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Guest blogger: Clare Griffin

5 September 2021

A Season in Paris—the loves of Coco Chanel

I never set out to include real-life people in my manuscripts. They, like the characters I create, arrive before me, banging on the door, demanding to be included. For my first historical novella, Eos, it was the world famous aviator, and infamous ladies’ man, Howard Hughes. So when we chose our second anthology, A Season in Paris to be located in, funnily enough, Paris, I wanted mine to be in the roaring twenties, and one woman was going to be pivotal to my main character, Edith: Mademoiselle Coco Chanel.

Chanel of course needs no introduction. By 1924, where my story The Toymaker is set, she was already in the building where Chanel still stands today, 31 Rue Cambon, had created the bestseller perfume Chanel No. 5 and was about to release her first line of lipsticks. But personally, she had already loved and lost the man she always claimed was the love of her life, Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel.

A wealthy Englishman, Boy was more than just a lover. He was the man who gave her the financial backing to start her first venture, believing in her drive and ideas. Along with Coco’s tremendous good taste and natural head for business, she paid back every cent and became a very wealthy woman in own right. Their love lasted almost a decade, neither being faithful for all that time, but Chanel visited the site of the car accident that claimed his life. It was believed he was on his way to meet her when he crashed and she mourned him for the rest of her life. Their love wasn’t perfect, but it was profound.

Chanel and her imagined conversations were my favourite parts to write. Whether you love her or not, she had a great head for business in a time where a woman in control of her life, let alone her own business, was a novel concept. Chanel never married, and never answered to a man. Her business was hers and hers alone, and no man would ever get a hold of it. There are many well-known Chanel quotes, but I felt by 1924 she had a lot of wisdom behind her and would give a little bit of tough love to Edith who, herself, holds a secret from her past that could ruin her future. Chanel has a big part to play in what will happen to Edith.

An intriguing part of my research was the lovers she had throughout her life. As my story takes place in 1924, I needed to pinpoint who she was seeing at that time. By 1924, she had been seeing a Russian Duke, but swapped him for an English Duke. She was very good friends (though nothing more as far as we know!) with Winston Churchill. Men seemed to love her, or at the very least were intrigued by this self-made woman. She was never short of attention or lovers.

I believe Chanel loved to love, and to be loved, and at the end of the day, is there anything more that we want?

My question to you is: what season would you like to spend in Paris?

You can find Clare here: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

A Season in Paris

Four women, one Paris shop, four decades of intrigue …

Spring, 1909. When Delphine Altrain purchases a date with Paris’ most eligible bachelor, Gabriel LaPouge, she has one thing on her mind … hats. When her latest design becomes the talk of the Grand Prix, it seems everything she has dreamed of is within her reach, but when the past arrives to destroy her present, Delphine needs to decide, stay and risk heartbreak, or run and always wonder what could have been.

Summer, 1924. Beautiful Edith Carrow appears to have it all. As Coco Chanel’s mannequin her life is full of parties and the adoration of a rich man. But Edith holds a deep secret from her past. When she meets toymaker, Henri, her heart threatens to unravel all she has worked hard to achieve. She must choose, follow her head or listen to her heart and risk losing everything.

Autumn, 1935. Genevieve Dupuis is forbidden from doing two things; painting and falling in love. So when she meets handsome Sebastian on a forbidden painting trip her life because ever so slightly complicated. Can a girl who has learned to survive by lies and illusions face up to the truth in time to realise that sometimes surrender is the bravest act of all?

Winter, 1944. SOE agent Therese Lambert is about to risk everything to help free Canadian airman Will—a man hiding his own covert activities beneath an identity she knows isn’t his. Fleeing from the German occupiers and the collaborating French, they escape Paris. Can their budding attraction survive a perilous journey or will a betrayal put both their lives on the line?

A Season in Paris is out now.

One Comment
  1. 5 September 2021 2:26 pm

    This anthology sounds fantastic, Clare—congrats!

    I was lucky enough to visit Paris in autumn a few years back, but I’d love to go back again in springtime.

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