Wednesday 4 June 2014

Spotlight ~ The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans.

Today I'm pleased to be sharing an excerpt from The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evans, which is published tomorrow!

Title: The Dress Thief.
Author: Natalie Meg Evans.
Publisher: Quercus Books.
Publication Date: June 5, 2014.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Alix Gower has a dream: to join the ranks of Coco Chanel to become a designer in the high-stakes world of Parisian haute couture. But Alix also has a secret: she supports her family by stealing designs to create bootlegs for the foreign market. A hidden sketchbook and two minutes inside Hermès is all she needs to create a perfect replica, to be whisked off to production in New York.

Then Alix is given her big break – a chance to finally realize her dream in one of the most prominent Parisian fashion houses – but at the price of copying the breakthrough Spring Collection.

Knowing this could be her only opportunity, Alix accepts the arrangement. But when a mystery from her past resurfaces and a chance meeting has her falling into the arms of a handsome English war reporter, Alix learns that the slightest misstep – or misplaced trust – could be all it takes for her life to begin falling apart at the seams.

The purr of a car made her turn. A Rolls-Royce was pulling up, sand-gold panels gleaming. A chauffeur stepped out, straightening his leather gloves before opening the rear passenger door.

A woman decanted herself with the grace of a ballerina. Definitely not French, Alix judged. She was learning the codes of French society and knew that rich Frenchwomen tamed their hair for daytime. This woman’s locks flowed in corn-yellow waves under a fox-fur hat. Her lips were crimson, her eyebrows pencil strokes. A film star? Whoever she was, the doors of Hermès opened before she was halfway across the pavement.

The chauffeur put a cigarette to his mouth, flicked a lighter and winked at Alix. ‘Window shopping, sweetheart? You and me both.’

Alix returned a snooty look and followed the lady inside.

‘Mademoiselle?’ A young saleswoman, a vendeuse, blocked her path. Alix could feel the girl mentally pulling stitches out of her jacket, assessing its cut. Searching for the secret signs of wealth. Clearly she didn’t find them, because she repeated in a sharper tone, ‘Mademoiselle?’

‘Gloves,’ Alix replied wildly. ‘I – I’d like a pair of gloves. And a scarf.’ She glanced towards the window but didn’t dare move that way.

‘Gloves for the spring season?’

‘Er – yes. Brown?’

Brown for spring? Tut-tut. The vendeuse gestured to a seat well away from the window. ‘Mademoiselle will please follow.’

The lady from the Rolls-Royce was being attended by an older vendeuse and Alix heard her exclaim in American-accented English, ‘Oh my! So this is Mr Hermès’s new baby? Won’t we all go wild for it! I suppose it has a name?’

Alix hesitated. They were talking about that scarf.

The vendeuse replied, ‘Monsieur Hermès has named it, “‘Jeu des omnibus et dames blanches.”’

‘My blazing stars, you’re going to have to translate that for me.’

‘It refers, Madame, to the game of omnibus played in the eighteenth century and dames blanches, which are the horse-drawn carriages for the people in the towns, which are also called “‘omnibus”. It is a little joke.’

‘Well now, it’s a joke beyond my comprehension,’ said the lady, holding a square of silk up to the light, ‘but I can’t wait to have it around my neck. Am I allowed to own such a precious trifle?’

‘We at Hermès are always honoured to serve Madame Kilpin.’

Alix inched closer. ‘Madame Kilpin’ wasn’t a film star. Film stars always called themselves ‘Miss’. Nor a diplomat’s wife. My blazing stars. A flat box lay open on the counter and it struck Alix that there must be more of these scarves in stock. Of course there would be. The minute news of them spread, there’d be a run on them. All the more reason to absorb the design, the colours. Black, burnt orange, blue . . . The motif of a horse-drawn omnibus was repeated in a double circle. Alix counted the images, noting their direction. The centre was a cartouche of ladies and gentlemen of the late-eighteenth century playing a game at a table. She counted the figures, noted their dress and hairstyles. A complex design.

‘And who are you, Miss Wide-eyes?’ The American twisted on her seat. ‘You are staring at me.’

Alix backed away. ‘I’m sorry, excuse me.’ She fled out on to the street, though not before she heard –

‘I dare say she’s a journalist and will sell a story about me to the newspapers. What a bore. Still, six out of ten for effort.’

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