Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Daughters Of Paris. I’m sharing an extract from the book with thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on the blog tour and to the publisher for my copy of the extract:
A promise that binds them together. A war that pulls them apart.
Childhood companions Fleur and Colette make a vow, under the trailing ivy of their secret garden, that they will be secret sisters forever. But as they grow up, the promises of childhood are put to the ultimate test. For Colette is the daughter of the house, and her life is all jazz clubs, silk dresses and chilled champagne, while Fleur is the orphan niece of the housekeeper and doesn’t feel like she belongs anywhere.
Years later, in 1939, life as they know it will never be the same. As the German tanks roll in and Paris becomes an occupied city, the promise they made as children will have consequences they could never have imagined…
Paris has fallen to the Germans and the population are trying to continue life under the occupation. Colette has been persuaded by friends whose parents own a hotel which has been commandeered by the German army to go out for an evening with some of the officers. Reluctantly, she has agreed.
She perched uneasily on the edge of the velvet-covered chair. Everything felt wrong about what she was doing. Her parents would be appalled to know where she was. She found herself wishing they had queried where she was going and stopped her, but of course they had been too busy with their own concerns.
Uneasily, she accepted a glass of champagne. The atmosphere was disconcertingly as gleeful as it always had been. The rhythm of the music was fast and familiar, but the lyrics sung by the ice-blonde woman on the stage were in German and Colette didn’t recognise the song. Of course it made sense that Germany would bring its own culture and entertainers but a sour taste filled her mouth. It was another sign that the occupiers had made Paris their own.
She took a small sip of champagne, half expecting it to taste sour thanks to the feeling of guilt, but it was as refreshing as always, the initial sharp bite preceding the fizzing sensation that made her feel more alert. She stared around. Couples danced. Groups laughed and drank. She could fool herself that this was just a normal evening out and these were men who played tennis, and missed their families, and hadn’t been responsible for the deaths of French citizens. They weren’t Hitler; just men following orders and doing their jobs. It made her feel a little better to believe that, as long as she didn’t think about it too hard.
Some of the clientele had subtly changed, as well as more obviously. There were women wearing bright-coloured lipstick and garish dresses that left very little to the imagination.
‘Prostitutes,’ Sophie whispered in her ear. ‘Some of them aren’t even bothering to hide it. They’re completely shameless. At least in the old days they used to be more subtle about touting for business.’
‘Would you like some more champagne?’ Kurt, the officer sitting opposite Colette extended the bottle.
‘No, thank you.’ Colette put her hand over the top of her glass before he could refill it.
‘Are you already drunk?’ Sophie whispered.
‘If we accept this, then how does that make us different from them?’ Colette nodded in the direction of the women parading round the room who would be earning their fee on their backs later.
‘You don’t have to make love with Kurt. Unless you want to, of course.’ Sophie raised her eyebrows, an unpleasant smirk on her face.
Colette bit her lip. ‘It just feels wrong to be accepting something from them. Is Victorine here tonight? What would she say?’
‘The Nazis would not approve of us dancing together.’ Sophie’s eyes dropped and for a moment Colette caught a glimpse of real distress. ‘I don’t know where she is. I haven’t seen her for weeks.’
‘Sophie, I’m sorry.’ Colette’s heart swelled with pity. She put a hand on Sophie’s arm.
Sophie shook it off and her ruby mouth trembled a little.
‘Please, just come and dance with us, Colette, and forget about your conscience. I just want things to be as normal as possible. This is the only place I can pretend it is.’
‘Alright, but only one dance.’
She smiled at Kurt and let him lead her to the dance floor. He was quite a good dancer and laughed when Colette told him so.
‘Does that surprise you, Fräulein Nadon?’
‘A little,’ Colette admitted. ‘I imagined you would dance the way you march. So stiff and correct.’
He laughed again and stepped into the crush of bodies, taking her into a spin. For a while Colette was able to close her eyes and forget reality, understanding more clearly why Sophie craved this feeling so much. When the song ended, and flowed into another more plaintive piece, a cheer went up around the room, followed by a sentimental sigh.
‘She is singing about the Motherland,’ Kurt explained. ‘The words are very beautiful and it makes us feel sad in our hearts. I hope to get home leave but I don’t know if that will happen.’
‘Perhaps you should all go home,’ Colette said daringly. A thrill raced through her that she was openly telling a German soldier he should not be here. Wait until she told Sophie and Josette. Then who would call her scared!
Daughters Of Paris is available from Amazon.
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