A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau- Feature and Review


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?



The BlueThe Blue by Nancy Bilyeau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau is a 2018 Endeavour Quill publication.

Original and interesting-

In eighteenth century London the war with France is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but another war is brewing which is centered around the porcelain trade. The search for a particular shade of blue, which stands out brilliantly when applied to porcelain is sought after by those in high places.

Genevieve is an artist who longs to be recognized as such. Unfortunately, because she is a woman, she is not allowed that accreditation. This desire, coupled with her personal situation, which has marred her reputation, leaves Genevieve vulnerable to a proposition. If she chooses to accept the offer, and is successful in her quest, it will open the door to all her dreams. What’s the catch?

Genevieve, as loath as she is to work in the porcelain factory, as a painter, finds the prospect much more appealing, when she accepts the role of spy. If she can discover who is behind the creation of a brilliant hue of blue and report back to her benefactor, she will be able to leave England and become the artist she’s always wanted to be.

Unfortunately, her plans immediately go awry, making her job very difficult indeed, and putting her under intense scrutiny.

Yet, once she makes headway, learning more about the source behind ‘the blue’, she is faced with an unforeseen complication which involves not only her conscience, but her heart, as well.

The premise of the story is truly interesting. Finding colors which are not a part of an original palette is evidently much harder than I ever could have imagined. The intrigue is very suspenseful, with some surprise revelations along the way.

Occasionally, Genevieve said or did things I questioned, and she had a certain gullibility that the modern reader might scoff at. However, putting oneself in this era of time, and noting that our heroine had limited training as a spy, she thought quickly on her feet, and made adjustments with each new curve ball thrown her way. She was vulnerable and in constant danger of discovery. So, maybe at times, I can be too hard on the ladies in historical fiction, expecting them to think, speak, and respond the way we would today. So, upon reflection, Genevieve was probably much more daring and unconventional than most women of her time, so I relaxed my judgments and gave her the benefit of the doubt.

The romantic elements were suited to my taste, as I love to see a couple endure real adversity and still persevere, stronger than ever, and of course, I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

The only other minor grievance I had, was with the length of the book. The plot could have been tightened up with a few nips and tucks, giving the story a more consistent flow.

Other than that, this book came along at a time when I was on the lookout for anything in the historical fiction category that was NOT set in world war two, for a change. The story took me away to another time and I learned a few interesting things in the process.

If you enjoy historical fiction, and if you are like me, looking for something that hasn’t been done a million times over, I think you might find this book of interest. It’s a fascinating, suspenseful story, full of intrigue and adventure.






Nancy Bilyeau is the author of the historical thrillers "The Blue" and "Dreamland" and the Tudor mystery series "The Crown," "The Chalice," and "The Tapestry." She is a magazine editor who has lived in the United States and Canada.

In "The Blue," Nancy drew on her own heritage as a Huguenot. She is a direct descendant of Pierre Billiou, a French Huguenot who immigrated to what was then New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1661. Nancy's ancestor, Isaac, was born on the boat crossing the Atlantic, the St. Jean de Baptiste. Pierre's stone house still stands and is the third oldest house in New York State.

Nancy, who studied History at the University of Michigan, has worked on the staffs of "InStyle," "Good Housekeeping," and "Rolling Stone." She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the Research Foundation of CUNY and a regular contributor to "Town & Country" and "Mystery Scene Magazine."

Nancy's mind is always in past centuries but she currently lives with her husband and two children in New York City.

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