Title: The Sixth
Author: Avery Hays
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Diadema Press (and courtesy of NetGalley)
Published: October 31, 2013
Page Amount: 370 pages
Blurb From Goodreads: Welcome to the gaslit, cobblestoned streets of Paris, 1910.
Florbela Sarmentos, 21, knows what she wants: art, romance, and to free her father from the prison of Portugal’s despotic King Manuel II. Born in Lisbon, educated in London and at a painting academy in Cherbourg, France, the cosmopolitan Florbela moves to Paris and takes up residence in the wildly bohemian enclave of La Ruche, there to pursue a creative life.
Some of the yet-to-be-discovered artists living in her building are Diego Rivera, Amadeo Modigliani and Marc Chagall. By day she paints, and by night she attends parties with the residents of La Ruche, who introduce her to collectors and creative spirits in Paris’s fabled Sixth Arrondissement. Along the way, Florbela attracts several hot-headed admirers, two of whom become so inflamed with jealousy that they become each other’s deadly enemies.
But Florbela’s fledgling artistic and social life is soon eclipsed, when she can no longer escape the political shadow of her father, a Portuguese writer imprisoned in Lisbon for criticizing the corrupt monarchy.
Florbela tries to find news of her father through Portuguese political exiles and sympathizers in Paris — with alarming results. When she contacts a friend of her father, Professor Almeida, he turns up dead, killed by an assassin from the pro-monarchist society Ordo Crucis Incendio — the Order of the Burning Cross. Professor Almeida’s dying words lead Florbela to a secret, encrypted painting that might save her father and overthrow the king. Now, Florbela is the assassin’s next target.
With the help of Armand, a dashing French rebel, Florbela fights to bring the secret painting to the Portuguese resistance fighters. It just might save her country… and her life.
Why Read: Besides the fact I’m already interested in books that center around Paris, whether it be the early or late past, NetGalley seemed to have a great sense that it was a book I would enjoy. They were not wrong.
Review: I expected to enjoy the book, The Sixth, and whether it was my misplaced expectations or just the book – I really did love it. Florbela is a great main character that has a streak of independence tamed by her acceptance of the bigger forces at play. The plot is exciting, to the point where I was up until 1am reading last night!
Whether it be the main character or Armand, the guitar-playing protector, each person has their own ideas, their own backstory, and their own motivations. It’s similar to political thrillers that cycle through today’s world, but rather than spy agencies attempting something – it’s conspirators that identify with different groups, like the Freemasons. Although the Irene line was a bit strange and didn’t add much to the story, nevertheless – I enjoyed her as a character.
Looking at the plot, I was certainly originally disappointed at the big reveal of the painting, but once they got around to decrypting and explaining it – I felt like an absolute idiot for doubting the book. Whether Florbela be running through the countryside with Armand or flirting with the artistic community of the Sixth, the sense of barely hidden danger is palpable.
Some points I particularly loved were this book’s use of artistic characters from history within the plot, like Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall, and how there was really no right answer to what Florbela should do. She could have chosen any number of options, and while I figure her way was best – certainly it was not the only way. The book carries a secret chapter at the end of the book, and if you enjoy romance – you’ll enjoy it.
So yes. If you can’t tell already, I massively enjoyed this book. It’s written in a manner that’s suitable for almost anyone, and with characters that appeal to the sensibilities and not-so-sensible tendencies in us all. A book for my historical fiction love shelf, I recommend it highly!
Rating: 4.7/5 Stars
Review Coming Soon: Red Cells