Review: The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

Posted April 25, 2019 by Stephanie in Uncategorized / 10 Comments

Title: The Blue
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Publication: December 3rd 2018 by Endeavour Quill
Genre: Historical Fiction
Purchase it on: Amazon | AudibleBook Depository | Wordery
Rating: 4.5/5


‘Nancy Bilyeau’s passion for history infuses her books’
– Alison Weir

‘Historical fans will be well satisfied.’ – Publishers Weekly

In eighteenth century England, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities.

In eighteenth century London, porcelain is the most seductive of commodities; fortunes are made and lost upon it. Kings do battle with knights and knaves for possession of the finest pieces and the secrets of their manufacture.

For Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of Huguenot refugees, porcelain holds far less allure; she wants to be an artist, a painter of international repute, but nobody takes the idea of a female artist seriously in London. If only she could reach Venice.

When Genevieve meets the charming Sir Gabriel Courtenay, he offers her an opportunity she can’t refuse; if she learns the secrets of porcelein, he will send her to Venice. But in particular, she must learn the secrets of the colour blue…

The ensuing events take Genevieve deep into England’s emerging industrial heartlands, where not only does she learn about porcelain, but also about the art of industrial espionage.

With the heart and spirit of her Huguenot ancestors, Genevieve faces her challenges head on, but how much is she willing to suffer in pursuit and protection of the colour blue?

‘…transports the reader into the heart of the 18th century porcelain trade—where the price of beauty was death.’ – E.M. Powell, author of the Stanton & Barling medieval mystery series.

‘Bilyeau is an impressive talent who brings to life a heart-stopping story of adventure, art and espionage during the Seven Years War.’ – Stephanie Dray, bestselling author of My Dear Hamilton

‘With rich writing, surprising twists, and a riveting sense of ‘you are there,’ The Blue is spine-tingling entertainment.’ – Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Assassins

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, DuJour, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She is currently a regular contributor to Town & Country, Purist, and The Strand. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

At that moment I do not feel that I’ve agreed to a spying-for-money scheme but something finer something extraordinary. The quest for blue. And something more. This is our shared obsession now.
—The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

I bought The Blue back in February because I saw fellow bloggers recommend the book and it wasn’t until April when I randomly decided to start it because I was away at the time and only had my Kindle to read on but I’m so glad I picked it because I enjoyed reading it so much. And even more, I was actually really impressed by the story as well because it took some turns that I definitely didn’t see coming. It’s always a good thing to be pleasantly surprised by a book when you least expect it. 


I’m a big history fan but I don’t exactly read a lot of books that are set in the eighteenth century. I’ve read some but I wouldn’t say they’re the majority of the historical fiction I read. I’m more drawn to ancient history usually but I just couldn’t get enough of the setting in this book. It was set both in England and France while both countries were at war with each other during the Seven Years War. I found this to be highly fascinating. 


The main character, Genevieve Planché, was born in England but she’s descendent of of Huguenot refugees and hates France and its king. This was another thing I found interesting to read about because prior to this book I wasn’t familiar with the Huguenots at all. So The Blue was not only entertaining to read about but educational as well. Although not the most likable of characters in general, in my personal opinion, I did like reading about Genevieve. I loved her spirit and her passion for art and wanting to persue it even though nobody would take her seriously as a female artist in England in this time. 


This is where Sir Gabriel Courtenay comes in the story when he offers Genevieve the opportunity to spy for him and in return he’ll send her to Venice where female artists are more accepted than in London. In the eighteenth century porcelaine was one of the most sought after commodities, so a lot of people wanted to learn its secret and in the case of Sir Gabriel he needed Genevieve to learn the secret of a new and special color of blue, which could change the game entirely. 


I never knew the color blue had such a complex and mysterious history. It fascinated me so much. I also really enjoyed reading about the industrial espionage where Genevieve got herself tangled up in. This made for an intense and thrilling read where I almost couldn’t tear myself away from my Kindle. I’ll definitely have to check out the author’s other books because I definitely want to read more of her writing. 


The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau was a very captivating read. It had espionage, romance, the writing was remarkable and everything I learnt and read in the book about the porcelain trade was so very fascinating to me. I know that at the end of the year this book will absolutely appear in my top ten of favorite books of the year. Go buy this book now. Seriously!



About the author:

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, DuJour, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at City University of New York and a regular contributor to Town & Country, Purist, and The Vintage News.

A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel and an Oprah pick, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. The third in the trilogy, THE TAPESTRY, was published by Touchstone in 2015. The books have also been published by Orion in the UK and seven other countries.

On December 3, 2018, THE BLUE, her fourth novel, will be published in the United States and the United Kingdom. A novel of suspense set in the rivalrous art and porcelain worlds of 18th century Europe, it features a young female artist turned spy.

For this novel, Nancy drew on her own Huguenot background. In 1661, Nancy’s ancestor, Pierre Billiou, emigrated from France to what was then New Amsterdam when he and his family sailed on the St. Jean de Baptiste to escape persecution for their Protestant beliefs. Pierre built the first stone house on Staten Island and is considered the borough’s founder. His little white house is on the national register of historic homes and is still standing to this day.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
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10 responses to “Review: The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

  1. This book sounds so lovely! That cover is also perfect for the storyline. I am always drawn to books that have females trying to break barriers. I will have to check it out, too! 🙂

  2. This reminds me of The Girl with the Pearl Earring, which also was a historical story about art. I think there was a scene about mixing a special blue paint color😁

  3. I remember learning a bit about the history of the colour blue in a muesum once! And like you, I also don't read a lot of books set in the 18th century. It's usual after that time period, 19th century to modern day for me. Glad you learned so much from reading this one!

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