My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won’t find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could’ve been better or what worked or didn’t work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it’s here I probably think it won’t injure your brain if you read it.
When Maude ran away from her rural French town for Paris, she never imagined that life could be harder than it already was. But even though jobs can be found, it’s hard to make enough money to afford rent. She answers an ad looking for young women – propriety ensured – and arrives at the interview to find that she is to be used as a foil: an unattractive female hired by Parisian elite to make themselves look more attractive by comparison.
Insulted, Maude leaves the interview only to find herself so shaken she makes mistakes at the laundry where she can barely make enough to live on. The pay for a foil is good, and decent food is provided. With her pride damaged Maude returns to the agency to be picked by one of the premiere Paris families to offset their daughter in her debut season so that she can land a choice husband. The only catch is that their daughter Isabelle doesn’t know that Maude is a foil.
Pretending to a distant poor relation, Maude enters Paris society only to find herself drawn in by Isabelle’s new ideas. The debutante is in love with the idea of chemistry, and dabbles in photography. Maude is drawn into the beauty of the medium and the two find themselves connecting over the art form. But Isabelle’s intention of secretly taking entrance exams for college and thwarting her mother’s designs for her in the marriage market run directly in the face of Isabelle’s job as a foil. With her living on the line and her loyalty tested, Maude has to decide what her values are.