I read Belle Epoque, by Elizabeth Ross, as part of YALSA's "2014 Hub Reading Challenge" - it was the first book I read for the challenge and I loved it!
I was intrigued by the premise behind the novel from the start. In 1800s Paris, rich society people hire "foils" - ugly girls - to work as their friends/escorts, in an attempt to make themselves look more beautiful and desirable my comparison. I just thought that was such a funny concept and had to read the book!
The novel follows Maude Pichon, who runs away to Paris in hopes of making something of herself. However, she discovers that life is harder for a girl like her than she would have imagined, and she's ashamed to take a job at the Durandeau Agency, a "repoussior" agency - the agency that employs and hires out ugly girls. Maude experiences instant success at the agency, and becomes the exclusive employee of the Count and Countess Dubern. Their daughter is debuting into Paris society, and they want ugly Maude by her side to ensure that she secures the most desirable of bachelors. Maude becomes caught up in the extravagant lifestyle and even begins to develop a friendship with her employer. However, she can't help but feel like she's living a lie. Despite all the warnings from her mentor at the agency, she gets carried away and winds up hurting herself and those she's close to.
I found some parts of the plot highly predictable and almost a little stock, but overall the idea behind the novel was so interesting and unique to me that I was able to overlook those parts. I'd recommend this novel to girls, especially those interested in Paris or making a new life for themselves.