Books and stories have always been an important part of my life. I can’t remember a time when I did not have that narrative urge to create stories of my own, and my imagination invariably led me into past events and historical settings. If fiction is about ‘what if,’ my novels have always been inspired by my curiosity about certain people. What if I could have seen that, been there, spoken with her, argued with them? Stories take wing when those people begin to speak back to me, when that voice in my head tells me a narrative is beginning to take shape.
There is so much beauty, so many things of interest and wonder in this world. When I write, I want people to see the beauty and to feel the wonder. The past, with all its stories and voices, leads us to this moment.
Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel’s are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli’s bold, experimental, and surreal.
When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress—a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie’s beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli’s designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.
Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel’s personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris.