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The Blue

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In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture. For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of int In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture. For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice. When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue… The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage. With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue?


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In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture. For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of int In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture. For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice. When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue… The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage. With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue?

30 review for The Blue

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amalia Gavea

    ‘’London is alive. And so am I.’’ 18th century, England. Genevieve comes from a Huguenot family that found shelter in England, persecuted in their own country due to their religious beliefs. In a time when the war with France is raging, Genevieve has to fight her own battle to acquire the right to be acknowledged for her talent to create beauty. Apart from the military conflict, there is an ongoing race for the finest porcelain and the creation of the most unique and powerful of colors. The col ‘’London is alive. And so am I.’’ 18th century, England. Genevieve comes from a Huguenot family that found shelter in England, persecuted in their own country due to their religious beliefs. In a time when the war with France is raging, Genevieve has to fight her own battle to acquire the right to be acknowledged for her talent to create beauty. Apart from the military conflict, there is an ongoing race for the finest porcelain and the creation of the most unique and powerful of colors. The colour blue, the symbol of divine perfection, authority, eternal beauty. The colour of the sky, the color of the Virgin Mary. Genevieve finds herself in a web of secrets and espionage, in an era when being a woman was already dangerous by itself. The background of this novel by Nancy Bilyeau is very interesting and the era is beautifully depicted. The reader definitely acquires a vivid image of the circumstances that used to influence one of the most turbulent eras in European History and the first steps of an elaborate version of espionage and warfare, the social background is also successfully depicted with references to the position of women in the British and French society, especially the young and less privileged ones who had to use their minds and courage to escape a low position on the social ladder. There are many interesting facts on the subject of porcelain and its significance in Britain, France, and Germany as well as the importance of blue in the field of Art and its impact on sovereignty. I appreciated the references to Newton's theories on colours and the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's works in the era. All’s well and good, then? Not exactly. Yes, the painted canvas of the story is elaborate and faithful to the era, the pace is satisfying and the premise interesting and engaging. The problem is, in my opinion, that we’ve seen everything before. Those of us who consider Historical Fiction as their favourite genre (and by Historical Fiction, I don’t mean romances but actual Literature...) have witnessed the involvement of an underprivileged young woman with a talent in Art or Culture in general in a game of politics and power. So basically, this is one of those stories that becomes a little more appealing by the theme of how Art can be used to a country’s purposes and benefit. Nothing more, nothing less. The writing is very good in the descriptive passages and the sequence of events is clearly drawn out, rich and detailed without being repetitive. However, everything is predictable. Too predictable, in fact. Again, if you have read a significant number of quality books falling into this genre, you’ll probably be able to guess the continuation of the story, even its conclusion. However, my major complaint is the dialogue. I don’t know how to describe it with accuracy but it is a weird mix of period language and contemporary phrases that felt wooden, strange and unnatural. Especially the interaction between Genevieve and her romantic interest were cringeworthy. Despite my well-known aversion to anything remotely related to romance, I could have stomached this relationship if it weren’t for the millions of ‘’I love you’’ every other page. It was this element of romance that made the heroine of the story behave like a naive schoolgirl and diminished my interest in the conclusion of the novel. In addition, the characters failed to impress me. In my opinion, Genevieve is the well-known figure of the feisty young woman who interacts with monarchs and peasants alike, always being wrong, always admired for her fearlessness but the dialogue was not adequately written to justify this. To tell you the truth, I've seen much more interesting, spirited heroines over the years. This one is not a character I will remember after a while. In my opinion, this is a moderately satisfying Historical Fiction novel. Its greatest advantage the depiction of the era, its greatest weaknesses the dialogue and the development of the characters. It is average. I don't regret reading it and I recommend it but I found nothing new or memorable and 3 stars is the most I can give. Many thanks to PigeonholeHQ and Nancy Bilyeau for the serialized ARC. My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fran

    England and France were embroiled in war on many fronts in 1758. The Seven Years War was raging. French, God-fearing Huguenots continued to seek refuge in England. Political and religious unrest produced fertile ground for spying. Ask Sir Gabriel Courtenay, a most unscrupulous nobleman. Sir Gabriel made Genevieve Planche an offer she couldn't refuse. Genevieve was a third generation descendant from a line of French Huguenot refugees. She lived with her grandfather, Pierre Billiou, in Spitalfields England and France were embroiled in war on many fronts in 1758. The Seven Years War was raging. French, God-fearing Huguenots continued to seek refuge in England. Political and religious unrest produced fertile ground for spying. Ask Sir Gabriel Courtenay, a most unscrupulous nobleman. Sir Gabriel made Genevieve Planche an offer she couldn't refuse. Genevieve was a third generation descendant from a line of French Huguenot refugees. She lived with her grandfather, Pierre Billiou, in Spitalfields,London. Pierre discouraged Gen's interest in oil painting since women were barred from the Royal Academy. "No lady of a good family could take art lessons". It seemed unlikely that Gen would be apprenticed to a great artist in order to learn proper technique and composition. Approached by Sir Gabriel, she was offered a path to Venice, an "enlightened" city, where she might find a master painter to help her achieve her dream. Pressured by her grandfather, Gen had accepted a so called "coveted" position at Derby Porcelain Works. The job entailed painting designs on porcelain vases, plates and sculptures. Gen felt she would be "...sent away to be trapped in a Derby manufactory condemned to decorate the objects of the rich and frivolous". With this position, Sir Gabriel informed Gen that she would be "ideally placed" to learn the secret formula for "...a blue the world has not seen before...a different way of seeing blue". Who is the elusive chemist who has created this "blue"? While Gen tries to locate the secret formula, her every move is being watched. Is Derby Porcelain Works secure? Could Gen be perceived as a French spy? If so, would a porcelain company in Sevres, France reap the rewards from ill-gotten gains? What if Genevieve wants to extricate herself from the fact finding quest for the chemist and the sought after blue? Questioning the morality of this operation, the possibility of imprisonment for criminality and casting aside the possibility of true love, Gen finds herself at a crossroads. What path will she choose? "The Blue" by Nancy Bilyeau is a riveting novel of historical fiction. Bilyeau has thoroughly researched the art of porcelain making and the importance of the color blue to artists of 18th Century England and France. The issues faced by French Huguenots living in England are discussed. The detailed character development of Genevieve Planche and the many other primary and secondary players was spot on. One's moral compass could arguably be at odds with greed or obsession while trying to achieve financial or artistic success. I found "The Blue" by Nancy Bilyeau to be an amazing historical read that was replete with crime and intrigue. Thank you to The Pigeonhole for your serialized ARC. I thoroughly enjoyed this presentation of "The Blue". Thank you to Endeavor Quill Publishers and Nancy Bilyeau. I felt totally immersed in life at the Derby Porcelain Works through the first person narrative of Genevieve Planche! Thank you for the opportunity to read "The Blue" in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    ✨Tamara

