Title: The Riviera House
Author: Natasha Lester
Publisher: Hachette Australia, 2021
Natasha Lester is a New York Times bestselling author. Her novels have been translated into many different languages and published around the world. She lives in Perth, Western Australia.
The Riviera House is two stories told in alternating sections: 1940s Paris under Nazi occupation, and 2015 on the French Riviera.
The Paris story finds Eliane Dufont working at the Louvre. She falls in love with wealthy, charismatic artist Xavier Laurent. Xavier gives Eliane an engagement ring, makes love to her, then tells her that he will be leaving for London in the morning – without her! Furious, hurt and feeling used, Eliane throws the expensive ring at Xavier.
The Nazis begin looting Paris. Eliane secretly catalogues the thefts, hoping to trace France’s art treasures after the Allies invade. It is dangerous work. Hiding her knowledge of the German language, Eliane joins the French resistance with her brother Luc and sister Angelique.
The next time Eliane sees Xavier, he is with Field Marshall Hermann Goering. She is shocked and disgusted. She is also afraid that he might give her away because he knows she can understand their German conversations.
Luc, Angelique and Eliane aid the Allied invasion. But as secrets of the resistance are betrayed it becomes evident that there is a traitor among them. Who?
The Riviera story begins in 2015. Sydney woman Remy Lang is hiding from the world on the French Riviera after the death of her husband and daughter. Her interest in art leads her to a catalogue of Hermann Goering’s art thefts, in which she is mystified to find a photo of a painting she owns, one that has always belonged to her family. Thus begins a search for Remy’s past and the origin of the painting, in which she is assisted by Adam Henry-Jones, photographer to the rich and famous. Remy is horrified by their dark discoveries … and can it be true that she is descended from a Nazi?
The Riviera House is two love stories: the first is passionate, dangerous love, betrayal, heroism and finally, horror. The other is tender love and a mystery to be unravelled.
Natasha Lester weaves an intricate and suspenseful narrative through two contrasting worlds – the desperate poverty and danger that was Paris under the Nazis – and the twenty-first century glamorous world of the super rich. The Riviera House is a compelling read.
Reviewed by: Maureen Riches
Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group
Review copy provided by the publisher