England and France were embroiled in war on many fronts in 1758. The Seven Years War was raging. French, God-fearing Huguenots continued to seek refuge in England. Political and religious unrest produced fertile ground for spying. Ask Sir Gabriel Courtenay, a most unscrupulous nobleman. Sir Gabriel made Genevieve Planche an offer she couldn't refuse.
Genevieve was a third generation descendant from a line of French Huguenot refugees. She lived with her grandfather, Pierre Billiou, in Spitalfields,London. Pierre discouraged Gen's interest in oil painting since women were barred from the Royal Academy. "No lady of a good family could take art lessons". It seemed unlikely that Gen would be apprenticed to a great artist in order to learn proper technique and composition. Approached by Sir Gabriel, she was offered a path to Venice, an "enlightened" city, where she might find a master painter to help her achieve her dream.
Pressured by her grandfather, Gen had accepted a so called "coveted" position at Derby Porcelain Works. The job entailed painting designs on porcelain vases, plates and sculptures. Gen felt she would be "...sent away to be trapped in a Derby manufactory condemned to decorate the objects of the rich and frivolous". With this position, Sir Gabriel informed Gen that she would be "ideally placed" to learn the secret formula for "...a blue the world has not seen before...a different way of seeing blue". Who is the elusive chemist who has created this "blue"? While Gen tries to locate the secret formula, her every move is being watched. Is Derby Porcelain Works secure? Could Gen be perceived as a French spy? If so, would a porcelain company in Sevres, France reap the rewards from ill-gotten gains?
What if Genevieve wants to extricate herself from the fact finding quest for the chemist and the sought after blue? Questioning the morality of this operation, the possibility of imprisonment for criminality and casting aside the possibility of true love, Gen finds herself at a crossroads. What path will she choose?
"The Blue" by Nancy Bilyeau is a riveting novel of historical fiction. Bilyeau has thoroughly researched the art of porcelain making and the importance of the color blue to artists of 18th Century England and France. The issues faced by French Huguenots living in England are discussed. The detailed character development of Genevieve Planche and the many other primary and secondary players was spot on. One's moral compass could arguably be at odds with greed or obsession while trying to achieve financial or artistic success. I found "The Blue" by Nancy Bilyeau to be an amazing historical read that was replete with crime and intrigue.
Thank you to The Pigeonhole for your serialized ARC. I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation of "The Blue". Thank you to Endeavor Quill Publishers and Nancy Bilyeau. I felt totally immersed in life at the Derby Porcelain Works through the first person narrative of Genevieve Planche!
Thank you for the opportunity to read "The Blue" in exchange for an honest review.