1. It's set in Paris. Think Montmartre. Pere Lachaise. The Jardin du Luxembourge. All during the Belle Epoque. What could be better than that?
2. Maud Heighton, a young English lady, is studying to be an artist at the Academie Lafond with several other young women. But Paris is expensive, and she is poor.
"Paris ate money. Paint and canvas ate money. Maud's training ate money. Paris yanked each copper from her hand and gave her back nothing but aching bones and loneliness ... She had thought herself rather wise in the ways of the world until she came to Paris. Every day that passed, she was in danger of thinking a little less of herself"3. The air of Gothic mystery surrounding Christian Morel and his opium-addicted sister, Sylvie, for whom Maud is hired to be a companion. At first everything seems perfect, but then, in an unexpected twist, Maud finds herself caught up in their dark secrets...and in a life she never imagined.
4. The art. It's 1909 and Paris is alive with the art of Pisarro, Cezanne, Degas, Matisse and Picasso. Then there's Maud's own paintings and those of the other young artists she meets. I just wish this novel came with full-color illustrations!
5. Robertson's writing. It's richly detailed, stylish and smart, and her characters have depth and spunk. I found this book a hard one to put down.