    Outstanding! "In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture. For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Ven Outstanding! "In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture. For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice. When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelain, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue… The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage. With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue?" Nancy Bilyeau's poised and polished writing style brings the 18th century to life! Her word usage and grammar structure really bring the characters to life and let you feel as if you are there in Genevieve's head. Stunningly descriptive and gorgeously written you can not only see the China patterns but smell the paint on the porcelain! I thoroughly enjoyed this read. I thought that the story was well written and well-thought-out. I thought that the descriptive powers used by the author were just utterly amazing. It's been a long time since I've read a book by an author who can write in this manner. Although I didn't read the other books in the series I did not feel as though I was lost. The story just jumps right in and carries you away! Brilliant! I would definitely recommend this book to everyone as I enjoyed it so much. I would especially recommend this to anyone who likes historical fiction and strong female characters.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    Genevieve makes for a feisty, resourceful and independent-minded heroine. Finding her ambition to be an artist thwarted by her lack of independent means, her gender and the prejudices of the time, she unwillingly enters into a bargain that will see her come up against an equally resourceful but entirely unscrupulous adversary. Genevieve will soon discover that, when it comes to the search for the secret to creating something new and unique in the world of porcelain, there are men (and women) who Genevieve makes for a feisty, resourceful and independent-minded heroine. Finding her ambition to be an artist thwarted by her lack of independent means, her gender and the prejudices of the time, she unwillingly enters into a bargain that will see her come up against an equally resourceful but entirely unscrupulous adversary. Genevieve will soon discover that, when it comes to the search for the secret to creating something new and unique in the world of porcelain, there are men (and women) who will stop at nothing. It’s not long before Genevieve is well and truly out of her depth, uncertain who she can trust and risking not just her own life but the safety of those close to her. Not only that, but she discovers her actions may jeopardise her faith, even the country of her birth. Along the way, Genevieve – and the reader – gain fascinating insights into the history of porcelain and why, for some, it has become not just a money-making opportunity but an obsession. Genevieve’s adventures are book-ended cleverly by her attendance at two very different social gatherings, the last of which results in her rescue from the sticky situation in which she finds herself courtesy of a particularly unlikely source. The Blue is full of twists and turns, intrigue and unexpected revelations. It’s a skilfully told story that positively races along, making for an engaging, colourful and compelling read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    I have read all historical fiction written by this author. I left no notes on my previous reads, so I will try to serve myself better with reminders of what I liked about this stand alone book exploring the world of porcelain during reign of Louis XV. Our narrator is a young unmarried woman who was endowed with modern day determination and rebellion, so that always gives me pause in reading historical fiction. Nevertheless, she carried us through the changing landscape however implausible much o I have read all historical fiction written by this author. I left no notes on my previous reads, so I will try to serve myself better with reminders of what I liked about this stand alone book exploring the world of porcelain during reign of Louis XV. Our narrator is a young unmarried woman who was endowed with modern day determination and rebellion, so that always gives me pause in reading historical fiction. Nevertheless, she carried us through the changing landscape however implausible much of the campaign was. She kicks off the book by stealing her grandfather's invitation to a society gathering where she might endear herself to a famous artist of the day but is only saved from complete humiliation by one unscrupulous man with motives of his own. Soon under his spell with promises of a future in Venice where she might be free to be an artist, she is forced into role of spy to discover formula for creating blue pigment that will adhere to porcelain. It's the kind of thing you can't put down, because you can only anticipate the worst things that could happen to a young woman outside the protection of her Huguenot grandfather. Yup, it's a page turner and thus quite enjoyable.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    Ok guys, I’m not going to beat around the bush about The Blue: this is simply the best historical novel I have read this year. I had already devoured and enjoyed three books by Nancy Bilyeau, set under the Tudors. The Blue surpasses them all. A superb combination of plot and research, rich characters, suspenseful scenes, a smart ending: The Blue reveals the perfect formula for a historical mystery focused on industrial espionage in 18th century England. Will definitely be in your list of best of Ok guys, I’m not going to beat around the bush about The Blue: this is simply the best historical novel I have read this year. I had already devoured and enjoyed three books by Nancy Bilyeau, set under the Tudors. The Blue surpasses them all. A superb combination of plot and research, rich characters, suspenseful scenes, a smart ending: The Blue reveals the perfect formula for a historical mystery focused on industrial espionage in 18th century England. Will definitely be in your list of best of the year books. My full review is here: https://wordsandpeace.com/2018/11/27/...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Judith Starkston

    Fast-paced action, passionate emotions, international intrigue and life or death stakes propel the reader through this outstanding historical thriller set in 18th century London, Derby and France. Bilyeau depicts the world of 1758 with gorgeous detail. She immerses the reader, whether in the rough streets of London’s Spitalfields district where the refugee Huguenot silk-weavers ply their trade or in the newly opened British Museum where the aristocrats are as much on display as this “collection Fast-paced action, passionate emotions, international intrigue and life or death stakes propel the reader through this outstanding historical thriller set in 18th century London, Derby and France. Bilyeau depicts the world of 1758 with gorgeous detail. She immerses the reader, whether in the rough streets of London’s Spitalfields district where the refugee Huguenot silk-weavers ply their trade or in the newly opened British Museum where the aristocrats are as much on display as this “collection of . . . drawings and maps . . . and mummified creatures from around the world.” Bilyeau layers on sensory experiences to draw her reader in: “A fire crackles in the tall fireplace. Yet a damp-cloud smell of human sweat hovers over this crowd, mingling with the musk oil many men use to conceal their odor—unsuccessfully—and the tobacco smoke and the holly branches heaped around the pink punchbowl, in sole deference to Christmas a fortnight away.” This deep historical immersion arises organically from the characters and needs of the action, thus never slowing the riveting plot. The plot revolves around dreams and obsessions—as is often the case with the most dramatic conflicts in human life. The main character, Genevieve Planché, dreams of being a serious artist. She has talent and some experience, but as an 18th century woman, every door to the necessary training is closed to her. She doesn’t let that stop her, but perhaps she should have. She certainly does not realize how dangerous the path to that dream will become. At a certain point, a life spent painting flowers on silk and porcelain begins to look less to her like a prison sentence. And then there are various obsessions with the color blue—which might not sound like plot-driving material to you, but you’d be wrong. The primary obsession is with achieving a new shade of blue on porcelain, a blue “so delicate and so bold, icily perfect and excitingly sensual at the same time.” Some pursue this new shade for financial gain and dominance in the porcelain market. Some are driven by the beauty of the color itself. Others are drawn by the science involved in making the color. They desire the pre-eminence of reputation in the academies of science such an accomplishment will bring. Some see the new color as their salvation out of intolerable lives. For all of these characters, the drive toward the new color is so desperate that it turns deadly. Bilyeau has created a potent brew of artistic, scientific and financial dreams colliding with industrial sabotage, the Seven Years War between England and France, and the fortunes of those perched precariously at the highest echelons of life in both countries.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Olga Miret

