Mistress of the Ritz

Mistress of the Ritz

by Melanie Benjamin

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Overview

A captivating novel based on the story of the extraordinary real-life American woman who secretly worked for the French Resistance during World War II—while playing hostess to the invading Germans at the iconic Hôtel Ritz in Paris—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

“A compelling portrait of a marriage and a nation at war from within.”—Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network

Nothing bad can happen at the Ritz; inside its gilded walls every woman looks beautiful, every man appears witty. Favored guests like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk through its famous doors to be welcomed and pampered by Blanche Auzello and her husband, Claude, the hotel’s director. The Auzellos are the mistress and master of the Ritz, allowing the glamour and glitz to take their minds off their troubled marriage, and off the secrets that they keep from their guests—and each other.

Until June 1940, when the German army sweeps into Paris, setting up headquarters at the Ritz. Suddenly, with the likes of Hermann Goëring moving into suites once occupied by royalty, Blanche and Claude must navigate a terrifying new reality. One that entails even more secrets and lies. One that may destroy the tempestuous marriage between this beautiful, reckless American and her very proper Frenchman. For in order to survive—and strike a blow against their Nazi “guests”—Blanche and Claude must spin a web of deceit that ensnares everything and everyone they cherish.

But one secret is shared between Blanche and Claude alone—the secret that, in the end, threatens to imperil both of their lives, and to bring down the legendary Ritz itself.

Based on true events, Mistress of the Ritz is a taut tale of suspense wrapped up in a love story for the ages, the inspiring story of a woman and a man who discover the best in each other amid the turbulence of war.

Advance praise for Mistress of the Ritz

“No one writes of the complexities of women’s lives and loves like Melanie Benjamin. In Mistress of the Ritz, Benjamin brings wartime Paris brilliantly to life. . . . Intense, illuminating, and ultimately inspiring!”—Elizabeth Letts, New York Times bestselling author of Finding Dorothy

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399182259
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/21/2019
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 3,966
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Melanie Benjamin is the New York Times bestselling author of Alice I Have Been, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb, The Aviator’s Wife, The Swans of Fifth Avenue, and The Girls in the Picture. Benjamin lives in Chicago, where she is at work on her next historical novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Blanche,

June 1940

Her shoes.

It’s her shoes that worry her, if that can be believed. Of all the things this woman should be concerned about on this horrific day, it’s her shoes.

But in her defense, given who she is and where she is headed, her shoes are a problem. They’re filthy, caked with dried mud, the heels worn down. And all she can think about, as her husband helps her off the train, is how Coco Chanel, that bitch, will react when she sees her. How they’ll all react when she shows up at the Ritz with filthy, worn-­down shoes, her ripped stockings practically disintegrating on her shapely calves. While she can’t do anything about her stockings—­even Blanche Auzello would never dream of changing her stockings in public—­she is desperate to find a bench so that she can rummage through her suitcases and find another pair of shoes. But before she can speak this wish, she and her husband are swept up in the wave of bewildered—­well, what the hell are they now? French? German? Refugees?—­who are flooding out of the Gare du Nord, eager, terrified, to see what has become of Paris in their absence.

Blanche and her husband are part of the great unwashed; dirt and cinders have coagulated in pockets of perspiration beneath their chins, behind their ears, their knees, in the crevasses of their elbows. Greasy faces streaked with soot. They haven’t changed clothes in days; Claude packed away his captain’s uniform before they left his garrison. “To be worn again,” he assured Blanche—­or more likely, she suspected, himself. “When we fight back. As we most certainly will.”

But no one knows when, or if, that time will come. Now that the Germans have taken France.

Outside, the pair finally push their way out of the crowd so that they can catch their breath, try to corral all the luggage that is slipping out of their hands; when they packed, nine months ago, they had no idea how long they’d be away. Automatically, they look for a taxi in the usual line outside the station entrance, but there are none; there are no cars at all, only one lone cart, hitched to the saddest horse Blanche has ever seen.

