So .. I was supposed to put my review up yesterday and the feature today .. but ... I put it on the wrong days of my calendar :). Please look for my review tomorrow. In the meantime, read about this book below and enter to win your own copy!
Marc’s black hair, parted to the right side of his head, flawlessly hugged his scalp, a stark contrast to his body as he slumped into the chair at the empty table. His eyes scanned the tables between the light sculptures, squinting with disappointment.
Dora descended the staircase, walked over to his table, and said, “I forgot to tell you that on the last night, we like to dine at the grill. We can speak English there without any fear.”
Marc left the lonely waiters and sprinkling of passengers in the golden room to follow Dora up the staircase. Fifty years old, Dora appeared far younger with her hair pulled back into a small, tight bun. She glided through the dining room in a long, slender cream-colored evening dress. Marc walked with a spring to his step and smiled as he loathed the idea of eating alone on the last night. Dora met Marc on the first day out and immediately adopted him into her circle, but he did feel a tint of self-consciousness for he stood out among them, at nearly half their ages.
“Race you,” Dora said at the base of the stairs to the aft foyer.
“You will not,” Marc said.
Marc climbed the stairs and lost her as they both ran across the foyer to the doors of the grillroom perched upon the aft deck of the ship.
“It feels damn good to have a man chase me again,” Dora smirked at Marc as she swished side to side.
“Marc, were you the rabbit or the fox?” David said with a smile as he looked up from his menu.
“You know the answer to that question,” Nigel said. He put down the wine list. Once they’d dined, Dora tapped her wine glass with her fork. “It is time for a small celebration.” The Café Grill did not have one single empty seat. Some passengers sat at tables with extra chairs. The room was loud, as if they were inside an Irish pub. David’s long, thin face looked up with a curious smile in his bright gray eyes. Nigel rested his head of thin gray hair upon his hand as his round face studied Dora’s intentions.
“Crossings for the gods,” Dora said, raising her glass to her friends.
After each one stood and proclaimed mockingly the number of times they had safely crossed the sea with the help of the gods, David stood. “I, David, have crossed the sea with the help of the gods thirty-two times.”
Nigel teased David. “Tell us your secret to such luck on the waves, old friend?” Dora sat back in her chair and cocked her head to the side. Marc noticed that David’s hand had a slight twitch to it, even as he strained to smile.
He looked out over his friends after a pause and said, “It is simple. I never sail British!”
“Here, here, my friends! A toast—never sail British!” Dora said, raising her glass to meet the other three. The gaze between David and Dora told Marc there was more to the toast than he could grasp.
“Now, let us dance.” Dora rose from the table as they left the Café Grill for the lounge. Marc followed Dora, her arms locked with David and Nigel, down the long staircase into the smoking room. Passing into the lounge, the air sparkled with the tune of Now It Can Be Told. Four fluted light pillars surrounded the dance floor, but only a few were dancing. In the four corners of the lounge, glass murals stretched the entire length of the walls.
While dancing, Dora asked Marc, “So, does she have a name?”
“Does who have a name?”
“The woman, silly.”
“There is no woman. Remember, I am single.”
“Marc,” her eyes narrowed and she tilted her head back to look up at him, “a young attractive man like you does not just run off to Paris for nothing. Either you are running away from a woman, or running toward one,” she smiled. “Maybe both! Am I right?”
“Her name is Veronica and we broke up this winter,” Marc said, his eyes glancing up and away toward the band.
“I see. And the other one?” she pushed.
“There is no other one. Besides, the breakup is really a blessing.”
Marc then looked back at Dora’s face as he warmed up to her charm. He reflected upon her charisma, which made her beauty all the more enchanting, even if she was in her fifties. “I was a premed student and hated it, because, to be honest, I was only doing it to make Veronica happy. I think this change will be good for me. I have always loved art and this will be my choice. I let her make all my major decisions. It felt good, but it was not actually good for me.”
“Oh God, Marc, please be careful.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t think much will happen with Germany,” Marc said. He believed she had switched to the war talk he had read in the papers.
“I am talking about the women of Paris.”
Marc glanced at each corner of the room as he danced, quickly studying the massive panels of glass painted in gold, silver, and platinum leaf, with designs of ships, gods, and goddesses.
“A game?” Dora said, poking him.
“We will guess which one the other likes best,” she said, glancing at the murals.
“You go first.”
Dora pointed to the one called the Birth of Aphrodite, a collection of massive, tall ships, with a woman rising from the foam of the sea.
“You’re good,” Marc nodded, smiling.
Marc then pointed toward the one called The Rape of Europa. Dora shook her head side to side and then pointed behind Marc to a set of large pocket doors separating the lounge from the smoking room, decorated with a golden lacquer mural spanning the opening. Horses, women, and angels flew through the sky to catch stars and blow wind, a radiant golden sun at the noonday position in the sky.
When he arrives at l'École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, more ominous signs surface. There are windows covered with tape, sandbags shielding the fronts of important buildings, whispers of Parisian children leaving the city, and gas masks being distributed. Distracted by a blossoming love affair, Marc isn't too worried about his future, and he certainly doesn't expect a Nazi invasion of France.
Marc has a long journey ahead of him. He witnesses, first-hand, the fall of Paris and the departure of the French government. Employed by an ambassador, he visits heads of state, including the horribly obese gray-haired Mussolini and the charismatic Hitler. He witnesses the effects of the tightening vise of occupation, first-hand, as he tries to escape the country. He also participates in the French resistance, spends time in prison camps, and sees the liberation of the concentration camps. During his struggles, he is reunited with the woman he loves, Marie, who speaks passionately of working with the resistance. Is she working for freedom, or is she not to be trusted?
About the Author: A native of California, David received a BA in Philosophy and Religion at Point Loma Nazarene College in San Diego. After returning from a European arts study program, he became interested in the history behind the French Resistance during World War Two. Writing fiction has become his latest way to explore philosophical, moral and emotional issues of life. The Siren of Paris is his first novel. You can visit him at http://www.thesirenofparis.
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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title through Promo 101 to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received and I was not required to post a positive review.