    I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here), and I thank her and the publisher for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. As soon as I read the description of this novel I was intrigued by the topic. I’ve read about the different fancies and frenzies that have taken societies (or at least the upper parts of them) by storm over history. Suddenly, something “new” I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here), and I thank her and the publisher for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. As soon as I read the description of this novel I was intrigued by the topic. I’ve read about the different fancies and frenzies that have taken societies (or at least the upper parts of them) by storm over history. Suddenly, something “new” becomes popular, and, especially if it is difficult to obtain, people will go to almost any extreme to get hold of it and then use it to their advantage. People have made fortunes (and got ruined) over the years by pursuing and purchasing items as diverse as tulips, silk, spices, exotic animals, dies, precious stones, gold, and indeed, porcelain. (I know some things don’t change much, and a few items that have replaced those in modern society easily come to mind). Some of them seem almost impossible to believe when looked at from the distance of time, especially when the object of desire is something with very little (if any) practical use, and it comes at a time of crisis and historical upheaval, where more important things are at stake. The morality of such matters is one of the more serious aspects of this novel, and it is compellingly explored. The author, who has a background in history, does a great job of marrying the historical detail of the period (making us feel as if we were in the London of the late XVIII century first, then in Derby, and later in France) with a fairly large cast of characters and their adventures, weaving a mystery (or several) into a story that reminded me of some of my favourite novels by Alexandre Dumas. Guinevere, the protagonist, is a young woman who does not seem to fit in anywhere. She is a Huguenot, and although born in England, she is the daughter of French-refugees (and that is a particularly interesting angle of the story, especially because the author is inspired by her own heritage), and is considered a French woman by her English neighbours, a particularly difficult state of affairs at a time when England and France are at war. Her people had to escape France due to religious persecution and she feels no love for France, and yet, she is not fully accepted in England either, being in a kind-of-limbo, although she lives amongst people of her faith at the beginning of the novel. Guinevere narrates her tale in the first-person, and she is insistent in writing her own story, at a time when that was all-but-impossible for a woman. I have recently read a book which mentioned Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and I could not avoid thinking about Wollstonecraft (who, like Guinevere, was born in Spitalfields and lived in the same era), and her own complex and controversial life as I read this. Guinevere is not a writer but an artist, and she feels constrained by the limitations imposed on her by the fact of being a woman. She wants to paint like Hogarth, not just produce pretty flowers to decorate silk. But that was considered impossible and improper for a woman at the time. She also wants to pursue knowledge and is attracted to revolutionary ideas and to dangerous men. She is eager to learn, intelligent, but also ruled by her desires and fears; she is stubborn and at times makes decisions that might seem selfish and unreasonable, but then, what other options did she have? Personally, I find Guinevere a fascinating character, a woman of strong convictions, but also able to look at things from a different perspective and acknowledge that she might have been wrong. She is a deep thinker but sometimes she cannot control her emotions and her impulses. She has a sense of morality but does things that could cost her not only her reputation but also her life and that of those she loves. And she ponders and hesitates, feels guilty and changes her mind, falls in love and in lust, and feels attracted and fascinated by driven and intellectually challenging men and by bad boys as well (a bit like the moth she masterfully paints, she gets too close to the flame sometimes). Guinevere is not always sympathetic, but that is part of what makes her a strong character, and not the perfect heroine that would be unrealistic and impossible to imagine in such circumstances. There are a number of other characters, some that we learn more about than others, and I was particularly fond of Evelyn, who becomes her friend in Derby, and whose life shares some parallels with that of Guinevere, and although I liked her love interest, Thomas Sturbridge, a man who keeps us guessing and is also driven by his desire for knowledge, I was fascinated by Sir Gabriel Courtenay. He is far from the usual villain, and he has hidden motives and desires that keep protagonist and readers guessing. He entices and threatens, he offers the possibility of knowledge and protection one moment and is ruthless and violent the next. He is one of those characters that are not fully explained and one can’t help but keep thinking about and wondering what more adventures they might go on to experience once the book is over. There are also real historical figures in the book. I have mentioned painters, and we also meet and hear about a fair number of other people, some that will be quite familiar to readers interested in that historical period. The author is well informed, her research shines through the novel, and I was particularly fascinated by the history of Derby porcelain (now Royal Crown Derby). Her descriptions of the workings of a porcelain factory of the period, the actual running of the business and the machinations behind it make for an enthralling read, even for people who might not be particularly interested in porcelain (I am). I have already mentioned the adventures, and there are plenty of those. Although I do not want to go into the plot in detail (and the description offers more than enough information about it), readers only need to know that there are mysteries (not only the famous Blue of the title), impersonations, spies, criminals, robberies, books with hidden compartments, false letters, murders, kidnappings, experiments, plenty of painting (watercolour, oils…), secret formulas, wars, surreptitious journeys, imprisonments, philosophical debates, and even a wonderful party. There is also romance and even sex, although the details are kept behind closed doors. In sum, there isn’t a dull moment. Notwithstanding all that, the writing is smooth and flows well, and although there are occasional words or expressions of the period, these are seemingly incorporated into the text and do not cause the reader to stumble. There are moments of reflection, waiting, and contemplation, and others when the action moves fast, there is danger and the pace quickens. I think most readers will find the ending satisfying, and although I liked it (and would probably have cheered if it was a movie), it had something of the sleight of hand that did not totally convince me (or perhaps I should say of the Deus-ex-machina, that I am sure would be an expression the character in question would approve of. And no, I’m not going to reveal anything else). This book is a treat for any lover of historical fiction, especially those who like adventures reminiscent of times past, and who enjoy a well-researched novel which offers plenty to think about and more than a parallel with current events. A great combination of history, adventure, and topics to ponder upon. Although this is the first book by Bilyeau I’ve read, I’m sure it won’t be the last one.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Disclaimer: Digital ARC via the publisher Genevieve has a problem. It isn’t that she is French living in England when relations between the two countries are not going well. It isn’t that she is Huguenot who cannot go to France because of that whole not-a-Catholic-we-slaughter-you thing. Her grandfather got her a job. At a porcelain factory, painting on flowers and things. In other words, he sold out her artistic talents because you know, in the days of Hogarth, women really didn’t do things li Disclaimer: Digital ARC via the publisher Genevieve has a problem. It isn’t that she is French living in England when relations between the two countries are not going well. It isn’t that she is Huguenot who cannot go to France because of that whole not-a-Catholic-we-slaughter-you thing. Her grandfather got her a job. At a porcelain factory, painting on flowers and things. In other words, he sold out her artistic talents because you know, in the days of Hogarth, women really didn’t do things like that, as Genevieve is brutally reminded when she tried to gain the professional notice of the famous artist. But then Genevieve is presented with an opportunity, a chance to be an artistic spy. Of course, things are never that simple and who the true villains and heroes are is only one small mystery that Genevieve will have to solve. The story centers around the discovery of a shade of blue, an interesting historical time that really doesn’t seem to be used very much in historical fiction. Bilyeau also manages to work in the tense political situation not only in France but also between France and England at the time. Of more interest are the roles of women. Unlike many historical fictions with an unusual woman of the times, The Blue actually has women who talk to each other and care about each other. Genevieve finds herself questioning her loyalties not because of a discovery of true love, but a discovery of friendship. Don’t feel, the book is also part romance. There is love, believable love and believable lust in the volume. The love triangle, if that is what it truly is, doesn’t feel forced and Genevieve’s conflict seems like a real conflict. Genevieve is a good character. She has the right combination of assurance and self-doubt. She is willing to stand her ground but does present as having a sense of entitlement. When she is constrained, there is a believable reason why she chafes at the bonds. Because she is so human, it is quite easy to root for her. The book is a good, solid historical thriller with just the right seasoning of gothic.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    If you're reading these reviews and star ratings prior to the publication date of December 3, please be aware that while a limited number of copies have been distributed to bloggers, circulation of the book prior to publication was extremely limited (no ARCs, no NetGalley, etc.) Nonetheless, some people who weren't on the blogger list have decided to hop on here and give the book a one-star rating. Please, if you're trying to decide whether or not to read the book, bear that fact in mind when ev If you're reading these reviews and star ratings prior to the publication date of December 3, please be aware that while a limited number of copies have been distributed to bloggers, circulation of the book prior to publication was extremely limited (no ARCs, no NetGalley, etc.) Nonetheless, some people who weren't on the blogger list have decided to hop on here and give the book a one-star rating. Please, if you're trying to decide whether or not to read the book, bear that fact in mind when evaluating those one-star reviews, which appear to come from people who haven't even seen a copy of it, much less read it. I'll wait to review until I've read it, and I'd like to hope that other Goodreads members would have the courtesy to do the same and not play games with the rating system in this way.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    Since reading the Joanna Stafford trilogy (The Crown, The Chalice and The Tapestry) a few years ago, I’ve been waiting and hoping for a new book from Nancy Bilyeau and here it is at last: The Blue. Bilyeau wrote so convincingly about Tudor England in the Joanna Stafford books that I was surprised to find she was switching to an entirely different period for this latest novel – the Seven Years War of 1756 to 1763, a war which involved most of Europe, with Britain and France on opposite sides. Set Since reading the Joanna Stafford trilogy (The Crown, The Chalice and The Tapestry) a few years ago, I’ve been waiting and hoping for a new book from Nancy Bilyeau and here it is at last: The Blue. Bilyeau wrote so convincingly about Tudor England in the Joanna Stafford books that I was surprised to find she was switching to an entirely different period for this latest novel – the Seven Years War of 1756 to 1763, a war which involved most of Europe, with Britain and France on opposite sides. Set against this backdrop, The Blue is an exciting, thrilling tale of espionage, art, religious persecution – and the race to create a new and beautiful shade of blue. Our heroine, Genevieve Planché, is a young Huguenot woman whose family fled France when it became impossible for them to openly practise their religion. Despite her French ancestry, Genevieve has grown up in London among the silk weavers of Spitalfields and considers herself to be English, viewing the French king as someone to be feared. As a talented artist, she longs to have the chance to study painting and develop her skills, but as a woman she discovers that most of the opportunities open to men are closed to her. Her grandfather has made plans for her to go to a porcelain manufactory in Derby where she can paint pretty designs on plates and vases, but that’s not what Genevieve wants out of life. Then, just as she’s losing hope, she meets Sir Gabriel Courtenay at a party and receives a very tempting offer… Sir Gabriel urges her to take up the position she has been offered at the Derby Porcelain Works and track down their chemist who is working on the development of a new colour blue. If Genevieve can steal the formula for blue and pass it to Sir Gabriel, he will help her travel to Venice where, he tells her, she will be taken seriously as a female artist. Genevieve is quick to agree, but once she is in Derby and the true scale of her mission becomes apparent, she begins to have doubts. Why is Sir Gabriel so desperate for the blue? What is the colour’s significance? And what will happen if she is caught? The Blue is a fascinating novel – I learned so much about the production and decoration of porcelain, the meanings of different colours, and the ways in which art and science can combine to create things of beauty – but it is also a gripping and suspenseful historical thriller. One of the things I enjoyed most about the story was that it was so difficult to decide who could and could not be trusted. From the young woman Genevieve shares a room with at the Porcelain Works to Sir Gabriel himself, she has no idea who is on her side and who is likely to betray her. Although she sometimes makes silly mistakes, that is to be expected when she is faced with trying to navigate her way through so many dangerous situations! This is the first book I have read via The Pigeonhole, a website/app which makes books available in daily instalments (referred to as ‘staves’). Each stave ended on a cliffhanger which left me desperate to get back to the story the following morning and reading it over a period of ten days was a wonderful experience. The book is written in present tense, something I usually find off-putting, but it seemed to work much better in the serialised format because it helped me to feel closer to Genevieve, almost as if I was sharing in her adventures as they happened. I would love to read a sequel to The Blue, but if that doesn’t happen then I will look forward to whatever Nancy Bilyeau chooses to write about next.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Audra (Unabridged Chick)