Claude glances at the horse, takes in its heavy breathing, the foam dribbling from its mouth, ribs so defined it’s as if the flesh has been carved, and shakes his head. “That animal will never see another morning.”

“You!” Blanche marches over to the man sitting on the cart, a man with small eyes and a gap-­toothed smile.

“Yes, Madame? Ten francs. Ten, and I take you anywhere in Paris! I have the only horse and cart within twenty kilometers!”

“You unharness that horse right now. You bastard, that horse is about to collapse, can’t you see? He needs to be stabled, fed.”

“Crazy bitch,” the man mutters, then sighs and gestures toward the street, teeming with humans on foot. “Don’t you understand? The Nazis took every healthy animal when they came. This nag is all I have to make a living.”

“I don’t care. I’ll pay you twenty francs if you just let this animal lie down for a while.”

“If he lies down, he won’t get up again.” The man glances at the poor animal swaying on its crooked legs, then shrugs. “I figure I have three, maybe four jobs left, and then he’s done. And so am I.”

“I’ll do it myself, you—­”

But Claude has reached his wife and dragged her away, even as she still lunges toward the hapless horse and his owner.

“Shh, Blanche, shh. Stop. We need to go. You can’t save every broken thing in Paris, my love. Especially not now.”

“Try and stop me!” But she does allow her husband to steer her away from the station. Because one important fact remains. The Auzellos are still a long way from the Ritz.

“I would have telegrammed to have someone meet us,” Claude says, mopping his forehead with his filthy handkerchief; he looks at it and winces. Blanche’s husband craves a clean handkerchief as much as she craves clean shoes. “But . . .”

Blanche nods. All the telegraph and telephone poles linking Paris to the outside world had been cut during the invasion.

“Monsieur! Madame!” Two enterprising young boys appear, offering to carry the Auzellos’ bags for three francs. Claude agrees, and they start to follow the urchins through the streets of Paris, normally so chaotic. Blanche can’t help remembering the first time she tried to navigate the circle around the Arc de Triomphe, so many lanes full of honking vehicles going every which way. But today, she’s stunned by the complete absence of traffic.

“The Germans are confiscating every car,” one boy, a tall, pale lad with blond hair and a broken front tooth, says with the cockiness of a youth in the unusual position of knowing more than his elders. “For their army.”

“I would blow it up first, rather than give my car to the Boche,” Claude mutters, and it’s on the tip of Blanche’s tongue to remind him that they don’t own a car. But she doesn’t; even Blanche knows that now is not the time to make that particular point.

While the ragtag little group straggles along, she becomes aware of something else: silence. Not just from the crowd of stunned citizens stumbling out of the station, spreading out through the city like a muddy puddle of rain, but everywhere. If there is one constant in Paris, it is talk: Café tables crammed with volatile patrons arguing about the color of the sun. Sidewalks, too, crowded with Parisians stopping to make a point, jabbing a finger in a companion’s chest as they debate politics, the cut of one’s suit, the best cheese shop—­it doesn’t matter, it never matters. Parisians, Blanche knows too well, love to gab.

Today, the cafés are empty. The sidewalks, too, are bare. There are no noisy schoolchildren in uniforms playing in the vacant gardens. No vendors singing while they push their carts; no shopkeepers haggling with suppliers.

But she feels eyes upon her, she’s sure of it. Despite the warmth of the cruelly sunny day, she shivers and tucks her hand beneath her husband’s arm.

“Look,” he whispers, nodding his head skyward. Blanche obeys; the windows beneath the mansard roofs are full of people peering out furtively behind lace curtains. Her gaze is pulled toward the sky, caught by something shining, reflecting the light, up on the very rooftops.

Nazi soldiers, carrying polished rifles, looking down at them.

She starts to tremble.

