Absolutely spellbinding. I should be out exploring Paris on this sunny day. But, no, I'm holed up reading June's steamy thriller. It's more than sizzling though--it's tender, funny, sometimes scary too. Don't take my word for it. Just read it.
Realease Date: February 24, 2017
Penelope Elizabeth “Punkin” Lowery, 6 months shy of turning 50, has just received the most shocking news of her life. Her fiancé Alex’s friend Mike has called. He has just told her that Alex has been found at his office with a shotgun blast to his face and a suicide note that explains nothing.
“Punkin”, nicknamed after her mother “Big P”, is in a state of crisis. Bad things they say come in threes. Just a month previously, she was considering closing the advertising business she had owned for 20 years because of bad revenues. Plus, her mother was ailing with cancer and not expected to live.
This 5th generation Texan, who had never ventured out of the State, didn’t know what to do. She thought of Paris-the City of Light and love. All things French appealed to her from an early age. She majored in French in college and had several French companies on her business roster. Every time she visited that magic place, she felt people “shined” on her. She felt safe and appreciated.
As “Paris Perfect” opens, Punkin has gone through the funerals of both her fiancé and her mother, sold her business and is on her way to Paris. She has limited funds but the inheritance from her mother (her father is long gone, deserting the two of them when Punkin was 18) will just about swing living in the most glorious city in the world for 1 year.
She decides to “splurge” and rents a much-to-expensive apartment with a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower in the 16th arrondissement. Her landlord is the dashing Comte de Richmonde, a film maker and 10 years her junior. He is also married, but they begin a torrid affair. It helps Punkin “get back in the saddle” of love, and she is grateful for the diversion.
With time on her hands she decides to become a volunteer after joining the American Club of Paris. There, she meets those who will become her life-long friends: Suzie Gilmore, a glamourous blonde from Georgia making her own escape to Paris after a messy divorce; and Tom and Eleanor Charleson, the social arbiters of the ex-pat community. Through the Club’s protégé program for wayward young women, she meets the troubled Madeleine Junot, age 18, who has been orphaned at 5 and working as a prostitute on the streets of St. Denis, a grimy suburb of Paris. They instantly connect, sensing something in common.
At the Club, Punkin also meets the “aristo” Jean Aumont, age 45. He is a graduate of the prestigious Ecole Militaire (like West Point) and has just returned to France from years of military service in Algeria. The two form a quick bond through their interest in riding. They take long horseback rides in the Bois de Boulogne, talking about life. Jean’s has not been an easy one. He has been blinded in his right eye by an accident and must wear a patch the rest of his life. An only child like Punkin, he lost his father at 10 and is very protective of his mother Giselle, the doyenne of the vast Aumont wine estate in Bordeaux which encompasses 400 acres with a magnificent manor house.
In a stranger-than-fiction set of circumstances, it is discovered while Madeleine is moving in with Punkin, through a set of old photos that Jean Aumont is her long- lost father. He tells the two women tearfully about his love for Madeleine’s mother Rose who was set to join him in Algeria. She never arrived, he never knew she was pregnant and never heard from her again.
The threesome set up an uneasy alliance. Giselle wants nothing to do with the gauche americaine, Punkin, thinking no American girl is good enough for her son. In addition, she is appalled that her granddaughter is a former prostitute.
The days in Paris roll on with Punkin having many adventures on her own with sidekick Suzie, eating long lunches at the Ritz and at Les Ministeres on the rue de bac with their fabulous raw oysters from Normandy, washed down with copious amounts of champagne. Our former Texan meets other ex-pats lead by Barney, a native of Brooklyn New York, and a hoot. He always has a joke and rounds up an intriguing group of Americans living in Paris as well as the occasional celebrity. Punkin marvels that Paris is really a small town. Some of the personages she meets in Paris- writers, actors, musicians, painters- she would never encounter in the US.
Jean is almost killed in a riding accident that bring the three generations of women together. Punkin and Jean marry, and the family gradually accepts each other. They are set to live an idyllic life in Bordeaux but Punkin feels stifled in the incestuous community of the old wine families. They are slow to accept her and Madeleine.
The lingering threats of Madeleine’s former pimp, Marcel, set up a chain of events that can only end in tragedy and the questioning by Punkin. “Is Paris perfect?”