Reviews & Critical Praise: City of Lights

TeensReadToo.com 5-star review of City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier

Ilyse Charpentier’s world changes forever the day her parents leave on their boat trip that Ilyse and her brother Maurice surprised them with for their 20th anniversary. Her parents’ lawyer notifies them that while at sea, the ship has exploded and everyone on board was killed.

So Ilyse and her brother are sent to live with their uncle, Emile. Emile is an evil man, and the two children witness him murdering one of the house staff. Fearing for their lives, the two run away and try to return to Paris. Upon their return, they are told that their lawyer friend has been murdered and all their money has been cleared out from the bank.

Trying to honor her mother’s last words to her before they boarded the ship, Ilyse takes it upon herself to protect Maurice and keep the two of them together. Relying on her beauty and her voice, she eventually talks her way into the hottest cabaret in Paris. There, she receives the unwanted advances of Count Rakmanovich. He will do anything he can to possess her. Her young brother believes him to be evil and wants nothing to do with Ilyse if her plans to survive include the generosity of the Count’s money.

For five years, Ilyse misses her brother but is at the mercy of the Count. She fears him and dreads seeing his face in the crowd at the cabaret at night. But one fateful evening, an outgoing British man, Ian McCarthy, stumbles into the cabaret and catches a glimpse of lovely Ilyse. The two meet, and an instant connection is formed.
Before Ilyse can even imagine a life of love with Ian, she must face her fears and her oppression by the Count.

Ms. Lux writes a lovely period piece taking place in 1894 Paris. The scenery is beautifully described, and the wonder of the City of Love is expertly detailed. Ilyse is a strong character that faces her fears for true love.

What authors are saying about City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier…

This debut novel about the extraordinary chanteuse Ilyse Charpentier is as irresistible as a glass of champagne by the Seine. Combining romance, adventure, and the crystalline lights of a bygone era, this sparkling tale sweeps the reader into the foibles and glamour of 19th century Paris, and the bold heart of a woman who must risk everything for love. Ms. Lux enchants with her talent; I’m looking forward to reading more from this lovely young writer.

~C. W. Gortner, bestselling author of The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici, The Tudor Secret, and The Queen’s Vow

Rollicking Good Story

City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier is a triumph for its young author. You are immediately pulled into this debut novel and held there by the breathtaking pace set by Miss Lux. It is the story of chanteuse, Ilyse Charpentier, who has had more heartache than a 21-year old should have to bear: the death of her parents in a ship accident; abuse at the hand of her guardian; and estrangement from her beloved brother because of a misunderstanding. Lifted out of poverty by her patron, Count Sergei Rakmanovich, she becomes the darling of the 1894 Parisian cabaret scene, but the count’s patronage comes with a price: his desire to possess her, mind, body and soul.

At the heart of the story is the love between Ilyse and Englishman Ian McCarthy. The two fall in love within hours of their meeting. It is the magical kind of love unique to the very young whose thoughts for the future extend no further than midnight. Ilyse naively believes that she can walk away from the evil count, and Ian is ill-prepared to deal with a man who is willing to kill to keep his “Pure Dove” from being with anyone else.

This novel will be especially appealing to young adult readers (and the young at heart) who enjoy an engaging love story set in one of the most exciting cities in the world, a city where Toulouse Lautrec wanders the streets of Montmartre and the five-year old Eiffel Tower dominates the Parisian skyline. This is a remarkable debut, especially when you consider that the novelist is very near to the age of her heroine. Her broad knowledge of history and the arts is evident, and her enthusiasm for her subject leaps off of every page. A spectacular first effort.”

~Mary L. Simonsen, author of Searching for Pemberley, A Wife for Mr. Darcy, and numerous other bestsellers

Stunning debut novel! Riveting tale!

This new author pulled me into her stunning debut novel with the very first page! I felt like I was actually wandering the streets of Paris in the late 1800s along with the characters so vividly portrayed by this fine new talent.