They haven’t encountered any soldiers until this moment. The Germans had not reached Nîmes, where Claude had been garrisoned at the start of the Phony War. Even on the train to Paris, where everyone was terrified that they would be strafed by bombers as so many people who fled had been; even though every scheduled—­and unscheduled—­stop caused all conversation to cease as they held their breath, afraid of hearing German words, German boots, German gunshots. Through it all, the Auzellos hadn’t encountered a single Nazi.

But now that they are here, home, they do. It’s really happened, goddammit. The Nazis have really conquered Paris.

Blanche takes a breath—­her ribs ache, her stomach churns, and she can’t remember when they last ate—­and walks on in her destroyed shoes. Finally, they come to the enormous paved square of the Place Vendôme; it, too, is empty of citizens. But not of soldiers.

Blanche gasps; so does Claude. For there are Nazi tanks in the square, surrounding the statue of Napoleon. An enormous Nazi flag, with its twisted black swastika, hangs above several doorways—­including that of the Ritz. Her husband’s beloved Ritz. Hers, too. Their Ritz.

And at the top of the stairs leading to the front doors stand two Nazi soldiers. With guns.

There’s a clatter. The boys have dropped the bags and are sprinting off like hares. Claude looks after them.

“Perhaps we should go to the flat instead,” he says, taking out his dirty handkerchief again. For the first time today—­for the very first time since Blanche has known him—­her husband looks uncertain. And that’s the moment when she understands that everything has changed.

