Madam in Lace (The American Madams Book 3)

Written by Gini Grossenbacher
Review by Valerie Adolph

Celeste Bazin was born in Paris but has spent six years as a prostitute in New Orleans and San Francisco. Now she has returned to France to try to find her mother. The France Celeste finds in 1857 is ruled by Napoléon III. It is a place of great wealth and great poverty and minimum social justice. Thousands of homeless people wander the streets looking for food. In a café Celeste meets up with a group of men who plan to overthrow the emperor and bring justice and peace back to the French people. They give her food and a place to stay. Celeste agrees to take a message from them to an associate at the royal palace at Compiègne.

From there, further messages as well as Celeste’s search for her mother take her and her escort Odéon westwards to the Atlantic coast of France, where she finds her mother, who is very ill and is a political prisoner on the rocky island of Mont St. Michel.

The story of Celeste’s quest brings to life a little-known period in French history: the disastrous rule of Napoléon III. He destroyed the old tenements of the city and built the beautiful city we know today but caused great hardship to his people while he himself lived the outrageously expensive life of an emperor. The author vividly expresses this social injustice and turmoil while presenting a story of a girl’s quest to find her mother.

The novel is well researched with widely varying scenes—palaces, prisons, street life—

carefully described and brought to life. An element of romance contrasts with Celeste’s previous life as a prostitute; this helps to underline effectively her role as part woman-of-the-world, part innocent young girl. Third in a series.