WHILE PARIS DANCED by Patricia Wright


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The mostly un-lovely romantic tangles of a young American volunteer-nurse in post-WW I Paris--ambitiously but rather awkwardly intertwined with complicated maneuvers in and around the Versailles peace conference. Innocent but impetuous Eve Ottoway, from rural Maine, doesn't want to be shipped home after the 1918 Armistice, so she heads for Paris on her own--only to come down with flu and be taken in by the very odd Paris family of shell-shocked commandant Guy Saul, a fragile, sometimes violent fellow who's scheduled to marry (for purely financial reasons) his lesbian cousin Eulalie. Soon, then, Eve is taking massive pity on Guy (who loves her madly), sleeping with him (at first platonically), even marrying him despite warnings from assorted family members and from brash US newsman Rick Dwyer, a Hemingway-ish type who's frankly out to seduce her. And after the wedding Eve's worries escalate: the evidence suggests that Guy is guilty of rape and murder (did he kill his father to gain possession of the family antique shop?); Eve, who pretended pregnancy to push Guy into marriage (for his own good), must now 'fess up; Guy's wartime sergeant hangs about, making blackmail noises about dark family secrets. So adultery with Rick is the inevitable outcome--though Rick himself is more preoccupied with Hugo von Kobis, a good German who's in Paris to spy on the peace conference (which threatens to become a vengeance-fest), to expose a conspiracy for the renewal of hostilities in the Rhineland. Finally, then, while Eve turns Guy's shop into the toast of Tout-Paris, Guy and Hugo team up in the violent Rhineland, the family secrets (drugs, gangsterism) all surface. . . and there's a patched-together happy ending, with a pregnant Eve and a recovering Guy. Wright (Journey into Fire, etc.) again displays a relatively unhackneyed approach to historical romance--with solid research-on-view (cameos by Clemenceau, et al.), dark-edged characters, and minimal interest in glittery surfaces. This time, however, the link between the romance and the history is tenuous, while Eve herself remains an unengaging, murkily motivated heroine. And the result is a high-strung but emotionally arid novel, stronger on its somber atmospheres (plus a turkey-trot or two for relief) than its knotty characterizations.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday