Parisian Promises (Velastegui)

Parisian Promises parisian-promises
Cecilia Velastegui, 2012
Libros Publishing
274 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780985176914

Paris, 1973: in the midst of a turbulent period of student unrest, political protest and terrorist threats, Monica, a naive and idealistic American college student, arrives in Paris eager to lie out her rose-colored dreams.

Along with her three friends, Monica soon discovers a Paris not pictured in guidebooks or dreamy black-and-white photographs: a place both seductive and dangerous.

The young women, who each dreamed of a coup de foudre-love at first sight-instead find themselves in a complex tangle of temptation, sex, love, and betrayal In a city famed for its beauty—and the dark enticements of Montmatre and the Latin Quarter—the friends soon lose sight of their moral compasses, and discover the seamy side of their Parisian adventure.

Monica's passionate involvement with two men puts her in grave danger. Drawn to Christophe, and idealistic young aristocrat, she’s also completely in the sway of Jean-Michel, a radical South American whose charisma and elan camouflage his despicable modus operandi. Her best friend Lola, who idolizes the life of Parisian courtesan La Belle Otero, seems consumed by sex and frivolity—but may also be Monica's greatest protector.

Monica's Paris education, both sexual and intellectual, leads her on a perilous journey—embroiled with ETA terrorists, implicated in a crime, psychologically tortured, and endangering not only herself but everyone she knows and loves. Monica's decisions impact everyone from her American friends to her elderly landlady, a former French Resistance fighter who sees her own sensuous youth reflected in the current-day struggles.

Velastegui spins a provocative and mesmerizing tale about the loss of innocence, the allure of desire, the power of both betrayal and redemption, and the danger in romanticizing the most loved and iconic of cities: Paris. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Raised—California, USA, and France
Education—University of Southern California
Currently—lives in Monarch Beach, California

Cecilia Velastegui was born in Ecuador and raised in California and France. She received her graduate degree from the University of Southern California and speaks four languages. She has traveled to more than sixty countries, and serves on the board of directors of several educational and cultural institutions.

Work and recognition
Cecilia continues to garner praise for her psychological thrillers with historical intrigue. She was awarded first place by the International Latino Book Awards for her novels Missing in Machu Picchu (2013) and Traces of Bliss (2014) Gathering the Indigo Maidens (2011) was a finalist for the Mariposa Award. The Association of American Publishers and the Las Comadres international organization have selected her novels for the National Latino Book Club.

Velastegui is an accomplished public speaker and has participated as a panelist at the 2013 Literary Orange, has been a moderator at the 2013 Big Orange Book Festival, has lectured at numerous locations, and has performed at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the country’s largest book festival.

Velastegui is known as the Fabulous Fableist for her bilingual children’s fables. Her fable about the newest mammal in the Western Hemisphere, Olinguito Speaks Up (2013) was awarded first place by the International Latino Book Awards and was featured at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Lalo Loves to Help and Howl of the Mission Owl debuted at the Los Angeles Zoo and the Orange County Children’s Book Festival.

Velastegui lives with her family in Monarch Beach, California. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
The year is 1973; the place is Paris. Four young women get lost in misadventures, danger, and fulfillment in a comedic, romantic mystery.... The deftly constructed story line moves these intellectually and sensually driven females...from seamy arrondissements to lush villas. Velastegui builds her characters with nuanced layers.... [Her] multilingual twists of words, her skillfully textured plot, and her ability to convey the pleasures and perils of love make Parisian Promises a novel to remember.... Velastegui is a writer whose work merits wider recognition (Five Stars).
Foreword Reviews

Award-winning author Cecilia Velastegui turns her attention in her latest novel to the years shortly after the Paris student riots of 1968.... Velastegui spins a disturbing tale of abuse, shattered dreams, and the loss of innocence. The author's greatest strength, however, lies in her ability to create memorable characters.... [Her] cross-cultural background, along with her extensive travels, aid Velastegui in making the worldviews of her principal characters and the atmosphere of life in Paris during the 1970s very realistic. (Recommended Level.)
US Review of Books

Discussion Questions
1. In Parisian Promises the reader is led to ruminate about famous love stories, from Elizabeth and Darcy to Abélard and Eloise to Romeo and Juliette.  What are the main characteristics of these stories that have made them moving, intriguing and memorable?

2. Since a memorable love story must have an element of high risk, who faced the highest risk and what was the greatest danger in Parisian Promisess?

3. What was the magnetic pull that Jean-Michel had over Monica?  Due to Monica’s naïveté, was predestined to simultaneously fall in love with more than one man?

4. In what ways is Monica’s romantic involvement with Jean-Michel destined for disappointment?

5. American college students flock to France for their study abroad year.  Did Monica and her room mates have unrealistic expectations for their year in Paris?  How did their expectations lead them into their respective complications during their year abroad?  Would these types of rose-colored dreams occur today, or are they representative of a more innocent era?

6. What did you know about the 1968 student unrest in Paris? How did this book teach you about, or change your impression of, this important chapter in French history?

7. Parisian Promises contains three interweaving story lines about three historical characters.  Are there any redeeming qualities to the 19th century courtesan, La Belle Otero?  What traits did French author, George Sand, display that would be admirable for a contemporary reader?  Were the personal sacrifices made by the lovelorn Ecuadorian wife, Isabel Casamayor de Godin, worth her journey down the dangerous Amazon River?

8. In what ways is Madame Caron de Pichet’s apartment a character all its own? What Parisian landmarks served as elements of danger?

9. French author, Patrick Modiano is famous for his portrayal of a grey, grim Paris of the Occupation.  How does Velástegui depict Paris in the 1970’s from the perspective of foreigners that flocked to the city?  

10. What are the major themes of Parisian Promises?

11. How do you imagine what happens after the end of the novel? What do you think Monica’s life will be like living with a Christophe’s domineering mother? What truths do you think she’ll learn about herself?

12. Why do modern readers enjoy historical novels? How and when can a powerful piece of fiction be a history lesson?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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