First Tango in Paris

First Tango in Paris - Shelley Thrasher Brigitte, a high-class call girl from stifling 1970s New Orleans retires to Paris to start a new life and possibly find love. Fate repeatedly throws her in the path of Eva, a Parisian activist moonlighting as a tour guide to finance her law studies. Their relationship starts off on the wrong foot with a petty squabble. But their paths cross again when Brigitte joins an in-depth tour headed by Eva featuring famous Frenchwomen.

Eva soon realizes that Brigitte isn't just another clueless American tourist. Her interest in French culture (and women) runs much deeper ;). Unfortunately, tourist flings last only for as long as the tour. And even if she isn't just passing through--will Brigitte ever be able to get away from her past--as it seems to have followed her all the way to Paris.

I had high expectations for this book. It’s got an alluring cover. The premise is intriguing. The author is a top BSB editor. The book is published under BSB's Victory imprint for literary fiction. I expected this to be a 5 star read but...the execution is a little not to my taste. Let's start with the prose. The author loves similes and metaphors and uses them liberally throughout the book, which is fine by me but some of it, especially with regards to intimate scenes, are rather, shall we say, jarring. (see samples at end of review). Usually I'm so engrossed in lesfic stories that I don't pay too much attention to these little things. But the plot, although interesting, meandered, and so my attention wandered.

There are also some plot points that I didn’t find very logical or believable. Rosa’s suicide for one, or her attachment to a married man. The money she left to Brigitte was enough to set up Brigitte for life, and in style--Rolex watches, Pierre Cardin perfumes, Oscar de la Renta dresses, residence in a luxury Paris hotel suite, a ride on the Orient Express, etc. With that amount of savings, Rosa could have pretty much ‘bought’ her own hunk :) and lived it up in New Orleans.

Furthermore, the single most intriguing plot element (Brigitte's visions) was never even resolved or explained. Was it clairvoyance? Was she Ms. Antoinette or any of the other women in a previous life? Were Eva and Brigitte lovers in another incarnation? Even the 'visions' are inconsistent and appear at arbitrary times and circumstances. Sometimes, she became the famous women. At other times, they 'talk' to her. At other times, they made love to her--or were these dreams? Whatever they were exactly, I never found out.

There was a major plot twist that I kinda anticipated since it wasn't really that far-fetched. What I didn't like was how the people involved discussed it. It was beyond awkward for Eva and her father to discuss their mutual affair with the same woman. What high and mighty father would talk about that to their own estranged daughter and admit (to her face) that he failed to get the girl but she succeeded. I thought that was more improbable than the 'visions', lol

Despite the faulty plot and some of the over-the-top metaphors, I still enjoyed some of the book. The best parts were ironically, about other people. Eva led an in-depth tour that explores the lives of three famous Frenchwomen: Marie Antoinette, George Sands and Sarah Bernhardt. Their stories are fascinating (and heartbreaking too in the case of Mdm. Antoinette). The author did a good job incorporating their stories into the tour and they were thoroughly absorbing. Unfortunately, those were the best parts of the book.

These observations aside, the rest of the book is pretty standard (read: average) lesfic with the usual conflicts and obstructions to HEA that the characters need to overcome.

Here are some examples of the author's prose so readers can decide for themselves if they'll like it. There are no spoilers here but are hidden because they may not be age-appropriate.

Example 1: The sweet pain spun upward, encasing her legs, gliding past her clitoris and up inside her like a honeybee on an expedition. She buzzed inside, the ache spreading like a million pinpricks until everything inside her coalesced into a rush like Niagara. She let go and tumbled over the falls into the white turbulence below.

Example 2: Rousing from what she could describe only as pure bliss, and free now from her silk bond, she shifted slightly in Simone’s arms. “I feel like you stuck a knife into my heart,” she murmured, barely aware of what she said. “I dreamed I was on a snowy mountain peak, where I wandered through a rosewood forest whose floor was covered with sweet-smelling flowers. There I came upon a beautiful cemetery. But the decaying bodies in the graves seemed as natural as my own live flesh, and as yours

Example 3: She touched Simone’s age-spotted hand with wonder, feeling drunk. “Your hand is a miracle.” She held it to her cheek, then lowered it and traced each protruding bluish vein. “I’d love to swim under your skin like your blood does.” Kissing her way upward, she found Simone’s breast. “I’m like a piglet.”

Example 4: Eva ignited, like natural gas lit by a match. She could practically smell sulfur and almost blacked out from the sensual rush that Brigitte’s hand evoked, but she managed to stay conscious

Personally, I think this book is an acquired taste.

3.25 stars