to see your review as I, like you, was surprised at the wild swoons -- this was good pastiche of historical fiction and vaudeville-type melodrama, and great at that -- but not my typical tastes for a meatier read. But as you said, with the plot of a musical or opera, this fits right in and works!

  2. Oh, you've tempted me, and with it available to Prime members, I am off to grab this one up right away. I need something like this. Fun and junky is like brain candy, and that's always in order. I also am not wild about the cover, but they can't all be winners, I guess. Thanks for the fun review and the push to go borrow it. I hope I can get to it soon.

    1. Oh, do -- it really is just fluffy fun -- perfect for when your brain is protesting but you want some entertainment!