ORCHIDS AND DIAMONDS, by Rosalind Laker
Laker's evocation of the world of haute couture at its haute-est, of France on the edge of World War I, is letter perfect. It's a frenetic and glamorous world inhabited by those in the fashion houses, by the many Russians who prefer Paris to Moscow, such as young and handsome Nicolai Karasvin, a sculptor who has worked with Auguste Rodin's studio. Young Jeannine Cladel arrives in Paris to make her mark in the fashion world, a world that her selfish and scheming elder sister has already conquered. After Nicolai returns to Russia and is reported killed in the war, Juliette - who has borne her lover's child - marries a mutual Italian friend and moves to Venice. She meets one of her heroes, Mariano Fortuny, the famous designer, and goes to work with him. Historical fiction with real historical characters is so satisfying; I'm not only being entertained but am leaning about a man - the famous Spanish textile genius Mariano Fortuny - I've always been curious about. This is a 4+. Take it to the beach!