The Paris Affair
by Susanne Dunlap
Publication Date: September 30, 2020
Paperback & eBook; 244 pages
Series: Theresa Schurmann Mystery, Book 3
Genre: YA/Historical Fiction
Apparently, false rumors about Marie Antoinette are all the fashion in 1783.
Marie Antoinette is facing hostility from the populace, inflamed by rumors circulated in pamphlets throughout Paris. The rumors claim that she has dozens of lovers, drinks the blood of poor people, holds satanic masses at Versailles, and more, when nothing could be further from the truth. On the advice of the handsome, enigmatic Captain von Bauer, Joseph II–emperor of Austria and Marie Antoinette’s brother–decides that mystery-solving violinist Theresa Schurman is the ideal candidate for a spy to discover the source of these vile slanders.
Theresa is only too glad to get away from Vienna for a while, unwilling to commit herself yet to marrying Zoltan–a Hungarian baron she met when she was fifteen–and running out of reasons to postpone her decision. She is eager, too, to explore a new musical scene and broaden her artistic education. But when the captain confounds her expectations and places her as a bookkeeper in the establishment of Rose Bertin, milliner to the queen, she begins to lose hope that she will ever achieve her musical aims–or the emperor’s goal of exposing the pamphleteers.
A chance encounter with the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, an extraordinary black violinist and expert swordsman, sets Theresa on the path to unraveling the mystery. But will the chevalier’s patron, the powerful duc de Chartres, confound her efforts and put her–and the captain’s–lives in danger?
Be prepared for music, mystery, love, and murder in this riveting tale of pre-revolutionary Paris.
“The settings and situations are enchanting and varied; Dunlap is adept at on-the-fly description and at lacing intrigue with romance…Dunlap proves an arresting tour guide through this rich milieu, summoning up the past without slowing down the storytelling. Author and protagonist alike boast an epigrammatic wit. The touch is light, but the scenery and chatter are sumptuous…Theresa stands as a fascinating protagonist, a woman whose nimble navigation of society’s expectations and several burgeoning romances are exciting and inspiring, even more so than the sleuthing that drives the novel’s plot. The people she encounters are likewise memorable, complex, and surprising, especially the chevalier…This sparkling historical mystery conjures up the salons, fashion, and gossip of Marie Antoinette’s Paris, with a winning emphasis on the power of music and the roles that society allowed women.” – The BookLife Prize
EXCERPT FROM THE PARIS AFFAIR, by Susanne Dunlap
It was fully dark by the time I reached the entrance to the gardens of the Palais Royale, where I paused to take a good look. I stood shrouded in darkness, but the entire, gated garden before me was illuminated almost to false daylight. Torches flared from the pillars marching down the colonnade that bordered the palace, and promenading men and women in jewels and silks caught the light and fractured and reflected it, amplifying the dazzling effect. They, too, glowed. But it was a brilliant, cold light, not like the enveloping warmth of a hundred candles in Danior and Alida’s apartment in the Trattner House.
I wiped a tear away from the corner of my eye. How foolish, I thought, and turned my attention back to the display of finery on parade in the elegant garden attached to the home of the Duc de Chartres, the very man who had tried to abduct and dishonor Mademoiselle Bertin years ago when they were both young. Part of me wanted to step into the gardens with all those fine lords and ladies even though I was not dressed properly, and would be assumed to be someone’s servant. The thought made me smile. I was a servant, of sorts. A servant of the emperor. A servant of Mademoiselle Bertin. Was I also a servant of the captain? I banished the thought as soon as it arose.
I knew I shouldn’t linger there, but I paused a moment longer at the gate, looking in, wondering, imagining Danior with the Amati, hearing him play one of Mozart’s mournful melodies with so much heart that it made me bleed inside.
That’s when I realized it wasn’t just a memory. I wasn’t imagining it. I really did hear a violin. There was no violinist in the gardens that I could see, yet above, amid, and around the noise of the crowds and the carriages, the vendors wheeling their carts away, the shutters being rolled down over shop windows, I heard it. The clear, singing tones of a violin in the hands of a master. The music came and went on the breeze so that for a moment now and then, I lost it. Then it would sail back, scraping away my resolve to leave thoughts of home behind and return to my bed. I was afraid to move from my spot, thinking the sound would vanish altogether. But that was silly. The sound came from somewhere nearby. I walked a few paces farther on, and the music faded. I turned, and continued back toward the palace, and it grew, very slightly. I kept going. It became louder.
