The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau is a perfect novel for those long winter evenings, even though The Great Darkness is getting slightly shorter as each day passes. Lovers of historical adventure and romance should find plenty to engage them in this story of Genevieve Planché, a young and rebellious Huguenot artist on a quest for a colour: the most exquisite shade of blue.
We find Genevieve living in 18th century London, in a community established by her Protestant French forebears who had fled their homeland to escape persecution. Genevieve wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London.
Her ambition is to travel to Venice to learn the secrets of Tintoretto, Veronese and Giorgioni, but her only chance is in the hands of an urbane – but possibly dangerous – English aristocrat, Sir Gabriel Courtenay.
Courtenay is deeply involved in the competitive English porcelain business, where manufacturers vie with each other to produce the finest wares. He sets Genevieve a challenge. Find the secret to the perfect blue pigment, and he will send her to Venice. Is this a Faustian pact? Will Genevieve’s industrial espionage put her life in danger?
Nancy Bilyeau (right) is from the Midwest of the USA but she currently works as a journalist and academic in New York. The Blue is her fourth novel, is published by Endeavour Quill, and is out now.