Publishing year: 2012
This book starts with a death, Valerie, who is a woman from a noble lineage in France.
Her only daughter Emilie reflects upon her life with her mother. She is the only relative left in the family. Her mother was never close to her as Emilie was not the kind of daughter she would have chosen. While Valerie was beautiful, petite, and sophisticated, Emilie was stout and ordinary-looking. Whereas Valerie relished the pleasures of money and socialising, Emilie only wanted a normal life. That’s what Emilie had so far; a quiet life in her apartment in Paris and working as a veterinary. She is now alone with many responsibilities as her father also died a long time ago when she was barely fourteen.
Now she has to face up to many responsibilities. Her ancestors were wealthy and noble, but now her notary public tells her that her mother accrued great debts, and she has to make decisions. She’s now staying in the old château in the south of France, and she has to decide whether to sell it or keep it.
Then while having lunch, a man introduces himself to her. It is Sebastian, an English art dealer, who claims her grandmother met her father during the war and used to talk highly of him. Emilie doesn’t know much about her father’s past, and even though reluctantly she speaks to the man. She even lets him have a visit to the château, where he tells him about an unsigned painting he thinks might be a Matisse. I don’t know if I trust Sebastian; he is quite friendly but a bit too clingy for someone who has just met Emilie. And from the moment he appears, strange things happen. The château is broken in but nothing is taken; the break-in becomes the chance for Sebastian to come closer to Emilie and he helps her with arrangements to change the locks and set an alarm system; and then Emilie’s dog is run over by Sebastian’s car and the animal dies. Emilie feels attracted to Sebastian, but she thinks he’s too attractive and out of her league, but then Sebastian makes a pass at her and she welcomes him. I wonder if Sebastian is genuine or has an ulterior agenda. Emilie doesn’t know anything about him, just what he has told her, and who knows if that is true.
I love the start and I’m already intrigued.