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Mistress of the Ritz 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
History intrigues me! Well researched stories of real people and the lives they lived fascinate me! Melanie Benjamin's historical fiction is a really good read!
Anonymous 7 months ago
I first "discovered" Melanie Benjamin when I read her amazing book The Swans of Fifth Avenue , since then , I read , The Aviator's Wife and The Girls in the Picture all great reads. When I found out about Mistress of the Ritz , I couldn't wait to read it and I am happy I did. Ms. Benjamin never disappoints. Mistress of the Ritz , as with her other books , is based on a true story . It is a tale of love , extra-marital affairs , intrigue, politics , overindulgence, of ex-pats and celebrities living in Paris during the Nazi occupation of France. Ms. Benjamin does historical fiction right , she stays close to historical facts and adds her incredible storytelling abilities and imagination to create a fun , engaging and entertaining read. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for my honest review.
Anonymous 7 months ago
The book follows Ritz manager Claude Auzello and his wife Blanche mainly during the years the Nazi's were occupying the Ritz in Paris. In the beginning there is some time jumping between Blanche and Claude's alternating chapters, but they quickly converge to the same time period. It tells the the couple's unconventional love story, along with the underlying love story of the Ritz. Both Blanche and Claude do whatever they can to help the underground Resistance in France while it is under Nazi control. While it is extremely dangerous to do anything under the noses of their "guests" both continue unbeknownst to each other. The story is built on the secrets Claude and Blanche share & the ones they keep from each other. I have read most of Benjamin's past work and in this book she continues to tell the story of real life people and the struggles they likely went through. With an abundance of WWII fiction on the market, this book is an entirely different take. Following lesser known people that history has mostly forgotten shows an unexplored part of Paris WWII history. The story telling brings you straight to the underground movement and you feel the need to do something and turmoil the characters felt. It makes you wish the nonfiction work about the Auzello's isn't next to nonexistent! The writing is excellent and I look forward to reading more of Benjamin's work. Full disclosure, I received and ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review
Anonymous 3 months ago
As+a+very+big+fan+of+all+historical+fiction%2C+I++found+this+novel+left+me+wanting+more%2C+and+isn%60t+that+the+ultimate+endorsment%3F++I+will+now+go+on+to+read+other+works+by+this+author%2C+and+watch+for+future+releases.
nanaoftwo 3 months ago
This was my first time reading Melanie Benjamin. This book didn't grab me at all. In fact, I could not even finish it.
BettyTaylor 3 months ago
It seems that more and more previously unknown stories keep coming out revolving around WWII. MISTRESS OF THE RITZ is one of those stories. I had no idea when I began reading the book that it was based upon the lives of the real Claude and Blanche Auzello. They bravely participated in the Resistance right under the noses of the Nazi party. Suspenseful, inspiring, and heartbreaking, this is a story that will linger in your memory I absolutely loved this book.
rendezvous_with_reading 3 months ago
A Marriage of Misunderstandings and Resistance #partner Thank you Delacorte Press and Random House for this free copy to review! When the Nazis swept into Paris and took up residence in The Hotel Ritz, little did they know that they were opening fraternizing with an American Jew. Blanche Auzello, was the American wife of Claude Auzello, the director of the Ritz. Prior to meeting Claude, Blanche had been a budding actress with the last name of Rubenstein. In time, she changed her surname to Ross and falsified her documents to make herself Catholic, so as to not hamper Claude's career prospects at the Ritz. Claude and Blanche have passionate, whirlwind romance, that results in a marriage of misunderstandings and miscommunication. Claude is not a faithful husband and Blanche, of course, takes issue with that while continuing to try to make their marriage work. She finds solace in her friendship with mysterious Lily; a friend that Claude despises due to her influence over Blanche. But as they struggle to keep the Ritz running under Nazi control, they both find their own ways to resist, taking dangerous risks right under the nose of the Nazi's high command in France and accomplish amazing acts. The author presents this real life couple and their marriage in stripped down emotion. Despite their failings and faults, they do love each other and share the courage and compassion needed to take action in dangerous times. At times the hurt and pain they inflicted on each other through misunderstandings and a lack of communication, were hard to read and may make the novel seem to lag at points. However, I'm glad I persisted to the end, to realize the full scope of their sacrifice for good and tragic love for each other. Their little known story is quite fascinating.
Anonymous 4 months ago
%0AThis+historic+novel+brings+to+life+a+period+of+history+that+we+better+not+forget.++The+characters+are++interesting%2C+the+story+is+very+moving--I+was+sad+when+it+ended.
ShihTzuMama 5 months ago
