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By Natasha Lester

"A wardrobe of Dior gowns, a secret kept for sixty-five years, and the three women bound forever by war..."

The one thing you can rely on with a title by Natasha Lester is that you’re in for an adventure. The Paris Secret is a rollicking great read that does not disappoint. In fact, it delivers a tale of high intrigue, delightful complexity and pure enjoyment on every level.

The dual narrative begins with children, Skye Penrose and Nicholas Crawford, in Cornwall, an idyllic setting for the secrets that will be revealed decades later. Skye is an endearing character; honest, caring, spirited and wildly adventurous. Learning to fly at ten years of age, she is most at home in the seat of an aircraft.

When the war begins, Skye joins the British war effort, ferrying planes for the RAF during WWII.

A reunion of sorts with deeply sensitive Nicholas ignites their childhood friendship. Naturally, there

are twists as Skye recognises her interest in Nicholas is deeper than friendship. The passion intensifies as complications thwart their relationship. His fiancée, Margaux Jourdan for one — Skye’s volatile sister, Liberty, another. (Note: I think I’m more than a little in love with Nicholas…)

The current timeline is that of Margaux’s Australian granddaughter, Kat, a fashion conservator, given the key to an abandoned cottage in Cornwall with a wardrobe of Dior gowns. She is introduced to the handsome writer, Elliott Beaufort, researching her grandmother’s wartime activities. But as questions arise about her grandmother, Kat realises she doesn’t know the complete story. The relationship between Margaux and the two Penrose sisters entwine, with the added complexity of the Dior family.

This is a story about women’s relationships and the courage they face. It’s about love, survival and sacrifice. I was fascinated by the little known fact of experienced women pilots, so maligned by the RAF that their talent was largely ignored. Instead, they were used as propaganda, pretty decorations to brighten the pages of the daily newspapers.Skye stood up for what she believed in and showed that women were as efficient to the British war effort as the men.

I enjoyed the depth of characters, and the complexity of a plot that keeps on giving until the final pages. You won’t be able to put it down. The shame of it is I’ll have to wait another year or so before I read the next of Natasha’s lovely stories.

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