Melika Dannese Lux, the author, has created not only an accurate portrayal of life in those days, she’s invented some of the most lovable, sympathetic protagonists imaginable … and her villains are true villains in every sense of the word.

I found myself crying for the poor little orphans, Ilyse and her younger brother Maurice, when fate cast them out into the cruel world, penniless frightened, and alone. But Ilyse was not only strong and clever, she was beautiful and a fine entertainer. She managed to save herself and her brother from a life of poverty and soon became “La Petite Coquette … Diva of the Paris Stage.”

It would spoil the story if I revealed how she managed that, but it wasn’t without great cost to her: she lost her brother for a time and was practically a prisoner of a debauched wealthy, titled man … a man who could get away with murder–and did.

How did Ilyse manage to get out of “bondage” to the evil Count? And what happened when she fell in love with a gentle, kind, handsome Englishman and tried to escape? And did she ever win her brother back?

Those are all questions that kept me riveted to my seat–reading page after page–until I learned the answers, as I’m sure you will be.

Ms. Lux certainly has a “way with words,” and her description, dialog, and pacing are excellent, attributes found only in the best books. She’s definitely an author I’d like to hear from again, so I’m pleased to learn she’s now working on the first of a fantasy trilogy that will soon be released. I, personally, can’t wait to read it. She’s very gifted.

I highly recommend this book.

~Betty L. Dravis, author of The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley, Dream Reachers, and numerous other bestsellers

What readers are saying about City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier…

Paris, l’amour, la nuit….enchantee!

What fun to find a delightful debut novel that spirits you away to another time and place! That’s what City of Lights: The Trials and Triumphs of Ilyse Charpentier did for me. While there are many romantic tales of beautiful young girls in a sometimes cruel world, no heroine has enchanted me more than little Ilyse Charpentier.

Picture a young orphan responsible for her younger brother; give her a voice and stage presence that made her the toast of 1894 Paris. Draw in a wicked “benefactor” determined to have her affections, freely given or otherwise, and set them down in a wildly popular cabaret setting. Would that young girl, our Ilyse, accept the inevitable and settle for life with the hated Count as “La Petite Coquette”? No, Ilyse is made of stronger stuff and had no intention of giving in to the blandishments of cabaret life.

Now bring on an ebullient young Englishman, Ian McCarthy, and watch his face when he first sees “La Petite Coquette”–and see the same transfixed look in Ilyse’s soft brown eyes. What to do with this love-struck pair?

Good news! Talented young author Melika Dannese Lux has done the creative work for us and all we have to do is find a comfy chair and fall into her delightful book. Ilyse and Ian face huge challenges but Miss Lux shepherds them with energy and style. The characters are so engaging that it’s easy to forget how much hard work goes into writing a book–and doesn’t every author strive for that effortless look? I think it’s likely that Ilyse’s grace, talent and determination are reflective of the author herself, from whom I hope to see much, much more.

~Linda Bulger

Ahhhh this book!

This book was supposed to be a quick read, but I found myself slowing down to enjoy the descriptions and the feeling of walking in France myself. I felt as if I were there. A dream I have had since a very young girl. And the fact that I could see a bit of myself in the main character also drew my attention. This may be a new author but she is a woman of great description and excellent writing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to those that follow.

I highly recommend this book and give it 5 stars.

~Adriana Contreras

Lumieres de la ville

City of Lights is a quick and exciting read set in colorful late 19th century Paris. Ilyse Charpentier is a young woman who, because of her circumstances, is forced to become entangled with the sinister Count Rakmanovich. Not only does he control her, he attempts to control the path of her future.

Ilyse stars as “La Petite Coquette” at a prominent Parisian cabaret, but even though she is well-loved, she cannot enjoy her career due to the Count’s obsessive hold over her.

Ilyse falls in love with an Englishmen, Ian, and they fight to have a life together.

I can’t wait to read a sequel and see what happens to the characters next!

~Sherry D. Honeycutt

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