Today it is my pleasure to welcome author Jeanne Mackin and her historical romance novel, The Last Collection .
An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this captivating novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.
Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel’s are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli’s bold, experimental, and surreal.
When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress—a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie’s beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli’s designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.
Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel’s personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris.
“Sophisticated couture wars and looming world wars take center stage in Mackin’s latest, with a plot that buzzes with love triangles and political intrigue. A gorgeous meditation on art, fashion, and heartbreak. Stunning.” –Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece
“Exquisitely melding world politics and high fashion, THE LAST COLLECTION is a smart, witty, heartfelt, and riveting look at the infamous rivalry between Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli set against a gripping period in history. Mackin’s powerful novel brings these characters to life and transports the reader, juxtaposing both the gaiety and tension of Paris on the brink of war. As elegant and captivating as the designs depicted in the novel, THE LAST COLLECTION is the perfect read for both historical fiction lovers and fashion aficionados. Simply stunning.” –Chanel Cleeton, USA Today bestselling author of Next Year in Havana
“A wonderful story of two intensely creative women, their vibrant joie de vivre, and backbiting competition played out against the increasingly ominous threat of the Nazi invasion of Paris. Seamless research makes every character leap to life and kept me totally engaged from beginning to end. –Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of Lighthouse Beach
“A vibrant portrait of two designers cut from very different cloth, Jeanne Mackin’s THE LAST COLLECTION pits bold Coco Chanel and colorful Elsa Schiaparelli against each other in a fiery feud even as the ominous clouds of World War II darken the horizon. A captivating read!” –Stephanie Marie Thornton, author of American Princess
“As Hitler and the Nazis gather strength and the world braces for war, Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel, whose politics differ as much as their couture, wage a war of their own. Lily Sutter, the woman who finds herself in the middle of their feud, has a battle of her own as she struggles to make a new start amidst extreme grief and loss. From New York to Paris, Jeanne Mackin takes the reader on an enthralling journey, complete with such vivid descriptions of the clothing, you can practically see them on the page. Beautifully rendered and meticulously researched, THE LAST COLLECTION is a must read.” –Renée Rosen, author of Park Avenue Summer
Fascinating facts about WWII fashion
by Jeanne Mackin
World War II has always fascinated me. In fact, most wars have, because they bring out the best and the worst in us, and in our cultures. They are pivotal moments where almost everything changes. But some things don’t change. When I was researching The Last Collection, I quickly realized that women’s desire to look and feel attractive not only does NOT change, but helps us get through some very dark moments. A little vanity goes a long way!
For instance: during power blackouts in Paris, during the war, beauty salons would ask American and British soldiers who were on leave to power the salon generators for the beauty equipment! There’s a gorgeous photograph from the era of soldiers in the basement pedaling madly away on bicycles attached to generators while women sat under the bicycle-powered hairdryers. The women are reading Vogue; the soldiers are grinning, thinking of possible rewards.
During the occupation of Paris, the Germans made stringent rules about clothing rations, even dictating how long skirts could be and how much material they could contain. Parisian women routinely broke the law and defied the Germans by making dresses with yards and yards of fabric in them, much more than the law allowed. One reason fashion moved away from short to longer in the forties was because of this defiance. And the hats they flaunted during the war were outrageous to the point of laughable. In her autobiography, Shocking Life, designer Elsa Schiaparelli describes war fashions as “towering turbans in which one could have hidden three lovers, hats like storks’ nests, and shoulders as wide as the streets.’ All to poke fun at the army that was destroying their country and challenging their values. Fashion as morale booster!
About the Author
Jeanne Mackin ‘s latest novel, The Last Collection, A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel takes the reader to Paris, just before world war II, and the intense, dangerous rivalry between the two queens of fashion. Her previous novels include A Lady of Good Family, the award-winning The Beautiful American, The Sweet By and By, Dreams of Empire, The Queen’s War, and The Frenchwoman.
Her historical fiction explores the lives of strong women who change their worlds…because we know the world always needs a lot of change! She has worked all the traditional ‘writers’ jobs’ from waitressing to hotel maid, anything that would leave her a few hours each morning for writing. Most recently, she taught creative writing at the graduate level. She has traveled widely, in Europe and the Middle East, and can think of no happier moment than sitting in a Paris café, drinking coffee or a Pernod, and simply watching, while scribbling in a notebook.
Find the author at:
Buy the book at:
Penguin Random House – https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/531859/the-last-collection-by-jeanne-mackin/
Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H71Q5FQ
Yes, there is a giveaway
Jeanne Mackin will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
This post is part of a tour sponsored by Goddess Fish. Check out all the other tour stops. If you drop by each of these and comment, you will greatly increase your chances of winning.
My Favorite Excerpt
At the ball that night there were people whose faces I recognized, a blur of memory from my first evening in Paris at the Ritz, and many more people whom I didn’t recognize at all, men with military posture, women covered with jewels, men in dresses, women in tuxedos, ingénues in pastel gowns. And Charlie and Ania, beautiful Charlie and Ania, so immersed in each other’s gaze they could have been alone rather than dancing through crowded rooms.
…Coco arrived around eleven, in a diaphanous green gown that looked like fern fronds moving in a breeze when she moved. It was Coco, blending into nature, but still Coco.
Schiap arrived soon after, dressed, as she had promised, as a tree, covered in a rough brown cloth that looked like tree bark, with branches extending from her arms and the crown of her head. Several cloth and feather birds perched on her shoulders. Whimsical, humorous, always-make-it-look easy Schiap. Schiap got the louder applause when she made her entrance, and I saw Coco’s smile fade.
Who knew what was going through Coco’s mind that evening? Perhaps she had dreamed the night before of the orphanage, the father who had abandoned her and the mother who had died.
Perhaps she wasn’t thinking at all but only reacting, the way dry wood reacts when a match is put to it.