Mistress of the Ritz @MelanieBen @DelacortePress #ritzhotel #paris #worldwar2 #resistance #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

Writing and reading historical fiction is often a difficult task. The author often travels a fine line between what is real and what is imagined in the lines of a book. It can be hard for a reader to fully appreciate a story when the details are frequently overused and murky. However in this book, Melanie Benjamin has been able to capture a piece of history and make it into an interesting story that was much enjoyed by Jan and I.

Mistress of the Ritz

Jan’s review

 Ah, the Ritz Paris. Doesn’t it bring to mind glitz, glamour and opulence? The iconic hotel is as much a character in this book as are Claude and Blanche Auzello, the hotel director and his American born wife. In the pre-WWII years, the hotel was in its glory and the Ritz was a symbol of the finest in luxury and elegance.

The book opens in 1923 when Blanche and Claude meet, and  they eventually marry. Blanche is an American-born flapper, headstrong and independent, while Claude is a traditional Frenchman who likes to not only be in charge of the hotel, but of his wife as well. The cultural differences caused the two to lock horns, often in amusing ways. But both shared a love for the beloved hotel and they reveled in rubbing elbows with the rich and famous who crossed its threshold, among them,  Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Coco Chanel, who maintained an apartment there for many years.

The first part of the book focuses on the hotel itself, the couple’s marriage, and their experiences running the hotel.  When the Germans arrive in 1940 and take over the hotel as their headquarters, the couple must adjust to their demands and keep up the pretense that all is operating as usual, despite their hatred of the Nazi regime. This takes up much of the novel’s last half. There’s plenty of intrigue and there are dangerous secrets the couple keep from each other, and from the Germans.  How an ordinary couple makes their stamp on history made for riveting reading.

I went into this book blind, and I suggest other readers do the same. If you haven’t yet, don’t read the blurb, which gives away too much information. 

Historical fiction can be a troublesome genre for me as it too often becomes a thinly disguised romance novel. Not so with author Melanie Benjamin. She notes that this is a story that is inspired by, not based on, true events. Just when I think I’m burned out on WWII based novels, along comes one like this that generates a renewed interest.

The historical record is sparse, but as I do so often, I immediately went to the internet to read everything I could find. I appreciate that the author didn’t play fast and loose with the facts, filling in only when necessary. She made history come alive in these pages with people I came to care about. People who are just like us, flaws and all. I’m glad Claude and Blanche’s story has been told.

·     Many thanks to Netgalley for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

·     This was a buddy read with Marialyce, and one we both enjoyed and recommend.

Marialyce’s review

I so enjoy an historical fiction book that when completed has me scurrying to google to find out more. To me there is nothing better than when an author makes the reader both aware and looking for more information about the characters portrayed in the story. In a way, the book becomes not only informative, but also one that encourages the reader to learn more.

In this story we meet the Blanche Auzello, an American, and her French husband and Hotel Director, Claude Auzello. They are a have it all couple, running the premier hotel, the Ritz, in Paris, which housed the likes of Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many other notables. It is a dream job, one that meshes the haves of the world in an environment that is both glamorous, charismatic and elegant. The winds of war however, are spreading and carry their disastrous effect into the Ritz and as the Nazis take over Paris, they take over the Ritz as well and the Auzellos must contend with their presence and the effect it has upon their lives and their beloved hotel.

Both Blanche and Claude have secrets. Secrets which not only threaten their marriage but also their very lives. They don’t really know one another and as the story continues and after nineteen years of marriage, they find in each other something they thought was never there.

Told with the backdrop of war and the elegance of the Ritz, this story presents to the reader the courage, heroism, and audacity of many who resisted the Nazis and did their part of bringing the evilness of the Nazis to its downfall. I recommend this story to those who enjoy a well written and enjoyable story about a couple and their devotion to a cause and a hotel.

Many thanks to Melanie Benjamin, Delacourte Press and Net Galley for a copy of this book.

Claude Auzello
Blanche Auzello
The Ritz Hotel Paris

and here’s the author


8 thoughts on “Mistress of the Ritz @MelanieBen @DelacortePress #ritzhotel #paris #worldwar2 #resistance #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

  1. When I first saw this book, I was undecided but I think I made the wrong choice. You both have enticed me very much with these wonderful reviews. I have never read anything by Melanie Benjamin, but it sounds like I should. The idea that The Ritz is also a character in this book is interesting. Great job Jan and Marialyce.


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