Inspired by actual events and featuring appearances by real people ranging from Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway to Cole Porter and Hermann Goring, MISTRESS OF THE RITZ is a compelling, page-turning narrative that re-examines history from a fresh point of view as it reveals the bravery, cowardice and cruelty experienced by an American ex-flapper and her hotelier husband when the Germans take over the Paris Ritz hotel and utilize it as their headquarters during WWII. Claude Auzello and his wife Blanche are caught up in the tumult of not only the war but the status of their often precarious married life. The story moves between their meeting in 1920’s Paris, the years in between - with Claude’s somewhat pompous attitude coupled with his Thursday night mistress and Blanches sporadic escapes from their unusual marital arrangement - and the occupation of Paris with both Auzello’s working for the resistance right under the noses of the Germans. Even readers who are not fans of historical fiction might want to give this book a chance.
BringMyBooks 6 months ago
I've said it before and I'll say it again - one of my absolute favorite things about Historical Fiction is the ability to share so many interesting and fascinating historical facts and stories with the general public, and Melanie Benjamin's Mistress of the Ritz does just that. I knew *of* the Ritz, but I was in no way familiar with the backstory of the hotel, nor did I have any inkling of it's role during WWII. Historical fiction novels that are based on real people always hold a bit more gravitas for me than those with fictional characters based around factual events, and this definitely held true for this book. Frankly, I was blown away by the story of Claude and Blanche Auzello. There are so many things to say about their relationship and the choices that they made, but in one of the biggest romance tropes of all time, they spend a good portion of the time NOT COMMUNICATING as each is involved in clandestine resistance work - is it because they didn't trust one another? Or maybe because they cared too much for the other to risk their involvement? In real life, we'll never know - but Melanie Benjamin does a wonderful job making reasonable suppositions about their lives and choices and turned them into frustratingly believable characters that you were rooting for throughout the entire novel. I loved learning about the Ritz and it's role during the German occupation of Paris, as well as the different resistance movements that were carried out within it's walls. I thought the relationships in the novel were written quite well, and I loved the alternating viewpoints of Claude and Blanche. I thought the writing itself was simple and effective (with occasional stand-out prose), and I would definitely pick up another Melanie Benjamin novel sometime in the future.
xxjenadanxx 6 months ago
After marrying Claude, Blanche quickly settled into her role as Mistress of the Ritz, dressing in only the most fashionable clothing, befriending the elite and living in a beautiful suite at the hotel. But now the Nazis have taken over Paris and the Ritz has become their headquarters. Claude and Blanche now spend their days catering to and rubbing elbows with their conquerors, and their nights doing their part for the resistance. Living in such close quarters with the enemy Blanche finds a false sense of security, and grows more reckless as she becomes more restless. A story of switching perspectives, this one is different in that it stays in a tight timeline, between a married couple instead of strangers. I really enjoyed this book and was delighted to find that Claude and Blanche were real people. Thank you #Netgalley and Random House for allowing me to read and review this wonderful book!
Anonymous 6 months ago
an+interesting+book+about+a+courageous++woman+and+her+husband.
brf1948 6 months ago
Mistress of the Ritz is a historical novel based on the actual lives of Frenchman Claude Auzello, in the early 1920s the assistant manager of the Hotel Claridge in Paris, and American actress (though not in great demand) Blanche Ross, who meet in Paris in 1923 and marry - perhaps too quickly - shortly thereafter. On the day Blanche accepts his marriage proposal, Claude is called by widow Marie-Louise Ritz for an interview for the position of assistant manager of the world-famous Hotel Ritz on the Place Vendome, Paris, making him what he considers to be the luckiest man in the world. As he is passing Blanche on his way out for the interview, she teases him with advice - to demand the position of manager, as he is not an "assistant" anything. Though he is not normally an overly confident man he does as Blanche suggests. Elderly Mrs. Ritz, tickled by his spunk, laughingly agrees and hires him. This was his dream-come-true, to manage the Paris Ritz. Claude is walking on air as he and Blanche marry. But the honeymoon trip is a comedic farce, and American flapper Blanche is not a typical, docile French woman nor will she tolerate the French lifestyle Claude takes for granted. Blanche doesn't cook or clean, she is not willing to give up her American friends just because Claude wishes it, nor will she tolerate the traditional ban on women at the Ritz bar, and even Claude does not expect her to sit quietly in the background in the public rooms of the Ritz. And Claude, an excellent, competent manager and concierge of the most famous Hotel in Europe - no, the world! - finds himself completely overwhelmed and outgunned by the former Miss Ross. When he as a last resort moves them into the hotel and decides to just