Finally, I reached a point where I could hear the violin distinctly, could tell the difference between an up bow and a down bow, hear the slight squeaking glissando between widely spaced notes. But there was no violinist anywhere to be seen.
I looked up. On the top floor of the palace building near where I stood, a light shone. The window had been thrown open to catch the mild evening breeze. My ears told me that was where the violinist must be. I wanted to see him. I wanted to talk to him.
The streets were emptying slowly, people making their way home or to evening engagements, and as the chatter faded I could hear the music all the more clearly. After a bit I thought perhaps my voice had a chance of being heard by the mysterious musician. At a pause in the music, I cupped my hands around my mouth and yelled with all my strength up toward that window. “You there! Playing the violin!”
The playing started again. I waited for another break. When it came, I yelled again. “You! Up there! Who are you, playing the violin?”
I thought I saw some movement, a shadow coming toward the window, but it backed away. “Please!” I practically screamed. “I need to know who you are!”
And I did need to. The only other violinist I had ever heard who came close to exhibiting such artistry was Mozart himself. This was the most exquisite playing, and I was desperate to know the identity of this mysterious musician.
At last, someone did come to the window. I could see the sheen of his powdered wig, and a snowy white cravat and cuffs. But the face was in complete darkness. And the hands. But that was impossible. How could it be, when he held a candle aloft, and I could just make out his features? Then it came to me. His face was black, or at least, dark brown. I had seen some Antillean negroes on the streets, but they were all servants. This man was not dressed as a servant. In the glow of the candle I could tell his waistcoat was made of silk, and even from so far away, I saw the embroidered flowers that adorned it.
“Who is there?” His voice rang out into the night. Was it fear that edged it? Or some kind of accent?
“I’m down here! I play the violin! I heard you and I had to know who you were!”
He drew his head and arms inside and disappeared. The glow of the window faded, as though he’d taken a candle away with him. He was gone. I would never know. I drew in a deep breath and sighed into the gathering darkness. I had just turned my steps to go home, when I heard the clank of metal and something that sounded like a lock being sprung.
I turned, and a tall, well-muscled man, elegantly dressed and appearing the perfect French gentleman except for the color of his skin, stepped out onto the street, holding a the candelabra that must have been the one illuminating the window. “Whom do I have the honor of addressing?” He said, much more formally than necessary for someone of my station.
“My name is Thérèse.”
“A foreigner, like me.”
I opened my mouth to deny it, but he pointed to his ear. “I can hear it. But don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.”
“And you are?”
He swept a courtly bow, holding the candelabra out to the side. “I am Joseph Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Would you like to come inside?”
I thought about it, but I was afraid. “It’s late, and I’m expected elsewhere. I would like to hear you play more, though, if I may?”
“It would be my pleasure. I shall be performing at the salon of Madame de Montesson on Monday afternoon.”
Madame de Montesson! The infamous morganatic wife of the Duc d’Orléans. Here was an unexpected opportunity, not just to hear music, but to enter an Orléanist household. “But I haven’t been invited,” I said, my hopes suddenly fading. And besides, I would be working during the afternoon.
“There are no invitations. One simply arrives. She is on the Chaussée d’Antin. If you wish, say you are my friend, Mademoiselle Thérèse.”
“Thank you, I will try, but—”
“Come. I beg you. I believe we are not yet finished with each other.”
He bowed again, and went back inside, leaving me staring after him, shivering as a cold breeze kicked up and blew away the mild evening air.
About the Author
Susanne Dunlap is the author of nine works of historical fiction. A graduate of Smith College with a PhD in Music History from Yale University, Susanne grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in London, Brooklyn and Northampton, MA. She now lives in Northampton with her long-time partner, Charles, has two grown daughters, three granddaughters, a grandson, a stepson and a stepdaughter, five step-grandsons and one step-granddaughter—that’s a total of four children and eleven grandchildren!
In her spare time she cycles in the beautiful Pioneer Valley.
Blog Tour Schedule
Thursday, October 1
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Monday, October 5
Review at Chicks, Rogues, and Scandals
Tuesday, October 6
Review at YA, It’s Lit
Thursday, October 8
Excerpt at Turn The Page
Friday, October 9
Review & Excerpt at Bookworlder
Sunday, October 11
Review at Bitch Bookshelf
Monday, October 12
Review at Nursebookie
Tuesday, October 13
Review at Rajiv’s Reviews
Wednesday, October 14
Review at Book Bustle
Saturday, October 17
Review at Reading is My Remedy
During the Blog Tour, one lucky reader will win signed copies of all 3 books in the Theresa Schurmann Mystery series! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on October 17th. You must be 18 or older to enter.