Book Club: Beneath The Parisian Skies

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Author: Alli Sinclair
ISBN: 9781489236128
RRP: $29.99

Alli Sinclair is an Australian author with a passion for dance, and it shows. Beneath the Parisian Skies is part of the Wandering Skies series, which I was not aware of until after reading the book. Don’t be put off though because there doesn’t actually seem to be anything linking the books except a theme.

Beneath the Parisian Skies has a FREE prequel, only available digitally, which I only looked into after reading the novel – but that didn’t stop me from ordering Parisian Dreams and devouring it. The prequel is three chapters that sets the scene for the novel, it is hard for me to say what it adds to the experience because I read it after I finished the book. It is not imperative but certainly worth the read. It gives a short background and allows us to see how Lily found herself in Paris.

There is a strong historical element to Beneath the Parisian Skies. The entire story is set in Paris but we have two timelines, Paris in 1917 and Present Day Paris. The historical element had me intrigued and on finishing the book I headed to Google to do a little research, the Ballets Russes did exist and some of the major players in the book were actual people but I think our leading lady was a product of Alli Sinclair.

Viktoria Budian is a ballerina with the Ballets Russes in 1917, she has escaped Russia with her life but had to leave her family behind. She is determined to make a new life for herself and earn enough to bring her family to safety in Paris.

Ballet is in her blood, her heart and soul. She has turned to dance to get her through the trying times in her life and she has channeled that passion to help unfortunate girls find a new purpose. Hers is a life of passion, dedicated to her art and helping people where she can.

The times are tough and the world is in turmoil and ballet may seem a little frivolous with so many lives in danger. But some think that’s an even better reason to ensure that the arts flourish, to offer hope in a tumultuous world.

Her aspirations are all tied up with the ballet and moving up to leading lady from understudy but she is faced with the tough decision of putting love or her dreams first.

In the present Lily Johansson has returned to Paris to make peace with her past, and her estranged sister. Paris is the city of love, of romance, but for Lily it’s the city that broke her heart and her career.

The two stories are linked by the ballet and there is also a character connection that isn’t made clear until later in the book. The Bohème Ballet is looking to produce a ballet that honours the life of Viktoriya so we see snippets of her life through the lens of history as well as in chapters set in the past.

Sinclair has penned a poetic tale of history echoing its way into the present, it’s not a case of history repeating but there are certainly similarities between the events of the past and what’s going on in the present.

Lily is closed off from her life as she tries to get through the days since losing her fiancé, I would like to say moving on but she seems to quite actively resist moving on for a lot of the story.

Sinclair has written a story that celebrates the ballet while not romanticising it. She doesn’t gloss over the gruelling workload, the blisters and the bruises; and the hard work to actually make it. There are so many positions in a ballet and you may never make it to the top and dance as a leading lady, sometimes the years of hardwork can get you into a prestigious ballet company but still leave you dancing as an understudy.

The beauty of the book is in the way Sinclair has woven the ballet into the lives of the characters, the ballet is part of their heart and soul and even when it’s taken away it can’t be escaped. Not being able to dance doesn’t lessen the hold.

I enjoyed the way that the two stories weave around one another but I’m left wanting more of Viktoriya’s story.

Lily returns to Paris to try to mend her relationship with her sister Natalie, who is trying for the role of Viktoriya in the new ballet. Her fixation on the role leads to an unhealthy obsession that very nearly ends her career before her star has had it’s chance to shine. After having the door slammed in her face Lily is out walking in a park when she comes across Yves Rousseau and inspires him; only to discover that he is composing said ballet.

The storytelling is intricate as Sinclair weaves the magic of the ballet with love, loss, grief, dreams and the heart-wrenching journey to acceptance and moving on.

Paris is a place of such history and Sinclair paints it beautifully. I am not one who has ever really caught the travel bug, I don’t feel the need to see other places but I do love to see places in my reading and I think if there was ever a place that I did decide I wanted to see… Paris would probably be it.

Beneath the Parisian Skies is an engaging tale of love, loss, grief and passion that has left me with images of the ballet playing behind my eyes.

Beneath the Parisian Skies is Book #29 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.

Alli Sinclair can be contacted on Alli Sinclair.com and Facebook.

Beneath the Parisian Skies is published by Harlequin and available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Harlequin 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading Beneath the Parisian Skies so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments.

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25 thoughts on “Book Club: Beneath The Parisian Skies

  1. SO DELIGHTED that I’ve been fortunate enough to be selected for this one! LOVED the prequel. Thanks, Michelle.

  2. I am still reading sycmore, as it did not come here until friday just gone, have not as yet been able to work out who killed Jess, but only half way thru the book, probably I have missed the vital clue. will just keep reading and then put a review in..