sit back and watch, life improves for them both. They dine often in the hotel dining room or go out for meals, and Blanche sets herself up in a corner of the bar and people watches, gossips, laughs, and tipples while Claude works. Within days she is the darling of the employees and sought out by visitors of the Ritz. In mere weeks she is known far and wide as the Mistress of the Ritz. She becomes a favorite of the worldly visitors of 1920s and 1930s Paris - Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso and Cole Porter, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich (though Claude stands firm on the ban of even these women in trousers in the bar), Gertrude Stein and her friend Alice, Coco Chanel. Anyone who is someone in the world of the arts. And then Germany overruns France and invades Paris, the German military setting up their headquarters in the Ritz. Claude decided that the only thing he can do is protect the reputation of the Ritz by maintaining the standards set by Cesar Ritz, even in these impossible times. He spends his days accommodating the German hierarchy - guests despite the fact that they are not welcome guests - and keeping the hotel to the high standards demanded of the best of the best, standards set by Cesar and Marie-Louise in every Ritz hotel in the world. No matter how hard it is, no matter how perturbed Blanche becomes at his servile attitude with the German military, he will continue to do his best to accommodate the 'guests'. And the Ritz is one of the few quality Paris hotels that are allowed to accept guests other than the military overlords though those old classic artistic guests are no longer in Paris while the world is at war. But can the Ritz - and the Auzello's - survive the occupation of France? Is there
mweinreich 6 months ago
Writing and reading historical fiction is often a difficult task. The author often travels a fine line between what is real and what is imagined in the lines of a book. It can be hard for a reader to fully appreciate a story when the details are frequently overused and murky. However in this book, Melanie Benjamin has been able to capture a piece of history and make it into an interesting story that was much enjoyed by Jan and I. I so enjoy an historical fiction book that when completed has me scurrying to google to find out more. To me there is nothing better than when an author makes the reader both aware and looking for more information about the characters portrayed in the story. In a way, the book becomes not only informative, but also one that encourages the reader to learn more. In this story we meet the Blanche Auzello, an American, and her French husband and Hotel Director, Claude Auzello. They are a have it all couple, running the premier hotel, the Ritz, in Paris, which housed the likes of Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many other notables. It is a dream job, one that meshes the haves of the world in an environment that is both glamorous, charismatic and elegant. The winds of war however, are spreading and carry their disastrous effect into the Ritz and as the Nazis take over Paris, they take over the Ritz as well and the Auzellos must contend with their presence and the effect it has upon their lives and their beloved hotel. Both Blanche and Claude have secrets. Secrets which not only threaten their marriage but also their very lives. They don't really know one another and as the story continues and after nineteen years of marriage, they find in each other something they thought was never there. Told with the backdrop of war and the elegance of the Ritz, this story presents to the reader the courage, heroism, and audacity of many who resisted the Nazis and did their part of bringing the evilness of the Nazis to its downfall. I recommend this story to those who enjoy a well written and enjoyable story about a couple and their devotion to a cause and a hotel. Many thanks to Melanie Benjamin, Delacourte Press and Net Galley for a copy of this book.
Anonymous 6 months ago
This book was written with incredible heart. I’ve read many WWII historical books, put this one gave me a view point I haven’t had. The story, based on real people managing and living at the famous Ritz Hotel in Paris during the National occupation. The hotel was home to many famous characters including Chanel and Hemingway. Then in an instant the Manager and his beautiful American wife are playing hot to Natzi command. For four year! To live under so much pressure; loving France, seeing it destroyed, working with the resistance and never knowing if what you are risking will make a difference an that at any momment you could be caught and shot. The relationship between the Manager and his wife is fraught with almost continual conflict. Under this is a deep love they almost fail to reconize in time. I highly recommend this book and thank the publishers; Penguin Random House and Netgallery for the opportunity to read an advance copy. I look forward to reading more by this terrific author.
besu 7 months ago