    Porcelain. Not what I thought would make for exciting reading, but in this fabulous book, it's a commodity that drives politics, espionage, and obsession. I'm a longtime fan of Nancy Bilyeau's books: rich with drama and unforgettable characters, they are the kind of books that just sweep you up. Here, Bilyeau makes an industrial endeavor -- the 18th century passion for blue porcelain -- a captivating, dramatic story, centered on a winning heroine. Genevieve Planché is a descendant of French Huguen Porcelain. Not what I thought would make for exciting reading, but in this fabulous book, it's a commodity that drives politics, espionage, and obsession. I'm a longtime fan of Nancy Bilyeau's books: rich with drama and unforgettable characters, they are the kind of books that just sweep you up. Here, Bilyeau makes an industrial endeavor -- the 18th century passion for blue porcelain -- a captivating, dramatic story, centered on a winning heroine. Genevieve Planché is a descendant of French Huguenot refugees. A talented artist, she hopes to be mentored by William Hogarth, but her grandfather wishes her to work as a artisan at the Derby porcelainworks. Her rebellious childhood sweetheart leads her, instead, into a mystifying, increasingly deadly world of industrial espionage -- and us readers into a fascinating world where the scientific pursuit of blue glaze motivates nations and nobles. I loved every page of this book, and my only complaint is that I felt it wrapped up a little too quickly. Genevieve is an intriguing character, one of those fiery heroines who feel authentic rather than overly modern, and she's faced with complicated challenges. (Honestly, there was a point where I was wishing we could have a novel where she sides with our 'villain' because their chemistry was just as delicious as hers with the hero.) Bilyeau evokes Genevieve's world without infodumping and the interpersonal drama is so good and so real. Another winning read from Bilyeau. Initial Thoughts Fascinating historical novel about the 18th century passion for porcelain and in particular, the cutthroat search for the perfect blue. We've a Huguenot heroine with artistic aspirations, who gets roped into investigating the rumors of a blue coming from a Derby porcelain works; a dashing, dastardly noble; a dashing, brilliant inventor; and Madame de Pompadour. I loved how effortlessly Bilyeau plunges into the porcelain passion without infodumping; I understood the how and the why without feeling bored. Our heroine is genuinely smart and fierce and interesting; and the interpersonal stuff is really, really good. (view spoiler)[So much so, I wish we could get another novel, one in which our heroine threw in her lot with that dashing, dastardly noble. (hide spoiler)] Honestly, my only complaint is that the ending felt rushed and a tad too neat; I could have used another 100 pages. I also found myself wanting an Author's Note, because I'm dying to know if that big climatic scene (view spoiler)[where the King declares he's smashing all the blue porcelain (hide spoiler)] is true. (As well as everything with (view spoiler)[Courtenay (hide spoiler)] .)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amy Bruno

