Title: The Heart of the Ritz
Author: Luke Devenish
Published: September 1st 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4.5 stars
Four women join forces, with conviction, courage … and style
France, April 1940. Orphan Polly Hartford has been sent across oceans to her Aunt Marjorie, known only from letters. When Marjorie dies in suspicious circumstances, Polly is left with her aunt’s loaded pistol in a beautiful Hermès handbag . . . and to the care of Marjorie’s three closest friends: an elegant Comtesse, a gutter-born film star and a big-hearted American heiress.
Polly is taken to live at the Hôtel Ritz, where guests and staff believe wealth and prestige protect them from war. But when the Nazis invade, the illusion is shattered. As Paris deteriorates, Polly and her guardians face the horrors of the Occupation with daring, humour, style – even romance – and despite their dangerous secrets, they discover just what they are capable of.
As the Liberation approaches, those who survive at the Ritz must face a day of reckoning, but one truth stands tall: at the heart of the Ritz is the soul of resistance.
Australian author Luke Devenish of The Secret Heiress fame, a book I absolutely adored, returns with The Heart of the Ritz. This wonderful wartime novel revolves around the glamourous Hôtel Ritz in Paris. A heavily researched and descriptive historical fiction novel, The Heart of the Ritz is a story of the bonds of female friendship, acts of valour, gallantry and sophistication, at a time of great peril. With strong underlying messages about war, democracy and control, The Heart of the Ritz has as much to say about today’s society as the tragic events in our past.
‘Four women join forces, with conviction, courage… and style’. This is the enticing front cover tagline that appears on The Heart of the Ritz by Luke Devenish. Polly, a young orphan, is our guide as The Heart of the Ritz unfurls during war time France. Following the tragic and unexplained death of her Aunt Marjorie, Polly is left in the care Marjorie’s friends, an eclectic bunch with big personalities to match. Polly is taken under the wing of this trio of women and whisked away to the live at the famous Hôtel Ritz. It is a place that offers salvation from the war that rages on past the doors of this establishment. When the Nazis break through and mark their presence in the capital, Polly and her caretakers must adapt to life under German rule. This is a time of great strength, resistance, bravery and change. A symbol of opulence and resistance, the Ritz is a beacon of light in this very dark chapter in human history.
I have really been looking forward to reading The Heart of the Ritz by Luke Devenish since I first set eyes on the cover and the title of this book. I am a big fan of Devenish and I still look upon the previous book penned by this author, The Secret Heiress, with a great deal of affection. Wartime stories are my forte and a book revolving around such a prolific hotel in Paris during occupied France immediately captured my full interest. What made The Heart of the Ritz an incredibly moving tale was the fact that this story was carefully drawn from real life events and figures. It certainly gave a sense of brevity to the unfolding story.
Young Polly is Devenish’s chief protagonist. I immediately felt drawn to Polly and her predicament. Polly is outlined well by Devenish and I thoroughly enjoyed following her life journey, it was dramatic and tumultuous. Supporting Polly are her late Aunt Marjorie’s nearest and dearest. Each of the three friends are lovingly drawn by the author. Their lives are contrasted and colouful, but also endearing. These women will have you both weeping and laughing. This is a full wartime story, with plenty of gripping moments for the characters to contend with.
The Heart of the Ritz is a war based drama, so expect plenty of action and daring sequences, where you will be on the edge of your seat fretting over the fate of the cast. The war sequences burst to life on the page, which is aided by Devenish’s vivid, authentic and descriptive prose. Yards of research has been injected into this book for our reading pleasure. I was pleasantly surprised to discover yet another pocket of previously unknown World War II history, revolving around one of the icons of Paris, the Hôtel Ritz. It made for a fascinating read. It also helped to increase my specific knowledge of the resistance during this time and place. I have so much respect for those who put their lives on the line during this dangerous period. Thank you to Luke Devenish for this informative historical text.
There are two standout features of The Heart of the Ritz. The first is the representation of Hôtel Ritz itself, it has such page presence and it gently overshadows the narrative. The Hôtel Ritz is literally the beating heart of this story and the valves of Ritz pulsate through the reader, ultimately leaving a lasting impression. Secondly, the nine page accompanying Author’s Note at the close of the book provides a bonus tier to this compelling novel. It gives the reader some extra grounding to the events, as well as the figures that sparked the formation of this book. Rounding The Heart of the Ritz off with a tidy, but meaningful conclusion, sent the book off on a thoughtful parting note.
The Heart of the Ritz is an all-encompassing tale of secrets, war, invasion, protection, sacrifice, belief, love, friendship and resilience. I would happily send The Heart of the Ritz into the waiting hands of all historical fiction readers, this is an impressive read from an author I look forward to hearing more from in the near future.
The Heart of the Ritz by Luke Devenish was published on 1st September 2019 by Simon & Schuster Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Heart of the Ritz, Luke Devenish, visit here.
*I wish to thank Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
*Book #9 of the 2019 Aussie male author challenge.