Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Mistress of the Ritz - Historical Fiction Review

Goodreads:  Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin

Rating:  Loved it!
Source:  Publisher

Description:  Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous doors to be welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude, the hotel's director. The Auzellos are the mistress and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamour and glitz to take their minds off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets that they keep from their guests--and each other.
Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann Goring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even more secrets. One that may destroy the tempestuous marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very proper Frenchman. For the falsehoods they tell to survive, and to strike a blow against their Nazi "guests," spin a web of deceit that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish.

But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone--the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself.

Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.

Genre: Historical Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I really enjoyed a previous book by this author and this blurb really caught my attention.

My Impression:  So I just spent the last few days in the Paris in the most luxurious hotel in the world during the 20s through the 40s.  It was glorious and glamorous, and terrifying and heartbreaking all at once.  My hosts were the manager and the mistress of the Ritz themselves - Blanche and Claude Auzello and they told me all their secrets.  They're maddening and sympathetic and I wanted to hug them both at different times as well as give each of them a shake now and then.   But they were utterly and completely living breathing people who just stepped off the page along with the ever present grandeur of the Ritz herself.  Even when crawling with heavy booted German officers and the sharp nosed demanding and occasionally vicious Coco Chanel. 

I discovered Benjamin's gift for making the past and the characters come alive in her previous book, The Girls in the Picture but while that one occasionally dragged a bit this one gripped me and pulled me in from the beginning.  I think part of the difference is that the focus is fairly narrow here.  While there are lots of side characters the main characters are Claude and Blanche and the ups and downs of their marriage and the setting is primarily the Ritz which is almost a character itself.   As well, the constraints and fear living directly under the nose of the occupying forces make for compelling reading.  I figured out Blanche's secret fairly quickly but I think there was even more suspense wondering when it would come out and what would happen when it did. 

This was a compelling historical fiction with characters that seemed to jump of the page.  They were fascinating and flawed and I felt like I knew them by the end of the book.  Melanie Benjamin is becoming my favorite historical fiction author and I always know when I pick up her books that I will be transported to another time.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  At this point I think I'll read anything that Melanie Benjamin writes.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy historical fiction this is a must read.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *


  1. You've got me intrigued as well. Thanks for the review.

  2. Lord..i want! So many elements I love and the setting..must. I am off to see if it's on audio. LOL

  3. Thanks for a great review. I enjoy Melanie Benjamin's books, so this one is on my list.

  4. I can see how you got hooked into this story and loved the characters. You've made me want to seriously consider it. And I am sure those people who read Paris and French books would love it too.

  5. I haven't read anything by this author, but I've heard good things about her books and this one sounds fantastic. I'll definitely have to give it a whirl. Glad you enjoyed!

  6. What a wonderful review, Katherine - thank you so much for sharing:))

  7. Oh, this sounds really good. I wouldn't have picked it up on the blurb alone (mostly because I'm not that into novels set in France), but after your review, I'm definitely considering it.

  8. This sounds good. I like historical fiction, but so much of it is wartime stories with a lot of war scenes in it. I don't mind reading about war times, just not military things and battle scenes. Thanks for sharing your review. 👍✨

  9. It certainly sounds like you enjoyed the book, which is always a good thing!

  10. I have this on my TBR and I now I really can't wait to read this one!! Great review!!

    ~Kendra @ Kendra Loves Books

  11. Oh wow, didn't know The Ritz was a place in history where the Germans had set up camp. Interesting.

  12. Ooh! I know quite a few people in my book club that would LOVE this!