Natalie Meg Evans’ The Milliner’s Secret

Natalie Meg Evans’ The Milliner’s Secret dragged me in from the opening pages and never let go. As The Milliner's Secretthe novel begins in 1937, Cora Masson works in a London hat factory while trying to avoid her abusive Belgian father. The only thing he’s given her is a working knowledge of French, which she uses to flee to Paris when a near-stranger, German art dealer Dietrich von Elbing, offers her his valet’s seat on the boat train.

That impulsive decision changes her life in ways she could never have imagined. With forged documents, she becomes Coralie de Lirac, turning her back on England and making her way in the cut-throat world of Parisian fashion as a milliner. Working her way up in the trade, Coralie never hesitates to fight for her future, for the people she loves, and, as the war sweeps through France, for survival.

Her complicated, changing relationship with Dietrich von Elbing forms the core of the story. Dietrich’s secrets are deeply buried, gradually peeling away like onion skin. An ace pilot for the Luftwaffe in World War I, the approach of another war draws him back into the military as a respected senior officer. His relationship with Coralie serves to protect her—when it’s not proving to be her greatest danger. Drawn together and driven apart, Coralie and Dietrich move through one another’s lives and through the dangers of occupied Paris.

The backdrop of war mixes with the more intimate world of high fashion and the highly competitive, and sometimes vicious, millinery trade. Even as the Nazi occupation dims the Paris lights, women want their hats, and Coralie often serves French customers in the morning and German officers’ wives in the afternoon. The Milliner’s Secret overflows with fascinating background details about fashion and hats, nightlife, feast and famine.

Evans’ previous novel, The Dress Thief, explored the world of high fashion in Paris in the 1930s, ending before the war reached Paris. Although The Milliner’s Secret is not a sequel, supporting The Dress Thiefcharacters from The Dress Thief reappear in Coralie’s life, sometimes as friends, sometimes as foes, sometimes as both, as well as new characters, some trustworthy, some not.

I don’t want to give away too many details: this is a book filled with surprises best unspoiled. The Milliner’s Secret is one of the most gripping novels I have read in a long time.

Both The Milliner’s Secret and The Dress Thief are available as ebooks from U.S etailers. Paper editions are available (fast delivery and free shipping) from the Book Depository in Great Britain.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl Bolen
    Sep 20, 2015 @ 16:07:51

    Sounds like a fabulous book! Is this written by one of your fellow GH finalists?



  2. oosorio456
    Sep 20, 2015 @ 16:08:38

    Interesting post

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Libby Cole Author
    Sep 20, 2015 @ 17:57:17

    This sounds so interesting, like being a fly on the wall at a fascinating time in history.



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