Meet Kiki Button: socialite, private detective and spy

1920s Paris is my ultimate fantasy destination. Ever since I read Among the Bohemians by Virginia Nicholson, I have been fascinated (read: obsessed) with it. Nicholson’s book explores the lives of bohemian, artistic London from 1900 to WWII – not their work, but how they dressed, where they lived, what they ate, how they created lives as artists, rebels, and thrill-seekers.

CATHERINE MILNE TALKS ABOUT APRIL IN PARIS, 1921

April in Paris, 1921As a publisher, as a reader, as a woman, I have to admit that I have completely lost my heart to a fictional character named Kiki Button. She is the protagonist of April in Paris, 1921, a gorgeously written, clever, very appealing and witty mystery – think Nancy Mitford meets Alexander McCall Smith, with a dash of the Divine Miss Fisher.
The story takes place in 1921. After two years at home in Australia, Katherine King Button has had enough. Her rich parents have ordered her to get married, but after serving as a nurse during the Great War, she has vowed never to take orders again. She flees her parents and the prison of their expectations for the place of friendship and freedom: Europe – where she remakes herself as Kiki Button, gossip columnist extraordinaire, partying with the rich and famous, the bohemian and strange. But while on Picasso’s modelling dais, he gives her a job: to find his wife’s portrait, which has gone mysteriously missing. Kiki accepts her commission, but that same night, Fox, her old spymaster from the war contacts her. She has to find a double agent or face jail. Kiki left Europe to leave him behind, his cruelty and charm, his cold manipulation. All the deliciousness of Paris in springtime cannot remove the long shadow of her past actions. Through parties, whisky and informants, Kiki has to use her knowledge of Paris from the Great War to connect the clues over the course of one week.
April in Paris, 1921 is witty, sparkling and fresh, combining café society, bohemian artists, interwar politics, witty banter, gorgeous frocks, fast action
and skulduggery galore. But the real charm of this novel is of course the entirely original Kiki: her fabulous clothes, her gaiety, her secret sadness, her appetite for life, her many and complicated loves… She’s the kind of character where you know underneath that fabulous, slightly unwashed dress she’s wearing, her stockings might be torn and her knees might be bruised, but she’ll always be laughing, tossing her hair back and cadging a cigarette off someone. She’s an original, the real deal. I adore her.

TESSA LUNNEY TALKS ABOUT WRITING APRIL IN PARIS, 1921

Tessa Lunney1920s Paris is my ultimate fantasy destination. Ever since I read Among the Bohemians by Virginia Nicholson, I have been fascinated (read: obsessed) with it. Nicholson’s book explores the lives of bohemian, artistic London from 1900 to WWII – not their work, but how they dressed, where they lived, what they ate, how they created lives as artists, rebels, and thrill-seekers. As Virginia Woolf’s grand-niece, she is well placed to know! Her book came at a time when I was struggling with how to make a writing life, and was searching for a guide, a template, examples from the past. The book changed my life.
I read much of her research list, then kept reading for myself. It easily fit into my academic research on war and war fiction, as the 1920s were, in some way, a reaction to WWI: wild parties that were about trying to outrun the long shadow of war; an embrace of the mechanical age; middle class
women unwilling and unable to go back into the home, and working-class women unwilling to go back into service; loosened class relations and race
relations, especially in Britain; a desperate need to throw out the old order and make it new. Much of this work had begun before the war, of course, but it increased afterwards with the fast pace of the industrial age.
It also let me explore many of my other areas of interest: the position of women in politics and society; twentieth century history, in particular the interwar period; modernism and its effect on mainstream culture; the intersection of fashion and politics; how to be an artist; how to be a modern woman. A tall order for one book, perhaps, but the 1920s was a radical time.
But the book also filled a personal gap for me. I had read all the Phryne Fisher books and seen the series twice. I had read Nicola Upson’s Josephine
Tey books but they were becoming too dark to read with an infant in my arms. I wanted more of the bright wit of Nancy Mitford (I’d read all her books too), a book that took me away to another world, another life … so I decided to combine everything I wanted and Kiki was the result.

 


April in Paris, 1921April in Paris, 1921 by Tessa Lunney

Meet the glamorous, witty and charming Kiki Button: socialite, private detective and spy. We all have secrets – it’s just that Kiki has more than most … For fans of Phryne Fisher and Julian Fellowes

It’s 1921, and after two years at home in Australia, Katherine King Button has had enough. Her rich parents have ordered her to get married, but after serving as a nurse during the horrors of the Great War, she has vowed never to take orders again. She flees her parents and the prison of their expectations for the place of friendship and freedom: Paris.

Paris in 1921 is the city of freedom, the place where she can remake herself as Kiki Button, gossip columnist extraordinaire, partying with the rich and famous, the bohemian and bold, the suspicious and strange.

But on the modelling dais, Picasso gives her a job: to find his wife’s portrait, which has gone mysteriously missing. That same night, her old spymaster from the war contacts her – she has to find a double agent or face jail. Through parties, whisky and informants, Kiki has to use every ounce of her determination, her wit and her wiles to save herself, the man she adores, and the life she has come to love – in just one week.

Playful, charming, witty and very, very entertaining, Kiki Button – the fearless, beautiful and blonde-bobbed Australienne – is a heroine to win hearts.

‘Kikki Button lives by her wits, her style and an irrepressible joie de vivre‘ Sulari Gentill, author, A Few Right Thinking Men

‘Fascinating characters, beautifully written.’ Kate Williams, New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Queen Victoria

‘Tessa Lunney brilliantly evokes the Annees folles of the Roaring Twenties as her heroine?an Australian debutante-turned-nurse-turned-spy? Kiki Button traipses through Paris’s sensual bohemian culture hunting for a World War I mole and stolen Pablo Picasso painting.’ Julie McElwain, author of A Murder in Time

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Posted on May 31, 2018 by

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"Meet Kiki Button: socialite, private detective and spy"

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