With so many new historical fiction novels publishing in 2023, choosing favorites at the end of the year will surely be difficult. But finishing Natasha Lester’s new novel, The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre, all but assured me that some of the new publications are going to soar while others will simply fly. This book is EXACTLY what I look for in a historical fiction novel: suspense, intrigue, betrayal, friendships, romance, and strong female characters. I fell head over heels for Alix St Pierre, and I’m confident that any historical fiction lover will feel the same way. So, without further adieu, I introduce you to one of my favorite books of 2023!
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The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre: Synopsis
Alix St Pierre is a force to be reckoned with, at least she felt that way when she first stepped foot in Paris just after completing finishing school. Despite the odds, Alix is determined to succeed in making a name for herself in the magazine industry. Adopted by her parent’s wealthy employers after their untimely death, Alix was brought up in society so she’s able to navigate the upper class. But her lack of pedigree means she can never ascend to greater heights of wealth or status. Lacking the security of wealthy parentage, she turns tragedy into self-reliance and adaptability, focusing her efforts on making her own success.
After making a name for herself in Paris and New York in public relations, her tenacity and determination eventually earn her a place in the OSS as a military intelligence operative. It’s during her time with the OSS that she learns to be daring and bold, traits that help her find her footing again after the war. Venturing back into PR, she takes New York by storm, helping create public relations campaigns aimed at easing women back into domesticity after years of being in the workforce.
But the meaning and fulfillment she felt working in military intelligence has left her feeling sad and hollow despite her new success. Her campaigns encourage women to forget what it felt like to make a difference, relegating them once again to aprons and dinner parties. Is this really the message she wants to send to other women? And, more importantly, is she willing to tolerate the daily injustices of being a woman in the male-dominated workforce just to maintain the tenuous hold on her career?
Eventually, Alix returns to Paris, chasing the dream of independence and a meaningful career. As she stands once again on the banks of the Seine, she feels beaten and battered, but she refuses to let her past get in the way of her future. Somehow she lands the role of a lifetime: chief press agent for the brand-new couture house of Christian Dior. Working for one of the greatest new minds in fashion is the thrill of a lifetime! Surrounded by glamourous gowns and prestigious clientele, Alix once again finds purpose in her work. Helping Monsieur Dior debut his work will be one of her greatest achievements!
But secrets from her past lurk in the shadow of her success. Guilt over the lives and love lost during the war is hard enough to bear, but now she must also embrace living in fear. She’s just discovered that a very real danger walks the same streets of Paris, threatening everything she’s worked so hard to establish. Her former Nazi informant has escaped post-War prosecution, and she’s certain that he’s out to get her. She knows too much about him, which makes her a threat to his new life and identity.
So, Alix must embrace the spy life one more time, at least long enough to discover the truth about her nemesis’ identity. To do so, she will have to rely on help from former fellow OSS operatives, new friends, and former sources. Most importantly, she cannot let her past interfere with her career, as she is the face of the House of Dior. With so much at stake, it’s easy to see how she could be blindsided by the greatest threat to her independence: a wealthy dark-haired, blue-eyed newspaperman.
The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre: Musings
I’ll be honest: I started this book in mid-December 2022 and loved it so much that I put it down. Why? It was clear within the first few chapters that this book was going to be one of my top reads of the year, and, by then, my top 12 books of 2022 were decided, filmed, and photographed. So when January rolled around I snatched it back up and finished in record time. And guess what? I was right! The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre was an instant favorite, and I’m sure it will be in my top reads of 2023. It has everything: betrayal, intrigue, suspense, glitz, glamour, intense romance, and Paris! What more could a historical fiction lover want?
There are lots of standout moments and themes in this book, but none are as powerful as the messages of feminism and female worth. I loved the determination Alix displayed in all things she set out to do. Her desire to carve out her own path, independent of a husband, spoke to me, making Alix that much more relatable. She embodies the modern woman, burning a path of freedom and independence no matter the stakes. I love how the author created a uniquely feminine character that oozed modernity and self-possession. Alix is the type of woman I want to call a friend and the type of woman I want to become.
Another surprising aspect of this book is the references to addiction, some more subtle than others. It’s clear early in the book that there have been moments in Alix’s life when she’s lost control, which seems the antithesis of who she is as a person. In all things, she seems measured, aware, and exacting, so the idea of her being lost in a drink seems uncharacteristic. I appreciate that Lester included this side of Alix, demonstrating that even the strongest woman has her weaknesses. And, more importantly, Alix’s self-awareness about the threat addiction could have on her future and her ability to abstain makes her even stronger in my book.
I’d be remiss to not discuss the plot point that will likely draw most readers to this book: WWII espionage. Like so many other great World War II historical fiction novels, The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre takes place in a world of shadows, secrets, and lies. Lester did a marvelous job of tying the post-war and war-time periods through a flashback-style dual-timeline. Over time we learn why Alix carries guilt, culminating in a series of big reveals in both timelines. This storytelling method kept me turning pages, eager to learn what happened in her past to propel her back into the world of espionage despite the risk to her future and her well-being.
Last, but certainly not least, the romance between Alix and Anthony is one for the ages. This author knows how to write a swoon-worthy man, let me tell you! Although we are led to believe he’s nothing more than a cad, Anthony is the ultimate love interest: smart, sophisticated, handsome, self-aware, and respectful. He is Alix’s match in all things, so it’s no surprise when they begin to fall for each other. The will they/won’t they tension the author creates reads like a modern romance novel, adding an extra layer of complexity and interest. I won’t give anything away, but I will say this was one of the steamiest closed-door romances I’ve read in a while!
The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre: Rating
There’s not a lot more that I can say other than I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! It’s simply a marvel of historical fiction and an instant five-star read for me. Alix is a character that will stick with me for a long time to come, and I think any fan of feminist fiction will feel the same way. I hope you found this review of The Three Lives of Alix St Pierre helpful when deciding whether to add this new book to your reading list. If you’ve made it this far in the post, I know you’re a true fan of historical fiction, so I can say, without a doubt, you’ll likely love Alix just as much as I did!
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