    Well my reading year just kicked off with a BANG! Nancy Bilyeau has truly written a masterpiece of a novel! It has everything I look for in a good historical fiction novel - to be education yet entertained, to be taken back in time and immersed in a new world, and I loved every minute I spent within the pages. Genevieve is a young Hugenot woman living in England who yearns to become a painter in a time where women were not welcome. "We are females that do not fit into the world we must live in." Fa Well my reading year just kicked off with a BANG! Nancy Bilyeau has truly written a masterpiece of a novel! It has everything I look for in a good historical fiction novel - to be education yet entertained, to be taken back in time and immersed in a new world, and I loved every minute I spent within the pages. Genevieve is a young Hugenot woman living in England who yearns to become a painter in a time where women were not welcome. "We are females that do not fit into the world we must live in." Faced with a unwanted future she takes the opportunity to cahnge her circumstances by accepting a proposition from a mysterious, yet influential man. Genevieve is bold, clever, and passionate about what she wants and is adamant on getting it. She was quite the character! Naive at times, but a woman good at heart and ardent on pursuing her love of art. The sights, the smells, the gritty of 18th century London is brought to glorious life under the master hand of Nancy Bilyeau. One thing that I really loved was how it kept me guessing, unsure of how it would all pan out at the end. Which made it easy to fly through the pages! If you're looking for a fascinating look into the porcelain craze of the 18th century and the quest to find the color blue, I highly recommend this book. It has over 130 five star reviews on Goodreads, so I'm not the only one that found it exceptional. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy! You can thank me later :)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cryssa

    A suspenseful story about espionage in the 18th century porcelain industry. Genevieve is a realistically drawn and highly intriguing heroine. She’s strong and deeply independent and willing to risk anything for her dream of being an artist. Even if it means spying for a rival porcelain house in a race to discover a new shade of blue. Rich historical detail, great characterization and a nail-biting plot. Loved it!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Q

    3.5 Stars. I very much enjoyed Nancy Bilyeau's Joanna Stafford trilogy, so I was excited to see she had a new book. In The Blue, she jumps forward two hundred years, leaving the Tudor era behind for the decadent Georgians, the scandalous court of Louis XV, and the porcelain rage that was sweeping Europe. Genevieve Planche is a young Huguenot woman living in London with her grandfather, her family having fled religious persecution in France. A talented artist, Genevieve longs to do more than paint 3.5 Stars. I very much enjoyed Nancy Bilyeau's Joanna Stafford trilogy, so I was excited to see she had a new book. In The Blue, she jumps forward two hundred years, leaving the Tudor era behind for the decadent Georgians, the scandalous court of Louis XV, and the porcelain rage that was sweeping Europe. Genevieve Planche is a young Huguenot woman living in London with her grandfather, her family having fled religious persecution in France. A talented artist, Genevieve longs to do more than paint flowers on fabric for society ladies' dresses. She wants to capture the world around her on canvas, but to do so she needs a teacher. Unfortunately, no teacher in London will take on a woman as a student. Though she is offered a job as a decorator at her cousin's porcelain factory in Derby, Genevieve believes her creativity and spirit will be crushed in such a meaningless job, and she is about to take drastic action to avoid that fate when a mysterious benefactor makes her an offer: take the job in Derby, find the chemist rumored to be working on the most beautiful shade of blue the world has ever seen, steal his formula, and she will be fully funded to Venice, where women are accepted as artists. But Derby turns out to be nothing like Genevieve was expecting. Her new employers are suspicious of her from the start, and her eyes are opened to the cutthroat competitiveness of the porcelain industry and the lengths her employers are willing to go to to win the race. But she does make some friends and, to her surprise, she does find some creative satisfaction. Genevieve turns out to be a rather poor spy, and she constantly wages an internal battle over the morality of her actions, especially once she finds her elusive quarry. But her benefactor will suffer no excuses and makes clear that there will be dire consequences should Genevieve fail to carry out her mission. What follows is a tense game of cat-and-mouse as Genevieve tries to stay a step ahead of the dangerous men who will stop at nothing to get what they want while she tries to extricate herself from her precarious position and save the people she loves. While I liked the story and the characters, I didn't love the book as much as I'd hoped to. The beginning chapters hooked me and the final chapters were intense and exciting as the story reached its conclusion, but the middle of the book dragged. While I found the porcelain war fascinating, at times there was too much description and I started skimming scenes revolving around discussions of technique and color. And yet it seemed odd that in a story that moved along so slowly, Genevieve and her gentleman fell in love at first sight, and that development was the point upon which the rest of the story pivoted. I would have liked to see more of a buildup to love alongside the buildup of the story. Still, I can recommend The Blue as a unique offering in historical fiction, peopled with real figures from the pioneering porcelain works in England and France, set against the backdrop of the Seven Years War and religious persecution, and featuring a heroine readers can easily identify with and root for.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Donna Maguire

    https://donnasbookblog.wordpress.com/... I love this author’s books so I was delighted to see that she had a new release and jumped at the chance to get my hands on a copy!! The story is excellent, well researched and executed brilliantly. I loved the plot and thought that it flowed very well. I was addicted to the story and loved the characterisation the author has with the book. I love historical fiction and this is one of the best books in that genre that I have read in 2018!! It is another bril https://donnasbookblog.wordpress.com/... I love this author’s books so I was delighted to see that she had a new release and jumped at the chance to get my hands on a copy!! The story is excellent, well researched and executed brilliantly. I loved the plot and thought that it flowed very well. I was addicted to the story and loved the characterisation the author has with the book. I love historical fiction and this is one of the best books in that genre that I have read in 2018!! It is another brilliant book from Nancy Bilyeau – no hesitation in giving this one 5 stars – it is superb!!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Heather Webb

    Under Bilyeau’s skillful hand, I was swept into the 18th century and the fascinating world of porcelain. In fact, I found myself digging around online in a mini research quest of my own to look into different kinds of porcelain, its history, and the scandals surrounding it--a sign of a good book. What's more, the obsessive pursuit of beauty, secrets and invisible ink, and a heroine not afraid of tossing off the conventions of her very strict Huguenot upbringing to follow her dreams, all make for Under Bilyeau’s skillful hand, I was swept into the 18th century and the fascinating world of porcelain. In fact, I found myself digging around online in a mini research quest of my own to look into different kinds of porcelain, its history, and the scandals surrounding it--a sign of a good book. What's more, the obsessive pursuit of beauty, secrets and invisible ink, and a heroine not afraid of tossing off the conventions of her very strict Huguenot upbringing to follow her dreams, all make for a compelling read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julieta Almeida Rodrigues