  3. lyes would be most interested to read Beneath the parisan skies, so please add my name to your lists, thanks bettythrelfo 7 Hube court Huntingdalew.a. 6110../ many thanks, will then also put in the review for that one.

  4. Absolutely magnificent!! It felt like I was actually there in Paris while reading this book. I loved it!!

  5. Beneath Parisian skies. wow what a story, and what a book. I love ballet, I have to admit, and to read about it all, behind the scenes as they say, is great. I did know of many of the points as they call them, so this also helped. I found the story of the two sisters being intermingled with the ballet, was something unusual, and in particular when they both wanted to be the lead ballerina, but I guess as they say “that”s the breaks” it was interesting to know about the backing needed for this particular story, and how that all panned out. The story itself interwoved with the characters that were part and parcel of each sister was very interesting, and to go back in time to the great Artists as well was unusual… I found this book very stimulating, and enjoyed reading it, in fact it is one that after xmas, (not that far away) will read again… To those who enjoy reading, all the books we get sent are I consider “a bonus” and I for one say thank you to those that work so hard behind the scenes, like Michelle, and anne and others … thank you, so that we too may enjoy all the different authors… .

  6. A big thank you to Harper Collins Publishers and Beauty and Lace for supplying ‘Beneath The Parisian Skies’ by Alli Sinclair for review. This one is a real pleaser!

    It’s been a while since a book has compelled me to not want to put it down and this one hit the mark for me. After the first chapter I was hooked.

    The book follows the story of two main characters; Russian ballerina Viktoriya Budian who flees her country in 1917 to escape the treachery of war to enter a Ballet Troupe in Paris. The second story line follows a modern day, troubled Lily Johansson who returns to Paris, is forced to conquer her fears over losing her fiancée, and try to re-establish a severed relationship with her ballerina sister, Natalie.

    For the first few chapters I found it difficult to separate the characters from the different time lines as they were all ballerinas but as the story progressed and the author gave us more personal insights into each characters’ personalities, I felt a real affinity with each character.

    Lily, the stalwart, caring sister who won’t give up on rejection, continues to confront a self centred Natalie, to sort out their differences. She launches on a journey to find Natalie, who’s unexpected behaviour has meant her leaving her Ballet Company days before a big role. Lily discovers Natalie’s diaries and finds a link between Natalie’s strange behaviour and her increasing obsession with Viktoriya Budian, a past ballerina; and role she is currently playing herself.

    There are parallels in the tragedies both women have had to endure with their male loves. It broke my heart when reading of Viktoriya’s demise, and the pain Lily endured after her fiancée died. You can understand why Natalie was so determined to right the wrongs and reverse the tarnished reputation of Viktoriya even 100 years on.

    The book touched on survivor guilt, that strong motivation to put life on hold and not see the chances in front of you and move on. Lily eventually faced her fears, in the brink of time, accepting that life with her past fiancée Adrian was no longer and she had the chance to grasp life with her new love, Yves Rousseau.

    It was interesting to have the two characters stories come together with a common link, drawing the relevance of the two periods of time together.

    A powerfully written story that everyone could enjoy, even if you aren’t a ballet enthusiast. I found the emotional tugs enthralling and very realistically portrayed.

    I highly recommend this one.

  7. Dance, love and Paris make for a good story!

    Lily Johansson, a former ballerina who no longer dances due to an unfortunate accident and tragic circumstances has returned to Paris to confront her estranged sister Natalie; who has taken Lily’s place as ‘the’ ballerina at Bohème Ballet Company in Paris.
    A chance meeting between Lily and Yves Rousseau in the gardens and then again at the Thèâtre du Châtelet begins an unlikely relationship. Yves is a composer and is writing a ballet called Turning Pointe about the ballerina Viktoriva Budian and her legacy. A Ballet that Natalie is to star in. Yves seeks out Lily as his muse for composing the music; not knowing her background or that Natalie is her sister.

    Ballerina Viktoriya Budian who escaped Russia in the early 1900s to join the Ballet Russes in Paris has a connection to Lily’s family. Her diaries were read to Lily and her sister by their great grandmother and inspired the girls to become ballerinas.

    Viktoriya’s story and Lily’s intertwine and the book is written around each character. We are dealing with Lily’s life in Paris then thrown back to 1917 Paris and Viktoriya’s life with the Ballet Russes.
    Lily’s life in present day Paris gets complicated as she tries to deny her feelings for Yves despite still grieving for her dead fiancé. Natalie then mysteriously goes missing and it has some connection to the Viktoriya’s diaries and a injustice in Viktoriya’s life that Natalie’s seem intent on rectifying.

