Belle Époque

Elizabeth Ross
"In the fight to be the most beautful, the ugly face of bohemian Paris is revealed"
Belle Époque – picture

In the fight to be the most beautful, the ugly face of bohemian Paris is revealed

When sixteen-year-old Maude runs away to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Increasingly desperate for money, she answers a mysterious advert: ‘Young Women Wanted for Undemanding Work. Apply In Person To The Durandeau Agency.’ But the work is very strange indeed. Maude discovers she is to be a repoussoir – an ugly young woman hired by Parisian socialites to enhance their beauty.

Maude is humiliated – but faced with destitution, what choice does she have? Quickly (and secretly) selected as the perfect companion for the Countess Dubern’s daughter Isabelle, Maude is thrown into a decadent world full of parties, glamour and astonishing cruelty. Maude finds that academic Isabelle is equally disenchanted with the Parisian social scene, and the girls form a tight bond. But when bohemian artist Paul and the handsome Duke d’Avaray are introduced into the girls’ lives, their friendship will be tested to its limits. The girls are about to discover the true meaning of being beautiful…

Publication Date: Thu 5 Sep 2013
ISBN Paperback: 9781471402081
ISBN Ebook: 9781471402098



Elizabeth Ross

Elizabeth Ross grew up in Scotland where she studied French and Film Studies at the University of Glasgow. After graduation she worked in the film industry in Montreal for several years, becoming a film editor. That career path eventually led to Los Angeles where she now lives with her family. BELLE ÉPOQUE was Elizabeth's debut novel, and you can follow her at: or on Twitter: @RossElizabeth


Trembling with hunger and humiliation, I wrestle my way out of the dress; the buttons on the back force me into some contortionist moves. I just want this damn thing off. Nothing helps me unlace the corset any faster, but what if that awful little man charges in here demanding his five francs back? That's food for a week. I can almost taste what I'll spend the money on: crusty baguette, salty ham and tangy mustard, washed down with a bowl of thick hot chocolate so rich I have to scoop out the dregs with a spoon. I leave the borrowed clothes in a heap on the worktable-I don't care to hang anything up. Pulling my own dress over my head, I feel safe and like myself again. I slide a hand into the pocket of my dress and feel the weight of the gold coin and wonder: if I keep the money and never come back, is it stealing? So what if it is. I decide it's compensation for the most humiliating experience of my life. Nestled in my pocket next to the coin is the job notice. I take it out, smoothing the crumpled newspaper. Where I ripped the page, I can see that the first word has been cut off. On the edge of the tear I can make out the letters l and y. I fill in the missing letters myself. Ugly young women wanted for undemanding work. Propriety guaranteed. Apply in person to the Durandeau Agency, 27 Avenue de l'Opéra, Paris.