In Velástegui’s (Trace of Bliss, 2011, etc.) novel, an American girl studying abroad in 1970s Paris finds herself risking her safety as well as her heart.
Four young American travelers, vowing to have the time of their lives, stay in the Paris apartment of an eccentric, aging revolutionary, Madame Caron de Pichet. While walking down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Monica, the most lovelorn of the bunch, meets a handsome, young Che Guevara look-alike. As he woos her with his worldly charms, she’s unaware of his plan to use her as a pawn in his scheme of political destruction. After he takes her out on a date, he holds her captive in his apartment, using affection and pain to brainwash her into following his every command. He holds her as his devoted prisoner for several days, and when he finally sets her free, she returns to Madame Caron de Pichet’s apartment. Madame greets her and, in conversation, encourages her to collect multiple lovers in her time abroad. She sends Monica to a château in the country, where she meets a young heir who shares her interest in horses, as well as her amour fou. Monica is soon torn between the mind-bending madman who kidnapped her and the boy who yearns for her. However, as she attempts to settle this conflict, the city of Paris faces grave danger. Velástegui’s character development shines as she populates her cast with eclectic personalities. Her detailed accounts of brainwashing are also impressive in their seeming authenticity. However, the romantic relationships come off as unpolished, and a hefty portion of the novel has Monica professing a love that doesn’t seem real or convincing. Indeed, the weak-mindedness of the four American students is quite remarkable, with hardly any mention of their actual studies; instead, they come off as merely sex-crazed, without any true ambition, which some readers may find rather disheartening.
An elusive tale of love, sex and mind games.