    I found the relationship between the two sisters awkward and infuriating at times. Natalie refuses to speak or see Lily because of the death of her fiancé and Lily is doing all the chasing to make Natalie feel good. Natalie is a drama queen and I did lose any real interest in their relationship as it just seemed contrived.

    I loved the chapters on Viktoriya’s life in Paris in the 1900’s and how she became a well known ballerina. I could have read another book just about her life and her dreams. Viktoriya is a generous soul and takes a young refugee Yana under her care.

    I did enjoy the book but felt the sisters relationship was either over developed or I missed something as it just wasn’t convincing but don’t let that distract you from the wonderful story of Ballet in Paris in 1917.

    Beneath the Parisian Skies is a story of love, loss and dreams and I really did enjoy the background and history to Viktoriya’s life and how it was entwined in the sisters life.

    Review also published on Goodreads and Netgallery.

    NOTE: Helpful to read the short prequel ‘Parisian Dreams’
    http://www.harlequinbooks.com.au/product/9781489247001
    before reading ‘Beneath the Parisian Skies’

  8. Many thanks for the opportunity to read this lovely book!

    The story centres around Lily Johansson, a former ballerina who no longer dances due to an unfortunate accident and tragic circumstances. Lily has returned to Paris to confront her estranged sister Natalie; who has taken Lily’s place as ‘the’ ballerina at Bohème Ballet Company.

    After a chance meeting between Lily and Yves Rousseau in the gardens and then again at the Thèâtre du Châtelet starts an unlikely relationship as Yves is a composer and is writing a ballet called Turning Pointe about the ballerina Viktoriva Budian. And this is a ballet that Natalie is going to perform. Yves seeks out Lily as his muse for composing the music but not realising that Natalie is her sister or that she is a dancer.

    The story also covers the story of ballerina Viktoriya Budian (the subject of the ballet) , who escaped Russia in the early 1900s to join the Ballet Russes in Paris and importantly has a connection to Lily’s family, as Viktoriyas diaries were read to Lily and her sister by their great grandmother and inspiring them to study ballet and become ballerinas.

    The stories bind the book together, dealing with Lily’s life in modern Paris then back to 1917 Paris and the story of Viktoriya’s life with the Ballet Russes.

    I found the relationship between the two sisters in the present annoying to be honest at times, but I loved the chapters on Viktoriya’s and her life in the early 20th century Paris. Viktoriya is a fabulous character and really made the story for me!

    This is a lovely story, particularly for anyone who loves ballet. I will be looking to read more books from Alli Sinclair.

  9. This book is an incredibly rich and powerful one that is set in the city of love. This novel by Alli Sinclair also follows the lives of two interesting women.

    A former dancer and Australian lady named Lily returns to Paris where she suffered a tragedy when her fiancé died. She is weary about falling in love again but she is also charmed by a gorgeous composer named Yves Rousseau. Lily’s sister Natalie is also a ballerina working in Paris but the two sisters are not on speaking terms. In the course of this book, we discover what lead them to this dark place.

    The other main plot here is set in Paris in 1917 where we follow the story of a Russian ballerina named Viktoriya Budain. Her story is a very intriguing one where she is stuck in the middle of a love triangle and forced to choose between being with her true love and her career. What follows is a book that you can really lose yourself in and enjoy. Viva la France!

  10. Beneath The Parisian Skies by Alli Sinclair

    The story is told over two timelines; Paris 1917 and present day. While separate stories both are interwoven by common elements of Ballet, love, loss and grief. Both main female characters self-blame from tragedies out of their control.

    Paris 1917 – Viktoriya leaves her family and home in Russia during the Revolution. She flees the war in pursuit of her dream of becoming a professional Ballerina in Ballets Russes, Paris. The only way she can help her family is if she lands the lead role. However this is no simple quest. Viktoriya must choose between following her heart or dream.

    Present day Lily, returns to Paris to mend the stormy relationship with her sister and face painful memories of her past. Once a Ballerina herself, Lily’s sister Natalie is working as a professional for the Boheme Ballet, Paris. In the search for answers Lily meets a handsome stranger. Will she let him into her heart? Or is the pain of losing her fiancé too much to bear?

    It’s not until the end we learn the significance of Viktoriya and Lily’s connection. While some parts of the storyline was a little drawn out and predictable, the links between the two aren’t.

    I was very drawn into both storylines. BC (before children) I used to dance various styles of Ballet so it’s nice to read something I am interested in plus a well-researched novel and learn about what it was like in this era at a time of war.

