Saturday 1 December 2018

Blog Tour: Extract from The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

Today I am part of another very exciting blog tour. I have an extract for you from The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau. The book is out now and if you like the look of that extract, you can order your copy here. Here's what it's all about:

In eighteenth century England, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities.

In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice. 

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelein, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue… 

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage. 

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue? 

And are you ready to read that extract?

Extract from Chapter One

It is at that moment I see it one of Hogarth’s own prints hanging on the wall.
The party guests no longer exist as I make my way toward it. My grandfather owns a book of reproductions of Hogarth’s art, and I’ve seen his paintings mounted at the Foundling Hospital, which he generously finances. But now, with a shiver of awe, I look upon one of the artist’s most famous prints: a pretty, innocent young woman from the country, holding the pincushion of a seamstress, inspected by a crone in front of a crumbling London building. Two leering men hover in the background.
“A fine Harlot’s Progress, wouldn’t you say?” rasps a voice.
I whirl to face a man lower to the floor than myself, a hunchback in fact, and not a day under seventy. His bloodshot eyes gleam with amusement under a wig perched precariously on his narrow skull. No doubt he wishes to embarrass me with his question.
“Yes, that is the title of this series of prints,” I say calmly. “This country girl arrives in London, seeking honest work, and is taken up by procurers and pimps, determined to ruin her. Which they do, of course. She’ll die of the pox in a few years.”
A sound emits from the man, half laugh, half sputtering cough. “A prim and proper young lady who tells a tale of a prostitute without a blush?” he says. “I must know your name.” He crouches a few more inches in an attempt at a bow. “I am Joshua Holcroft.”
“I am Genevieve Planché,” I answer, “and I am here to represent my grandfather, Pierre Billiou, who was invited but sadly could not attend.”
Mr. Holcroft thinks for a moment. “I am acquainted with Pierre Billiou, a fine painter, yes, but I haven’t set eyes on him in five years, at least.”
“Grandfather was invited to this party, be assured, Sir.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt that he was invited. Hogarth casts a large net, as you can see with your own eyes. But Billiou is a Huguenot, living among his people, the silk weavers in Spitalfields, if memory serves. I can’t believe a French Protestant would send his own granddaughter here alone, disastrously dressed.”
Taken aback, I look down at my best wool dress of darkest green, trimmed with white lace. “Disastrously?”
“My dear, it’s not a dress for society.”
“I suppose that is why no one has acknowledged my existence here,” I say, chagrined. I must make a proper impression on Hogarth himself. Nothing should detract from the seriousness of my request.
“Hasn’t your grandfather taught you anything? Even if your frock were acceptable, it’s not possible for a man to approach a woman standing alone at a party such as this. Your lack of escort creates an insurmountable problem.”
You surmounted it.”
“I am old and ugly and —” he holds up his goblet — “more than a little drunk. Perhaps if there were another female present, she could take you in hand and smooth matters over.”
“And there are no ladies here, anywhere?”
“Of course, of course, some wives of wealthy art patrons are upstairs, sitting comfortably with Mistress Hogarth or gossiping together. And that is all. There’s no place for a young woman in the world of art besides the sort we see here —” His eyes, twinkling with malice, swivel to the wall where A Harlot’s Progress hangs.
I can feel my cheeks flush at his disdain. This is what I’ve faced since my teacher chastised me for filling my copy-book pages with drawings of people instead of lessons from Scripture. “Females cannot be artists,” the teacher shouted. Tonight, here, I will set matters right. I just need to speak to William Hogarth himself. The man who captures with brilliance the lives of human beings, their sufferings under injustice, will understand.
“Where is Mr. Hogarth now?” I ask.

Meet the Author

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyleDuJourRolling StoneEntertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at City University of New York and a regular contributor to Town & CountryPurist, and The Vintage News.

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel and an Oprah pick, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. The third in the trilogy, THE TAPESTRY, was published by Touchstone in 2015. Her fourth novel, THE BLUE, will be publishing on 3rd December.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Twitter: @tudorscribe

Thank you to Nancy for stopping by today and sharing that extract with us.

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