The publisher calls Katherine Mosby’s third novel a love story, but I believe it is more an exploration of a significant period in one woman’s life. When Lavinia Gibbs reaches her mid-thirties without receiving a proposal of marriage, her well-to-do New York family despair of ever seeing her secure with a husband. But men find Lavinia attractive, and she does become engaged – only to break it off with her fiancé and flee for Paris. It is the late 1930s, and conditions prove difficult there, but Lavinia receives a monthly income from her father, and she finds employment assisting Gaston Lesseur, who needs her to clear out his dead uncle’s apartment. As Europe moves toward war, Lavinia is increasingly drawn to Gaston, despite the fact that he is married and appears reluctant to share secrets with her.
I found the ending of this novel unsatisfying, but perhaps this is because Lavinia’s later life plays a part in the author’s second novel, The Season of Lillian Dawes, which I have not read. Lavinia is a likeable protagonist, even when we are shown her less admirable side. And Mosby moves the story along well, and succeeds in portraying a Paris beaten down by privation. An interesting commentary on how and why we love.