    I have read the e-novella Dreaming of Spain and have Under the Spanish Stars on the bookshelf ready to read. So it’s safe to say that Alli Sinclair books are one to read!

    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Harlequin Australia for the opportunity to review this novel and I am happy to recommend to friends and family.

  11. Having read the prequel, I was desperate to read this book and the wait was absolutely worth it.

    This novel is set in Paris and has two timelines running throughout and I spent the majority of the book wondering how they could possibly be linked up. I was sure they must be!

    One timeline is set in 1917 and the other is present day. I really enjoyed the insight into the world of ballet. A world which I know nothing about. The historical references were really fascinating and I plan to investigate these further.

    As for the setting, Alli did a wonderful job depicting it. Paris is such a place of beauty and I found myself transported back and reminiscing about my own time there.

    The story is powerful and addictive and I cannot wait to read more of Alli Sinclairs books.

  12. Thank you so much to Harlequin and Beauty and Lace book club for the opportunity to read this new book from Alli Sinclair.

    I was so glad that I read the little prequel novella before I read this book as I believed it set up the story beautifully, in fact it should have been included as the beginning of this book as without reading it you really do miss the point in why Lily and Natalie’s relationship as sisters is fractured.

    The story is told in two timeframes one being set in the early 1900’s and then present day Paris. I really enjoyed the story of Viktoriya and her quest to be recognised and given the chance to be the Prima ballerina in the Ballet Russes, the pressure to keep the ballet going with very little money put her in such a difficult position.

    The relationship between the two sisters Lily and Natalie did get a little tiresome and drawn out at times, but overall the book provided a great description of Paris at the time with the architecture and feel of the city.

  13. Beneath The Parisian Skies is my first encounter with Alli Sinclair and it certainly won’t be my last! From the brilliance of the prequel, to the beautiful cover depicting Lily with her Australian roots and the Paris Skies I was entranced and not let down at any point. I love historical novels and the way Alli Sinclair wove Paris. 1917 with Paris, present day, was magical. Paris is one of my favourite cities and as the backdrop to the two distinct timelines connecting the characters it was almost as though I was actually there.

    I loved the way the story developed and particularly the way real people were integrated with fictional characters. The actual Ballets Russes with the founder, Sergei Diaghilev, which I found included Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky in the company was brilliantly woven into the story line. The mix of real and fictional characters was incredibly well done. I was fascinated to research the truth behind the characters who actually lived when I had finished the book.

    I was puzzled for some time as to how the relationship between Lily and her sister, Natalie could have become so fractured after reading the prequel but it fitted eventually. The way the story is bound by ballet and the ballet dancers with composers and artists is masterful.

    This is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers I believe – anyone who loves ballet, anyone who appreciates Australian authors and anyone who loves historical fact woven with fiction, especially when two timelines are intermingled. There was a wonderful mix of love, loss, beauty and terror.

    I am definitely planning on reading the other ‘Wandering Skies” novels and I am pleased it wasn’t necessary to have any knowledge of the other books in this series before reading Beneath The Parisian Skies. I am always delighted when I “discover” another Australian author whose work I love. That definitely happened with Alli Sinclair. Thank you so much, Beauty and Lace and Harlequin Mira for the opportunity to read this excellent novel. Thank you to Alli Sinclair for taking me back to Paris to be enveloped by the wonderful characters from the past and the present. It was an experience I will long remember.

  14. I had high expectations with Paris, ballet and time parallel stories being my three favourite topics. And it is a lovely story set in Paris about ballet; however, I didn’t feel there was much depth to the characters, I really didn’t get attached. And I would have loved more description about Paris, the struggles of ballet, and what it was like in 1917, It all felt very “surface” to me. Easy read though if you want something for an airplane or travel.

  15. Thankyou for Beneath Parisian Skies. I really enjoyed the story and the parallel one running throughout. It was very interesting learning a bit about ballet. I was a bit disappointed not to hear more about Viktoriya’s story. Overall a very good read. Perhaps a film of the same? Sue

  16. My goodness, this is a magnificent book. I do not use those words lightly, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Beneath The Parisian Skies and Alli Sinclair is a very talented author.

    The blending of two stories almost a century apart, setting the scene for each plot, the individual lives of each character and then intertwining all of the characters and moulding a very descriptive and emotive story has created a stunning piece of literature worthy of many literary awards and praises.

    The depiction of the ballet dancers encapsulates all that it means to be in this profession. From the rigorous training, the physical demands, the friendships, romances, egos and dramas were all played beautifully ensuring the reader is encapsulated in this story. We experience the tragedies of the Russian Revolution, the struggles of these families to the beauty of Paris, the romance and history of this city and the growth and development of some of the worlds greatest performers. Not only from the perspective of the ballet dancers but also the choreographers, music composers, costume designers and seamstresses, I could clearly imagine the life and soul that is put into each ballet performance by these gifted people.