    What I most loved about The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau is the idea! How art and money combine to form a magnificent 18th century tale of international espionage. As the daughter of a Portuguese collector who did not miss a porcelain sale in the famous Lisbon auction houses, I was brought up with the notion that the blue to be found in exclusive pieces was invaluable. As a child, I lived with these pieces around me. As an adult reader, I loved going back to The Blue and see how, in retrospective, my f What I most loved about The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau is the idea! How art and money combine to form a magnificent 18th century tale of international espionage. As the daughter of a Portuguese collector who did not miss a porcelain sale in the famous Lisbon auction houses, I was brought up with the notion that the blue to be found in exclusive pieces was invaluable. As a child, I lived with these pieces around me. As an adult reader, I loved going back to The Blue and see how, in retrospective, my father had been so justified in his choice of what he sought to collect.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Pheadra

    The best way to describe this book in a word is “colourful”. Set in the 18th century in both England (for the main part) and France, it is the tale of a feisty, smart, talented young woman Genevieve Planché, a French Huguenot living in England. Her quick wit and unusual outlook on most things immediately endear her to the reader. Being a talented artist, her dream is to draw under the pupillage of a master artist but in England, this is unthinkable for a woman. At the time, the most valued curre The best way to describe this book in a word is “colourful”. Set in the 18th century in both England (for the main part) and France, it is the tale of a feisty, smart, talented young woman Genevieve Planché, a French Huguenot living in England. Her quick wit and unusual outlook on most things immediately endear her to the reader. Being a talented artist, her dream is to draw under the pupillage of a master artist but in England, this is unthinkable for a woman. At the time, the most valued currency is porcelain with espionage of the finest formulas in colour and composition rife. Enter the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay. He lures her with an offer to go to Venice to further her learning of art provided she learns the secret of the colour blue in the porcelain factory of Derby. What follows is a detailed account of the porcelain industry intermingled with a bunch of characters, some highly likeable and some sadly on the other end of the scale. The descriptions alone penned by Bilyeau make this a worthy read. The weather, drawings, costumes, scenery and characters are brought to life in a rich tapestry of words that transport the reader in the blink of an eye to the scene described. The story is exceptionally well written and if more historical fiction was presented like this, the genre I have no doubt would prove more popular. The story centres on the discovery of a shade of blue, at a time when relations are strained between England and France. On another level, it outlines the accepted and expected behaviour of women. My soul criticism came right at the ending when I felt the story concluded abruptly. This may be the way to induce a sequel on the part of the author, but I had wanted to know what became of characters that were introduced earlier, to whom no further reference was made. Regardless, I cannot in good conscience give this book anything less than 5 stars. Bravo!

  20. 4 out of 5

    James

    Crime fiction is primarily a literature of human behavior under extreme moral pressure. At its worst, it is sensationalist and emotionally shallow at one extreme, and escapist and emotionally inauthentic at the other. But at its best, it is a contemplation on the power of evil acting upon both the innocent and the culpable, the dangers and rewards of shadowy compromise on the one hand and moral inflexibility on the other, and the confused morass of human motivations and interactions. Good histori Crime fiction is primarily a literature of human behavior under extreme moral pressure. At its worst, it is sensationalist and emotionally shallow at one extreme, and escapist and emotionally inauthentic at the other. But at its best, it is a contemplation on the power of evil acting upon both the innocent and the culpable, the dangers and rewards of shadowy compromise on the one hand and moral inflexibility on the other, and the confused morass of human motivations and interactions. Good historical crime fiction, by changing its cultural context to another time, compelling the reader to compare the past with the present, benefits by limning these issues against an ethical background that starkly contrasts with the familiar. In 18th century England, a pickpocket could be hanged for stealing a handkerchief, but human trafficking was perfectly lawful. By their nature, historical mysteries provide the reader with two complementary insights. The first is an awareness of how differently people behaved in the past than they do today, conveying how much our attitudes have evolved over time, and stimulates meditation regarding our ethical evolution our time, good and bad. The second, and to my mind, more important, is an awareness of how much people remain very much the same, and how much their existence is governed by their essential humanity, irrespective of the wider circumstances. Crimes and sins may change, but love, hate, hunger, greed, and compassion, to name just a few characteristics, are eternal. As are certain themes—the themes explored by Nancy Bilyeau. In her new novel, The Blue, Bilyeau revisits several of the dominant themes she explored in her well-received earlier trilogy featuring Joanna Stafford, a displaced young nun in Henry VIII’s England, but sets the drama in 18th century England and France, during the Seven Years’ War. Like the Stafford novels, The Blue is a first-person narrative (but in present tense) told by an artistically gifted young woman frustrated by the restrictions placed upon her in the society in which she lives. Along the way, there are other similarities: discussions on the nature and abuse of power, the major and minor tragedies attending religious intolerance, the role and purpose of art, the loneliness of exile, the pitfalls of overweening ambition, the need for painstaking discretion to avoid peril, the challenges of keeping a pure conscience, the pain of imprisonment (both literal and figurative), and romantic love as a means of salvation. It may seem on the surface that The Blue is a reiteration of the story told in The Crown, The Chalice, and The Tapestry. Even the similarity of all the titles may seem to indicate that the books are all one of a piece. But this is misleading. Joanna Stratford was a nun who had to learn how to live out of the cloister as a layperson against her will. Genevieve Planché, the protagonist of The Blue, is a third generation English Huguenot, a staunchly anti-Catholic Calvinist, who knows exactly how to thrive in her community as far as she is allowed to do so, but dares to dream of a more fulfilling existence. Joanna lost her vocation, but Genevieve is looking for how to enter hers: she longs to be a serious painter in oils, an occupation closed to women. (The first celebrated female portraitist was still a generation away: Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun was only three years old when The Blue takes place, and was a scion of Paris salon society rather than a middle-class member of an iconoclastic sect.) And the title has a secondary meaning from its literal one. Crowns, chalices, and tapestries, while powerful symbols, are tangible things. The color blue, however, is an abstraction, tangible only to the eye, and was at the time the most sought after tincture in the spectrum. A rich, enveloping, royal blue—although there was Prussian blue available at the time, it was not considered entirely adequate—a blue that was just beyond the reach of art. Like Genevieve’s ambition, it was an artistic goal fraught with barriers and obstacles. Although Genevieve’s quest is directed squarely at canvas, the primary medium for this color to which Bilyeau directs our attention is fine porcelain: delicate, fragile, sublime, formed through a metamorphosis of rough clay, God’s earthly material for creating Man, into something altogether precious and celestial, the paragon of taste and elegance. Something that leads beyond simple avarice. Something that leads to obsession. That singular theme is something new in her work, and imbues her story with an even greater psychological depth. Nancy Bilyeau has given us a world of industrial espionage and international intrigue, high art and low cunning, profound love and intractable hatred, rational discourse and irrational behavior, all for the love of a color, painted in deft strokes both fine and broad. The Blue is a triumph. [Full disclosure: this book was provided to me by the author’s publicist at the author’s request. I moderated Nancy Bilyeau’s first appearance in a panel at a mystery convention, Bouchercon XLIV in 2013 in Albany, NY. The topic was historical mysteries.]

