I received an Advanced Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.
This was a fun historical fiction that blends secret service and fashion along with romance and some real-life historical characters. Alix St. Pierre is our heroine. Though she’s long mingled with the very wealthy, she’s the orphaned daughter of immigrants. During World War Two she finds herself working under Allen Dulles (a real historical figure) in Bern, Switzerland with the American Secret Services. Alix becomes a key connection for the Italian resistance, operating out of Northern Italy and in desperate need of Allied support.
In the novel’s present day setting, the year is 1947. The war is over and Alix has arrived in Paris to take a job as a publicist for a brand new fashion house under a man named Christian Dior. Dior’s designs are about to take the city by storm and change fashion but Alix needs to make sure Dior gets all the right press. Lurking in the shadows though is a man Alix knows only as La Voce, a Nazi informant she worked with during the war who ultimately betrayed her and allowed her to lead nine men to their deaths. To protect herself and to figure out who La Voce is, Alix must team up with the arrogant but handsome reporter, Anthony March, and rely on all her wits and smarts.
The story moves between these two times, the storylines illuminating one another quite nicely. Alix is smart, beautiful, and motivated. She is tireless in both her job at Dior and her desire to bring La Voce to justice. She is, of course, haunted by the things she did and saw and the deaths she bore witness to in the war. This is probably the most realistic part of the story – that Alix and everyone around her are bearing scars – either physical or emotional. Alix herself is immensely likeable and easy to cheer for, if not a little too perfect. There doesn’t seem to be much that Alix can’t do. Likewise, while Anthony initially comes across as brash and arrogant it isn’t difficult to see that the two of them will find out they have a lot in common.
While a lot about The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre might feel familiar to readers of this era of historical fiction, Lester does add some fresh elements. There seems to be a lot of media about the French Resistance but I hadn’t heard much about the resistance in Italy before. Lester really does capture the frustration of a group of people who want to work against fascism and the Nazis in Italy but are unable to do so or to garner the support they need from outside powers.
And, of course, the setting of the post-war fashion world is really fun to read about. This isn’t a part of history I know much about but there is a lot of lush and opulent description of beautiful dresses and wealthy people. Fashion is a reflection of its time and Lester uses the house of Dior to show how life and attitudes were changing (or not) in the post-war period. She uses this to demonstrate the frustrations many women felt at being expected to step down from the responsibilities they’d taken on simply because the war had ended and the men had returned. Alix herself felt overly modern to me at times but I couldn’t disagree with her thoughts on the situation.
Overall, a fun escapist read that will likely be enjoyed by readers who liked The Alice Network by Kate Quinn or The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.