What a wonderful piece of historical fiction, based on real people and real places and the horrible circumstances of Parisians in WWII. Most of the action takes place at the Ritz Hotel where Claude is the director. Claude is French and Blanche is an American. After a whirlwind romance, they are married and begin a tumultuous relationship together. This is a story about their relationship with the Ritz as much as a story of their relationship with each other. When the Germans occupy Paris, Claude and Blanche both find their own ways of coping. They sometimes work together but mostly work separately and as they seem to grow apart, are brought back together time and again. This is a beautifully told story about the ebbs and flows of feelings in marriage even without having the war exacerbate the situation. It is also a tale of clandestine bravery and heroism. The pressure is on as Claude and Blanche maintain the orderliness of running a large hotel. It is very bittersweet but also a lovely tale. I enjoyed the writing style and will read more from this author in the future. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
bg_reads 7 months ago
Historical fiction is my jam. It's my favorite genre and I've read a lot of it over the years. A lot of the HF books I've been reading as of late have been centered around WWII and have variations of the same story: people trying to live their lives in France, Russia and even Germany when BAM! The Nazis are here! Everything changes for them, and the story ensues and provides insight as to how these families deal with their new realities. This book, however, takes on a different setting entirely. Yes, it's set in Paris, France when the Nazi regime rolls into town and slowly but surely takes over and changes everything. But there's a twist! The focus is completely centered around The Ritz, Paris, a hotel that shifts from a true paradise for royals and celebrities from all around the world to a Nazi hub toward the war effort. I was so enthralled by the story line as well as the writing style! I thought the voices (2 protagonists, husband and wife duo) were distinct from one another and I loved the dynamic between them. Not only were they dealing with making their marriage work, but they were partners in running the Hotel with their perspective roles and even keeping secrets from the Germans (and each other) as they each worked for the Resistance. I enjoyed finding out the truth behind the secrecy, and seeing characters come out of their shells and do what they could to bring down the dreaded Nazi threat. Definitely one of my favorite reads of this year so far.
ReadingIsMyCardioBookClub 7 months ago
I read a lot of historical fiction and much of it is about WWII and I was excited to find a new take on it in "Mistress of the Ritz." The story revolves around the Auzellos - Blanche, an American woman, and her husband Claude, who eventually becomes the manager of the storied Ritz in Paris where everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Coco Chanel visit. Together, Blanche and Claude are the master and mistress of the grand hotel, catering to the whims and keeping the secrets of the famous guests. But in 1940, the Germans take Paris and with it, the Ritz, making it one of their headquarters and forcing the Auzellos into a new way of life. Their choices make for a suspenseful ride and show how even those who were not enlisted found a way to participate in the fight to bring down the Nazis. While hiding a secret from the world and secrets from each other, Blanche and Claude do everything they can to prevent their lives, the lives of their fellow Frenchmen and the magnificent Ritz from crashing down. When I got to the author's note, I was shocked to find that Melanie Benjamin based this story on a real-life couple and their associates and experiences during WWII. I wish the author had told the story in a more linear timeline which would have gotten to the action quicker but if you're a fan of historical fiction based on actual events, this is a great read.
Fredreeca2001 7 months ago
Claude is the director of the famous Ritz Hotel. He and his American wife, Blanche help keep this famous hotel running smoothly. When the Nazis move in and take over, it threatens everything these two have fought for. But, they are not finished fighting yet. With many secrets and espionage tactics, these two help with the war effort in unique and covert ways. This book is slow in the beginning and to tell you the truth, I was not a fan of Claude at all. He was way too domineering and demanding of Blanche. But don’t worry…Blanche can handle it. And boy does she ever! This is not what this book is about but I did enjoy their horrendous fights. And Blanche HATED Chanel. She and Chanel have very entertaining interactions which really added to the unique atmosphere of the Ritz. This is not my favorite Melanie Benjamin story. It moves a little too slow. But the famous setting and the famous people from the past are very thrilling. This really give the reader a different aspect to surviving WWII. I received this novel from Netgalley for a honest review.
Lynne Ernst 7 months ago
Wow!! The twist and turns kept me up late. Highly recommend this book about the Ritz during WW2.. It was an interesting look at challenges of living in Paris. I received this book from NetGalley for a honest review.
sueb0506 7 months ago
Wow! I absolutely loved this book. A World War II story told through the two main characters, Claude and Blanche Auzello, who were the directors of Ritz Hotel. It’s their love story, their acts of bravery, and the happiness and sadness that happened in their lives. It is also the story of the Ritz and the events that occurred there during the war. A must for those who love historical fiction. Thank you to NetGalley and Delcorte Press for the advanced read.
jdowell 7 months ago