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lisa of Hopewell

    Learned of this book here: http://www.thebigthrill.org/2018/04/t...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Juliet Bookliterati

    The Blue is a historical novel set in the eighteenth century and centres around the periods obsession with porcelain.  Porcelain was a luxurious commodity, very much in demand for those who could afford it, and there was great rivalry between the different potteries.  The Blue follows Genevieve, a descendant of Huguenot refugees, whose dream it is to become an artist.  Following her dream is not that easy, so her cousin gets her a position as a decorator at a pottery in Derby.  A chance encounte The Blue is a historical novel set in the eighteenth century and centres around the periods obsession with porcelain.  Porcelain was a luxurious commodity, very much in demand for those who could afford it, and there was great rivalry between the different potteries.  The Blue follows Genevieve, a descendant of Huguenot refugees, whose dream it is to become an artist.  Following her dream is not that easy, so her cousin gets her a position as a decorator at a pottery in Derby.  A chance encounter with Sir Gabriel Courtney sets her about obtaining a secret of the colour blue being developed in Derby and in return he will send her to Venice to train as an artist. Little does she realise how much danger she is putting herself and those she loves in danger. The Blue is a beautifully written book with some wonderful and memorable characters.  Genevieve is an interesting character, she is twenty four, opinionated, unmarried and her life ruled by men.  Her dream of becoming a serious artist, a History Painter, drives her but in the eighteenth century women were not permitted to be part of the Art Academies.  History painting required the study of the human form and it was not deemed appropriate for women to enter a life class.  There were some exceptions to the rule, Angelica Kauffman was a female History Painter and did study at the Royal Academy as was Mary Moser.   Genevieve's only option is to be a decorative artist, and this is what takes her to Derby, where she finds herself embroiled in industrial espionage. She comes across as very naive, she has not thought through the consequences of her actions, and she is far too trusting of people.  She finds her fate in the hands of two very different men, whilst in love with a third. The Blue seamlessly combines detailed historical fiction with the suspense and drama of a thriller. There are secrets, lies, murder, kidnapping, espionage, romance and a secret chemist set within the confines of the eighteenth century industrial revolution.  Nancy Bilyeau's writing really captures the zeitgeist of the period; the class divide, the effects of war on country, the Huguenot refugees and their legacy to the silk industry, workers rights and the role of women.  She writes with incredible understanding and detail of these issues which adds to the enjoyment of the novel. At the centre of this novel is the idea of perfection and how far people will go to attain it.  The elusive Derby Blue is seen as the new perfect blue for pottery, but is it worth loosing your life for and endangering the life of those you love. I loved reading The Blue, and found it engaging from start to finish.  It did appeal to my love of history and art, and I found myself  feeling annoyed on Genevieve's behalf at the restrictions placed on her and how she was treated. As a lead characters she is opinionated, strong willed and willing to fight for that she believes in and I really wanted a happy ending for her. If you love historical fiction that is well researched, with plenty of detail and the suspense and tension of a thriller then I highly recommend this book; A scintillating and gripping read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    The Lit Bitch

    4.5 stars I’ve only read a couple of Nancy Bilyeau’s novels, which was a good read but for some reason I didn’t get back to any of her other novels. I saw this one floating around various book sites and was intrigued. I was interesting in this book because I thought it was going to be about china and porcelain and somehow circle back and become a historical thriller. In sort, that’s exactly what I got with this one—-porcelain and a little bit of suspense. I love when I get to read a book and learn 4.5 stars I’ve only read a couple of Nancy Bilyeau’s novels, which was a good read but for some reason I didn’t get back to any of her other novels. I saw this one floating around various book sites and was intrigued. I was interesting in this book because I thought it was going to be about china and porcelain and somehow circle back and become a historical thriller. In sort, that’s exactly what I got with this one—-porcelain and a little bit of suspense. I love when I get to read a book and learn about odd or unique bits of history. I am one of those people who lives for random trivia knowledge and I love when I get to experience something like that with a book I am reading. This book had a lot of wonderful historical detail about the porcelain trade and I loved learning about it and picking up odd bits of information. What I wasn’t expecting in this book was the depth of the narrative. I loved how Bilyeau crafted, not just a historical novel with fun historical details…..but something that explored the human condition in the period. In this book, Genevieve our protagonist, is struggle to enter into an artistic society. She is strong and has her own opinions, she knows who she is and what she wants and it was a thrill to see her struggle in the society and time period that she was placed. For me this added so much to the novel and moved the story along while holding my attention. As a historian myself, the meat of any historical fiction novel is the period and the details for me. This book started off a little on the slow side because there was a lot of historic set up to do. While as a historian I don’t mind that, I think some readers might get a little bored—however I encourage you all to push past the historical details and world set up because the story itself is wonderful to see come alive. This is a period in history that I didn’t know much about and I didn’t know anything about porcelain so I loved reading about the historical period and didn’t necessarily mind the tedious and detailed set up, but I also know that style isn’t for everyone. While this is a completely separate novel from Bilyeau’s earlier series featuring her well known heroine, Joanna Stafford, I think there are similar themes in this story about Genevieve. If you liked The Chalice and The Crown, you will certainly like this book and enjoy meeting a similar heroine but in a different time and place. And one final note—-I loved this cover. This cover is everything. It’s elegant, eye catching, interesting and made me want to read this book. It’s different and elegant and I would pick it up in a bookstore without hesitation. The cover designer was top notch! See my full review here

  24. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Swift

    The Blue is a novel which wears its research lightly and moves at a cracking pace. Genevieve Planche is a strong-willed and adventurous character, who refuses to settle for the dull life of a porcelain painter and instead sets her sights on becoming a true artist. Recruited as a spy within the Derby factory, with the promise of the teacher she desperately needs, she is soon in deep trouble. In the quest to uncover the secret of making the colour blue, which will revive the porcelain industry, th The Blue is a novel which wears its research lightly and moves at a cracking pace. Genevieve Planche is a strong-willed and adventurous character, who refuses to settle for the dull life of a porcelain painter and instead sets her sights on becoming a true artist. Recruited as a spy within the Derby factory, with the promise of the teacher she desperately needs, she is soon in deep trouble. In the quest to uncover the secret of making the colour blue, which will revive the porcelain industry, there is double-dealing, murder, and a search for a chemical formula, and all these propel the plot forward to keep the reader hooked. Derby is not the only factory wanting the elusive colour, and the book takes us to Versailles and the hermitage of Madame de Pompadour, and to the interior of the Sevres Factory for the final climax of the story. Well-researched and well-written, this will please anyone who loves the art of ceramics or a cracking adventure. The Planches were real figures, and Derby porcelain was at the height of its popularity in the 18th Century. Nancy Bilyeau skilfully weaves the facts and fiction together to produce a highly entertaining glimpse of the world of porcelain.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jo Barton

