#aww2019 · 2019 Reviews · book bingo · historical fiction

#Book Bingo 2019 Round 18: ‘Written by an Australian Woman’- The Invitation by Belinda Alexandra

book bingo 2019 31 August.jpg

Book Bingo 2019 is a collaboration challenge I am completing with my favourite bloggers, Theresa Smith Writes and The Book Muse. Each Saturday, on a fortnightly basis, beginning on Saturday 5th January 2019, Ashleigh, Theresa and I will complete a book review post, outlining our respective bingo card entries. The Book Bingo 2019 card contains a total of 30 squares, which we will complete over the course of the year, with the aim to complete the whole card by the end of December. Two of the Book Bingo entries this year will be flexible, so that means it is completely down us as to when we post these entries, to ensure all 30 are ticked off by the end of the year. Do keep an eye out on our respective blog sites for our bonus round entries!  To keep things interesting for ourselves and those following along with us, the choice of bingo square to be covered will be entirely down to us, there is no crossover – that is planned anyway! However, as Ashleigh, Theresa and I enjoy similar books, especially books by Australian women writers, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we end up with more than one book double up, as was the case in 2018! We invite you to join us in this fun book related challenge, by linking your bingo card entries in the comments section of this post, tagging us on social media, or by visiting The Book Muse and Theresa Smith Writes.


In Gilded Age New York, money buys everything. What is your price? The latest the invitation smallsweeping saga from Belinda Alexandra.

Sometimes the ties that bind are the most dangerous of all …

Paris, 1899. Emma Lacasse has been estranged from her older sister for nearly twenty years, since Caroline married a wealthy American and left France. So when Caroline invites Emma to help prepare her shy, young niece for her society debut, Emma is intrigued.

Caroline lives a life of unimaginable excess and opulence as one of New York’s Gilded Age ultra rich and Emma is soon immersed in a world of luxury beyond her wildest dreams – a far cry from her bohemian lifestyle as a harpist and writer with her lover, Claude, in Montmartre.

Emma hopes for an emotional reunion with her only family, but instead she finds herself in the vice-like grip of her charismatic and manipulative sister. As Emma begins to question Caroline’s true motives, a disaster strikes, and New York society is stripped bare – beneath the glittering exterior lies a seething nest of deceit, betrayal, moral corruption … and perhaps even murder.

From the bestselling author of Tuscan Rose comes a mesmerising tale of two sisters and the dangers and seductions of excess.

Review:

Embossed with gold, much like the grand and opulent lives experienced by the rich in this new novel from Belinda Alexandra, The Invitation is a ticket to the Gilded Age in New York. Following two vastly different sisters, it considers the value of happiness and personal fulfilment, in the face of wealth and opportunity. Fans of historical fiction will enjoy being showered by the period detail and intriguing narrative penned by Australian storyteller, Belinda Alexandra.

The Invitation begins in the late 1800s, in Paris. Emma and Caroline are sisters, who are as different as chalk and cheese. Caroline, the older sister, has big ambitions. When Caroline marries a very rich American man, she moves to New York and leaves her younger sister Emma behind. Emma is left penniless in France after the death of their Grand-maman. Appealing to her wealthy older sister for help, Caroline takes advantage of her sister’s desperation and uses her as a governess of sorts. Emma must assist Caroline’s shy daughter Isadora to ensure her society debut is as a successful as possible. Emma finds it hard to adjust to her new life in America and she lives in her sister’s shadow. Emma is almost kept captive in her sister’s residence, unable to venture out, or socialise with anyone without Caroline’s permission. As Emma becomes a pawn to Caroline’s scheming, only tragedy, disappointment and twists of fate lay ahead for Emma, her sister and their family.

It must be ten years now since I first picked up my first Belinda Alexandra book, White Gardenia and I haven’t looked back. I always eagerly anticipate a new release from Alexandra. I love her ability to weave a strong historical fiction based tale, with plenty of detail, lavish settings and appealing characters. Fans old and new will appreciate this new novel from Alexandra. The Invitation definitely entertains from cover to cover.

The setting pulled me straight into Belinda Alexandra’s new book. As a big Francophile, I adored the way Alexandra represented late 1800s France. I enjoyed following along with Emma as she lived a bohemian lifestyle. Emma appealed to me a great deal. I loved her passion for art, writing and music. She was very grounded and kind hearted. I did find she was a little weak at times. I desperately wanted Emma to stand up for herself and gain the upper hand over her truly despicable sister Caroline.

Alexandra takes a slight feminist focus with this novel, giving a hint of the early rumblings of women’s rights. Emma and her niece, Isadora are both faced with the dilemma of the expectations of this era, marriage and continuing their creative pursuits in the public sphere. This was a time when it wasn’t acceptable for women to do both, or even have a career. Alexandra examines this aspect well within her novel.

The period detail in The Invitation is absolutely sensational. Alexandra has clearly performed an immense amount of research around her main subject matter, setting and timeline. Both France and New York come alive through Alexandra’s detailed descriptions. I loved the smaller details too. The clothing, fashions, even corsets, were described in vivid detail. The architecture and interior designs of the houses of the wealthy played a big part in The Invitation. I could easily picture these fancy abodes in my mind, thanks to Alexandra’s prose. Likewise, Alexandra compares the vast wealth of the rich, to very poor. The overcrowding, diseases, lack of schooling for children and the like. This was also a time where there was absolutely no reliance on welfare in times of disadvantage. It was a tough life for many.

The hardest part of The Invitation was Caroline, Emma’s sister. She truly was horrendous. I disliked Caroline and her detestable actions so much that I almost threw this book across the room! How anyone could behave like this towards family astounds and angers me. I hoped karma would catch up with Caroline up in the end!

A full journey, with whispers of secrets, mystery, intrigue, plots aplenty defines The Invitation. Belinda Alexandra’s latest offers a strong examination of the bonds of family, as well as the question of wealth versus happiness. Another example of historical fiction told with flair, read Belinda Alexandra’s The Invitation if you are on the hunt for an immersive period piece.

**** 4 stars

The Invitation by Belinda Alexandra was published on 22nd October 2018 by Harper Collins –  AU Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Invitation, Belinda Alexandra, visit here.

The Invitation is book #112 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge

6 thoughts on “#Book Bingo 2019 Round 18: ‘Written by an Australian Woman’- The Invitation by Belinda Alexandra

  1. I’m using this square today too, I won’t be able to write it up until this arvo, I hoped to finish a nonfiction book for a different square but alas its only half done, so I’m cheating with a short story I read last night.
    This book was a dnf for me, I just couldn’t get a good feeling on the characters and the era, they all seemed so totally absorbed in a world I couldn’t relate to at all. I’m glad you enjoyed it though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh gosh, I love her books! Great review, Amanda and a good pick for that square. I don’t own this one but I do own many other of her books. I’ve yet to choose an Australian author for this category but it won’t be difficult.
    I chose the ‘Themes of Science Fiction’ square, and I can honestly say, thank goodness, the theme ones are done with lol. I read Cold Storage by David Koepp and I loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s