A compelling read about a marriage set against the backdrop of World War II and the glamorous Ritz Hotel in Paris, France. Claude's infidelity and Blanche's brash American attitude cause troublesome times as the couple struggle with their marriage and manage life in the face of war. The couple is hiding one huge secret that would place them both in the crosshairs of the Germans. Claude, as the director of the hotel, has to bow and scrape to the Germans in order to keep his job Benjamin's prose flows beautifully and is engrossing. The characters are so richly drawn that you can see them and feel their emotions. There are several recognizable characters in the book - usually staying at the Ritz and hanging out in the bar: Earnest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, to name a few. The book provides a different view of World War II from the occupied hotel and from the French Resistance.
3900980 7 months ago
Melanie Benjamin's well researched historical novels have mostly been about popular characters such as Truman Capote and Mary Pickford. In Mistress of the Ritz she veers from this and tells the story of a couple not well known outside of a small circle in France, but what an amazing story she happened to stumble upon. Blanche and Claude Auziello have lived a very charmed life in Paris, France. He as the director of the Ritz and she as the Ritz's designated mistress who charms guests such as Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. But in 1940 when the Germans invade Paris, that all changes in an instant as they set up their operations at the Ritz. Thus begins the downfall of Paris as well as Blanche and Claude. Both, unbeknownst to the other begin to assist in the resistance movement which threatens to challenge everything they believe in...their marriage, their lives as well as their beloved Ritz. And there are shocking secrets each hold which could lead to their deaths. As the war wages on they become so involved in what they believe their duty to country is that they lose sight of each other as a couple, but also as each other's strength. Until it all begins to blow up in their faces and the reality that they could lose each other becomes intolerable. Even up to its shocking ending, Mistress of the Ritz sucks you into what life was like during Paris' German occupancy and the courage many had to help get others out of the country. It gives you a glimpse into what life was like for those who were not as fortunate to be wealthy. All along you root for Blanche and Claude as they persevere and try to find the love they once shared as well as the realization of just how much loyalty they have to each other and to the country of France.
Anonymous 7 months ago
An incredible story of love and loss during World War II German occupied Paris. This novel is based on a real couple and follows events that took place when the Germans took over the Ritz Hotel. The story follows the lightening speed romance, shot gun marriage, and inevitable struggles of Blanche, an actress from America and Claude, a Frenchman who is the manager of the famed Ritz hotel. "Marriage is not defined by what we hope to gain, but by what we are willing to sacrifice." Lovers of historical fiction will enjoy this novel for the descriptions of Paris and the grandiosity of the hotel. The hotel itself often feels like a character in the story! But this book at it's core is a love story about marriage. Claude and Blanche are mismatched from the start. She's a spicy, outgoing, naive American and he's a prudish, stylish, contrite Frenchman. In the best of times they'd be bound to have communication issues and cultural differences. But throw in the added tensions of war, racism, famine, and poverty...and this marriage gets tested to the fullest. "Love is despair. Love is delight. Love is fear. Love is hope. Love is mercy." This book has all of it. The couple runs through every emotion. From the instant attraction, to fierce jealousy, to anger and resentment. They fall into hardship and suffer indignities. But in the end, it is love. For love always wins.
PauletteB 7 months ago
Mistress of the Ritz is the story of Blanche Ross, a young American woman who travels to Paris with Pearl White, a friend who is her link to get into the movie industry. At this time, Blanche was the paramour of an Egyptian prince, J'Ali, and was to meet him in Paris. Before the prince arrives, she meets Claude Auzello, a Frenchman that manages the Hotel Claridge. Claude is enamored with Blanche and they have a whirlwind courtship and get married. The format of the book has the chapters going back and forth between Blanche and Claude which works very well, as they are two very different personalities, thus enabling the reader to get a clear perspective on each of them. Upon Blanch's urging, Claude becomes manager of The Ritz Hotel in Paris. The Hotel, actually, takes on a life of its own, this becoming, in my opinion, another main character in the book. The couple struggles with their relationship while becoming more and more entangled in The Ritz. When the Nazis take Paris during the Second World War, The Ritz becomes one of their main headquarters. The experiences of Claude and Blanche during the occupation become even more complex. The reader gets of view of Paris during and even after the occupation that is rarely discussed. There are some unusual plot twists in the book, and Melanie Benjamin, as usual, does a great job of embellishing the missing parts of this story, of which there are many. She explores the relationship of a husband and wife amid the complications of war, mistresses and even the toll a demanding job can take on a marraige. #RandomHouse/Ballantine and #Netgalley for giving me a preview to review in exchange for my honest opinion.