    We have so much colour in our lives that we forget that there was a time when dyes and colours weren't as easily accessible. The Blue explores the details of the search for the perfect shade of blue, that dazzling, transcendent magic which transforms an ordinary piece of porcelain into the most prized possession. However, Genevieve Planché, is not really interested in the finer points of porcelain, what she wants is to become a respected artist, but as a woman in a man's world this is proving to We have so much colour in our lives that we forget that there was a time when dyes and colours weren't as easily accessible. The Blue explores the details of the search for the perfect shade of blue, that dazzling, transcendent magic which transforms an ordinary piece of porcelain into the most prized possession. However, Genevieve Planché, is not really interested in the finer points of porcelain, what she wants is to become a respected artist, but as a woman in a man's world this is proving to be extremely difficult. And then, unexpectedly, she is offered the opportunity of a lifetime, but first she must learn about porcelain and undertake a task which is the most difficult of all challenges, namely, to seek out the formulation for the perfect colour of blue. The author writes about the eighteenth century with skill, and a real passion for detail, and in creating Genevieve Planché she has given us a worthy heroine. There is much to enjoy in this exciting historical drama, not just in terms of plot and adventure, but also in the detailed characterisation of those people who flit into and out of the story. From the industrial heartlands of England, to the flamboyant court of a French King and his mistress, The Blue captures the very essence of eighteenth century life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nicki

    I read this book through The Pigeonhole, a free online book club and read it with other readers on the web. It was split into 10 parts, called staves, that I read through the nifty Pigeonhole app. I must admit I was first drawn to this book because of the stunning cover, plus I read the author's debut The Crown many years ago, so had high hopes for this book. I read this on The Pigeonhole a bit differently this time, instead of reading a stave each day I read the whole book over 24 hours, it was I read this book through The Pigeonhole, a free online book club and read it with other readers on the web. It was split into 10 parts, called staves, that I read through the nifty Pigeonhole app. I must admit I was first drawn to this book because of the stunning cover, plus I read the author's debut The Crown many years ago, so had high hopes for this book. I read this on The Pigeonhole a bit differently this time, instead of reading a stave each day I read the whole book over 24 hours, it was that good! I loved the main character Genevieve, she was a feisty young woman, so well written I got behind her straight away. Sir Gabriel was such an intriguing character, so handsome and charming, but was he all he claimed to be? Should Genevieve trust him or not? Well without giving anything away, this was a fast paced, twisty turny, historical fiction, full of intrigue espionage, porcelain and the colour blue. Who'd have thought that a story about porcelain and colour would prevent me from putting this book down? This is definitely going on my list of top reads for 2018 and I thoroughly recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Kelly

    As with any book by Nancy, I always learn something. I never knew that the color blue had such a significant place in history. Genevieve Planché is an English born woman but is actually a Huguenot and absolutely hates the French and all they stand for, including the King. She aspires to be an artist, but of course, women in 1758 London are not taken seriously so she paints porcelain. She lives with her grandfather on Spitalfields, a questionable area to live in. She meets Sir Gabriel Courtenay w As with any book by Nancy, I always learn something. I never knew that the color blue had such a significant place in history. Genevieve Planché is an English born woman but is actually a Huguenot and absolutely hates the French and all they stand for, including the King. She aspires to be an artist, but of course, women in 1758 London are not taken seriously so she paints porcelain. She lives with her grandfather on Spitalfields, a questionable area to live in. She meets Sir Gabriel Courtenay who wants her to spy for him regarding the color blue, he wants the formula for the color. She is tasked with going to Derby and is expected to infiltrate the lab where the color is formulated. The main obsession of Sir Gabriel is with getting the information on a new shade of blue on porcelain that is a perfect shade. She wants to be able to go to Venice as Sir Gabriel has promised to fulfill a lifelong dream of being able to study so she agrees. Things don't go as planned though and she finds herself in France, the very place she hates. She is concerned though that the task she has to undertake could cause problems for her grandfather. Spying is not something she has wanted to do but in order for her to fulfill her dreams, she must do this. Like I said before, Nancy's novels always seem to teach and thrill at the same time. An exciting story that is character driven, and has a female protagonist that is strong and goes after what she wants and does not let society tell her what she can and can't do. The addition of a love story keeps the story fluid and easy to read. When I look at some of the porcelain figures I have, I just never realized nor cared how they were made or about the colors that they are painted with. Well, I will now..lol. I always look forward to a new book by Nancy and this one did not disappoint! Go get your copy when it is released, you won't be disappointed!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marie Z. Johansen

    So Satisfying! When I read about this books background I was a bit ambivalent...but once I began reading I became enthralled! At it’s heart this book is a romance; one between two people and another about a countries romance with porcelain and the color blue. I learned so much from reading this book...and my continual fact checking confirmed that the excellent plot was based largely on facts. I have read other books by this author...and have enjoyed them all, but I think that with this book she ha So Satisfying! When I read about this books background I was a bit ambivalent...but once I began reading I became enthralled! At it’s heart this book is a romance; one between two people and another about a countries romance with porcelain and the color blue. I learned so much from reading this book...and my continual fact checking confirmed that the excellent plot was based largely on facts. I have read other books by this author...and have enjoyed them all, but I think that with this book she has truly “upped her game”. This was a satisfying, thoroughly enjoyable read...looking forward to her next book...

  29. 4 out of 5

    ASDerban

    I have just finished reading this book as a serial with The Pigeonhole and it gripped me from the first stave to the last. I even found myself re-reading each day's portion just to stay close to the story. It seems a perfect blend of many themes that interest me: history, of course! Very good writing, with words beautifully chosen and put together. England, France, beauty, colour, art, science, religion, philosophy, faith, conviction, food, parties even! Generous dollops of romance, enigmatic vi I have just finished reading this book as a serial with The Pigeonhole and it gripped me from the first stave to the last. I even found myself re-reading each day's portion just to stay close to the story. It seems a perfect blend of many themes that interest me: history, of course! Very good writing, with words beautifully chosen and put together. England, France, beauty, colour, art, science, religion, philosophy, faith, conviction, food, parties even! Generous dollops of romance, enigmatic villains, intrigue, suspense, industrial espionage, plenty of laughs (for me, anyway; my sense of humour can be a bit dry), twists and turns galore. Well-drawn characters, especially the women; a strong female protagonist very much ahead of her time and determined to achieve her goals no matter the cost, it seemed. I learned a great deal of new information about many subjects, but it was incorporated into the story in a way that made the learning all part of the fun. Yes, the ending was rather neat and I would have loved the story to run to a second book. However, I give it 5 stars for an enjoyable, very informative read. I'm getting hard copies to give as Christmas presents, it's that good. I look forward to discovering the author's other work and I will read anything else she writes without hesitation.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gail Wylde

    This book drew me in immediately as I loved the cover, I wasn’t disappointed. This book had it all, history, intrigue, strong likeable characters and porcelain! I learnt something about the Huguenots, Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour which I knew nothing about. This is the first book I have read by Nancy Bilyeau and it will certainly not be the last. I have recommended it to friends and family and will continue to do so. Thank you to Pigeonhole and to Nancy for allowing me to read this.

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