But back from a forced sojourn in a Swiss clinic, while covering the last steps on the path to rehabilitation at the family château in the country, Nardi meets Hannah Van Evan from Florida, vivacious, full of joie de vivre, outré Hannah with an h, arrived at the old pile of charming stones to catalogue its valuables and to show him that maybe an authentic kind of bliss could be within his reach if only he wanted to... As sparkling and bittersweet as the champagnes and as fragrant and alluring as the savons the characteristic affiches popular at the time were trying to sell you, its not one of those eventful romances and, though the storyline is engaging and complex in a more immaterial way, finely explored emotions and feelings remain in and on themselves the driving force of the plot.
"We invented love of course." She laughed. During the Middle Ages, the French came up with the idea of love as we know it today. "But I won't rub it in: We also invented diplomacy." Thanks to Gaufre and Angry for the buddy read (still in progress, but I'm greedy like that) https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/... I never would've seen this book had it not been for Christina's beautiful review last year and Gaufre 5 stars
Ivory immerses the reader instantly in this very first scene, painting a vivid picture of the room, Hannah's dress, Besom's overwhelming stiffness and grilling of her, right down to the lighting and tension passing between the women -- and I found myself turning the pages one after another without distraction. The bussinessman, part of the sterotypical nouveau riche of the day, craves respectibility by means of the uppercrust art community, and by marrying his spinster daughter to a famous name such as the de Saint Valliers believes he's achieved that particular societal pedigree. However, the utter emotion and attachment he put into his work as an artist overwhelmed his ability to deal with the responsibility of success, and he fell into boosting his courage to deal with the stresses of life by becoming an ether addict. Although Nardi at first is too caught up in his obession (like any addict) of acquiring more ether, Hannah's fresh view of life enchants him, and he can't help but get caught up in her in turn. Though Nardi is certainly portrayed as the overly sensitive and cynical artist, Ivory also shows his rebellion against his family's lifelong dependence on him, and the strain it puts on his self-worth. I loved how Ivory showed us the path that Nardi takes to dig his way out of his addiction, and his strength and insite in understanding that no one can "fix him"; only he could fix himself. Regardless, Hannah's fresh and straight forward love of life rubs off on not only Nardi, reawakening him to the beauty that can be living and loving, but it even chips away at the outter crust of the hardened and stiff Amelia Besom. The culmination of all the plotlines in the end is beautiful and believeable, and Ivory takes you right up to the end wondering how Nardi is going to get out of the contracted marriage agreement in a satisfying way to the story.
Have you ever felt like you opened the perfect book for the perfect moment for maximum enjoyment? The issues in and around addiction are woven through the text, but with a light hand. If you have been touched by the addiction dynamic in your own life, this book holds even greater appeal and the text more meaning. I was anxious the whole time I was reading because I loved both lead characters and felt the inevitable "big misunderstanding" or "forced separation" coming around every corner, which is the usual impetus for the plot climax/resolution. Ivory said in a roundtable on the All About Romance site: "Complex plots don't mean a separation of the protagonists at all.
(Also, I don't care if he never outgrew his childhood pet name -- "Nardi" is a pansy-ass monicker for your hero.) At one point we had a 25-page scene of conversation between the H/h as they discussed turnips, then translating telegrams from French to English, then back to turnips. I had to keep reading just to see how long the exhaustive nothingness was exploited.) Because this is a romance novel, I'm assuming there was supposed to be sexual tension in this particular scene -- but I didn't give a rat's ass either way.
In the world of Bernard de Saint Vallier -Nardi- bliss was ether. Nardi was the answer to his familys prayers. His pieces were sought after by members of high society and provided his family with their necessary income. Within days, the young woman became Nardis bright spot. Nardi was not always likable but familial bits and pieces kept surfacing.
Flowery descriptive writing full of imagery I dont deem necessary to the book. This read like an enjoyable classic. Characters and writing with shading and shadows. Definitely one of the best books Ive ever read.