Swan explores intriguing family secret in 'The Paris Secret'

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"The Paris Secret: a Novel" (William Morrow), by Karen Swan

Flora Sykes is a fine art agent who excels in remaining calm during high-energy auctions. She does her research, works hard and has all the confidence that she will be a major player in the art world one day. What she didn't expect was to be swept up in a thrilling and intriguing project for the wealthy Vermeil family.

When she gets the call from her boss that they are flying to Paris for a sensitive job, Flora is curious enough to stop everything. She puts her life on hold, pushing pause on current art deals and ignoring anything that may resemble a love life.

Due to mysterious circumstances, the Vermeils are not allowed to enter a family apartment that has been long abandoned for decades. Flora's company has been called in to assess what's inside, which is sure to be valuable. With layers of dust and the stale air of a forgotten residence, Flora is shocked to discover a cache of priceless art. Staring at a regal Renoir, Flora is excited at their find, but can't ignore the feeling that something isn't right.

The Vermeil family trusts Flora with tracing the history of each piece of art, which is a daunting task. Living on the Vermeil grounds, Flora can't help but encounter Natasha and Xavier Vermeil. They are a handful. Natasha is a party animal and Xavier is notorious for being a playboy. But like the Renoir, Flora cannot ignore the feeling that there's more to Xavier than his bad-boy ways.

Flora warns herself not to fall for a client, but all emotions are squelched when Flora discovers an awful secret the Vermeils' ancestors have been keeping. The scandal is revealed and wreaks havoc on the family's reputation; Xavier blames Flora for the backlash.

"The Paris Secret" whisks Flora away on a journey to France, Vienna and the coast of Provence. Readers will be engrossed by the details that the author weaves throughout the story and will find themselves wondering where the line between the reality of history and the truth of the present lies.