    Of particular note, my most enjoyable moment in this book was the performance of the ballet Parade at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. The authors descriptions were splendidly written, particularly with lines such as ‘Massine jumped onto the stage as the Chinese Conjurer, dressed in a spectacular red and gold jacket, his face painted white to the point he was unrecognisable. His torso was stiff, his arms and legs bent to rectangles as he leaped. As the dance proceeded he mimed fire coming out of his mouth and sparking in the air, causing a few in the audience to whisper………………’ My goodness, I can imagine the spectacle before me, how exciting to see.

    Alli Sinclair has clearly worked very hard in writing this lovely story and has certainly put a lot of work into the research of the characters. The commitment to research and describing the events as accurately as possible has produced a truly wonderful piece of literature.

  17. Beneath Parisian Skies I enjoy the two stories that was years apart with different out comes one happy the other sad.
    Lilly and Natalie are sisters who have not had contact with each other for years after the accident that killed Lilly’s fiancé. The story starts from there and goes on to meeting a Frenchmen in Paris.
    The second story is in Paris, 1917 about a ballerina named Viktoriya Budian from Russia.
    I good read when you have two stories in one book.

  18. I actually found this book a bit slow to begin with but after a few chapters I settled in and did get involved.

    I enjoyed the read but found myself wanting more information – what happened to Jake, Lily’s brother? And more from Viktoryia’s side of the story would have been good. In saying this though, I am guilty of not having read the prequel.

    In all though I did enjoy the book and would read more from this author.

  19. Thank you BeautyandLace for this book reading opportunity. This book was fairly easy to read and understand, although there were places where I had to ensure I understood what was happening before I moved on to the next page. The storyline was captivating and took me away from my daily life and into the beauty and romance of the ballet.
    The descriptions of the ballet artists and their movements were specially enchanting and enlightening to read.
    I found this book very appealing with a storyline which kept me interested and wanting to know more. I would recommend this book for anyone who wants a fairly easy and interesting read.

  20. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read Beneath The Parisian Skies..

    It was a pleasure to read a beautiful book about Ballet . I loved the adult story lines and themes because i have read many children’s/young adult books about ballet.
    Of course there are always two sisters fighting to make a mark in the industry which is tough and brutal.
    I love the character of Viktoriya , her quest and desperation to be the ultimate Ballerina.

    A very well written and thought out book which i would recommend to other.
    Congratulations Alli Sinclair on your book.

  21. I have been sick in bed with influenza B and although it took me a long time I finished Beaneath The Parisian skies it was so lovely I felt like I was leaving my sick bed every time I managed to pick it up and traveling to beautiful Paris! I really enjoyed the book and the story of the 2 sisters I would recommend this book to everyone who need to escape for a while.

  22. I was instantly returned to the city of love as I started turning the first couple pages.

    Beneath The Parisian Skies is written from the perspective of Viktoriya in 1917 and Lily in present tense, the characters stories are almost written in parallel as connections unravel throughout the storyline.

    The book is centered around ballet and I found myself intrigued by the dance references, inspiring to be dancer in my earlier years.

    The book is clearly established within the first chapter, sharing the occurrences that had led to Lily returning to the city. Obviously this information is covered in previous books, including the loss of a partner, recovery from and accident and difficult relationship with her sister Natalie.

    Although I did not read the suggested prequel, I believe that I was very much prepared for the storyline by Alli Sinclair.

    The author successfully depicts the journey after a trauma and how Lily works through her grief.

    Alli Sinclair has successfully refuelled my passion for Paris and the history and culture that encompasses it. I would like to read more of her books in the future.

    Thank you to Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read Beneath the Parisian Skies by Alli Sinclair.

  23. Beneath the Parisian Skies by Alli Sinclair was an interested read. Centered around ballet and set in Paris the city of love. The two main characters are set in two different eras one being set in the early 1900’s and then present day . I really enjoyed the story of Viktoriya and her mission to be recognized as a Prima ballerina in the Ballet Russes,The pressure to keep the ballet going when finances were tough.
    A story of love, stamina, determination and tragedy.

  24. Beneath the Parisian Skies left me breathless and I loved IT!!
    Personally I admitt that I’m a sucker for Historical Fiction and I make no acceptions here either.
    Ali Sinclair writes like a master especially having not read the prequel, it read like a stand alone story. Now I need to make like a gazelle and find the prequel and read them in order.
    Big Thanks go out to Harlequin and Beauty and Lace.

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