The Art of Rebellion
by Brenda Joyce Leahy
Publication Date: June 15, 2016
Publisher: Rebelight Publishing
Art is Gabrielle’s passion, but her parents have other plans for her future-marriage to a man three times her age who holds nothing but disdain for art. Gabrielle is determined to escape life as the baron’s trophy wife and the confinement of traditional roles. She flees her privileged home in the French countryside for Paris and the grandmother who understands her passion. When she cannot locate her grandmother, Gabrielle is left on her own in the City of Lights. The art world of Paris, 1900, brims with excitement, opportunity, and risk. Should Gabrielle trust her new friends, or will they take advantage of her hopes and dreams?
A shrill blast of the train’s whistle jolted through me. I ran through a veil of steam and scrambled up the rail car steps, my heart thudding in a prayer of thanks for slipping away unnoticed.
I ducked inside, quickly found my seat, and settled my art box and bags beneath it, my parasol on the seat beside me. My eyes were drawn to the window. The early morning light revealed a handful of people on the platform waving farewell. I turned away. No one would be out there to wish me a safe journey. I’d made sure of that.
A loud thump on the panel behind my head informed me the adjoining compartment was occupied. Children argued loudly over where to sit and a thin, tired woman’s voice begged for quiet.
I smoothed my blue kid gloves, a secret parting gift from my older sister Nacia. She alone was privy to my plans. My blue felt hat, speared into submission by Grand-mère’s hat pin—six inches of sterling silver topped with a crimson cloisonné bead—hopefully created the impression of a young woman much older than sixteen years. I tucked my undesirably large feet, pinched into fashionable heeled slippers, under a froth of petticoats and skirts and waited nervously for the train to depart.
Despite the early hour, a slick line of sweat snaked a path between my shoulder blades and dampened my corset laces. Was sneaking away like a thief in the night a mistake? I glanced out the window once more, for it might be the last I saw of Laval.
The clouds of steam thinned, and I locked eyes with a tall, imposing woman wearing an outrageous hat of stuffed birds.
I gasped. Madame Dupont, the worst gossip among Maman’s society friends.
Her eyes widened. She took a few steps forward but an attendant blocked her path as he stopped to assist a woman overloaded with baggage. Madame Dupont tilted one way then another, craning her neck as she searched me out.
I flinched and turned away. When I dared look again, she was gone. No doubt she would rush to spread the scandalous news: Sebastian and Désirée’s youngest daughter rode the express train bound for Paris—without a chaperone.
With a deep breath, I shoved Madame DuPont to the back of my mind. I could not stop her. There was no going back.
I pulled a creased envelope out of my purse and stroked it for courage. It held Grand-mère’s photograph and an address acquired only recently. An address in the capital. Paris. The very word promised the fulfillment of every wish.
One more whistle, and the sharp grinding of iron wheels on the rails signalled our departure. Just as the train shuddered and began to leave the station, a man boarded the car. He stuck his head into my compartment and gestured to the empty bench across from me. “I believe this is my seat, mademoiselle.”
I nodded sharply, trying to disguise my dismay. I’d paid extra to have the compartment to myself. That cheat of a ticket seller!
The stranger stowed his bags on the rack above, setting his top hat beside them with care. He sat down and snapped open a newspaper. Every now and then, he let the paper drop and peered at me over his wire-rimmed spectacles. I averted my gaze each time, but not before sneaking my own look at him.
He appeared to be in his mid-twenties, about the same age as my older brother, Charles. His suit wasn’t custom tailored, yet he held himself with the same dignity as any high-born gentleman. Even behind spectacles, his cobalt blue eyes exuded a notably intense hue. Clean-shaven with a slim build and broad shoulders, he looked strong and athletic. As a caricature, he would make a fine thoroughbred horse, albeit one with a jagged scar spoiling his facial features.
About the author:
Brenda Joyce Leahy has travelled to France five times but finds there’s always more explorations awaiting her. She loves historical fiction and thinks she was born a century too late but can’t imagine her life without computers or cell phones. So, perhaps, she arrived in the world at just the right moment to tell this story.
She grew up on a farm near Taber, Alberta but now lives with her family near the Rocky Mountains in Calgary, Alberta. After over 20 years practising law, she has returned to her first love of writing fiction. She is a member of several writing organizations, including the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI): her profile there is http://www.scbwi.org/members-public/brenda-johnson-2. The Art of Rebellion is also profiled on the Humber School of Writers’ website at http://creativearts.humber.ca/programs/school-writers/published-books. Brenda is also a member of the Historical Novel Society: http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org, and leads a YA/MG writers’ critique group in Calgary.
The Art of Rebellion is her first Young Adult novel, published by Rebelight Publishing, spring 2016.