Written by Katie Condo
Natalie Meg Evans has written a tour de force in her second novel, The Milliner’s Secret. Part espionage thriller, sweeping romance and battle for good and evil – and with just the right dash of a feel good Oscar-winner. If you’re anything like me you’ll often find yourself asking: what would I do in this situation? Where would my loyalties lie?
Coralie de Lirac is running from something. It’s Paris in the 1930s and Coralie is a girl with no money, no connections in an unfamiliar city. On top of all that, she has little grasp of the French language. But the mysteries only deepen from there. In reality she’s actually Cora Mason, a British factory girl with a penchant for fine hats. Before Paris, there was an abusive father, a runaway mother, a dead-end factory job where she toiled away the hours for little pay and even less. As you can probably imagine, she has nothing to lose.
Enter Dietrich; a German with just enough money to keep a kept woman. Coralie is young, gorgeous, and most importantly, impressionable, and not acquainted with the finer things in life. And that’s exactly what Dietrich provides as it’s easy to see how she could easily get swept up by such a dashing figure. That is, until the world drops from beneath her. Dietrich leaves without a word, leaving Coralie abandoned with no money, no roof over her head, and no food in her stomach. It’s back to square one for our heroine.
I found myself completely swept up in all the intrigue. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s everything from sabotaging other shops to hiding refugees. I wanted the bad guys to lose and the good guys to win, and I’m not ashamed of it. These characters felt as if they were sitting in my living room, sharing their old war stories. I’m a sucker for a good, old-fashioned tale and if I’m not hooked by the first 30 pages or so, chances are the book isn’t going to keep my interest. This novel did that in spades.
As far as descriptions go they were spot on (at least, I’d like to think they are). Every time Coralie sat in a Paris café so did I. When she laughed, I laughed and when she cried, I reached for the tissues. It’s as simple as that. The author has the ability to make you believe in Coralie as if you were personally watching her story unfold right in front of your eyes.
Coralie is a great lead character, but the supporting cast is just as engaging. Throughout we’re introduced to a multitude of colorful characters, including spies, both German and French, fashion models, Jews in hiding, and a slew of others who help vividly color her world. At the top of my list is Una. She’s a firecracker outlaw woman with a somewhat checkered past. She’s everyone’s mysterious relative, the one who always tells those embarrassing stories and has a way of making them sound absolutely thrilling. She knocks the sense of French freedom out of the park.
If you like a good page-turner chock full of espionage with a helping of good old-fashioned romance on the side, The Milliner’s Secret might be the right fit for you. Here is a book capable of transporting you back to another time and place, the kind where you’ll awake from the fantasy thinking you just returned from war-torn Paris. After my introduction to Coralie and the gang I’d definitely give Natalie Meg Evans another chance, and I have a feeling she’s going to quickly become one of my favorite new authors.