I am a sucker for period pieces; I love being taken a place that I myself can’t go today. So call your book Belle Époque and promise to show us this time in a new light? I am there. And Elizabeth Ross doesn’t disappoint. She takes us there and she gives us a really interesting set up at the same time: what if someone had an agency that hired ugly (or in the case of our protagonist Maude, plain) girls to make those of the middle and upper classes look better? How would that impact the girl’s esteem? How does that impact the relationships you make with the people that you are working and even the ones you aren’t?
For the most part, she handles this well. You really do get the sense that’s hard on the ego and you can see how easy it would be to start feeling that you are a part of the world when you still really aren’t. This alone makes the book definitely worth a read.
I do think the book falters at the end. I’ve never hidden the fact that I am a feminist, but I do think the ending of this book is too feminist. Both in terms of the end aspirations of Maude’s client and the actions that Maude herself takes. I also think it wraps a bit too neatly.
Still, this is a great first novel and I’m definitely looking forward to her next.
Verdict: Borrow it.