BOOK REVIEW/BLOG TOUR: The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

Publication Date: December 3, 2018
Endeavour Quill
eBook & Hardcover; 430 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery


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 porcelain, 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?

My Thoughts

Genevieve Planché, granddaughter of a Huguenot artist, paints flowers on silk for a living. Her ambition, which she concedes is an impossible one for a woman, is to become a renowned artist. Not happy at the prospect of leaving London for a new position as a porcelain decorator at the Derby Porcelain Works, Genevieve approaches one of the famous artists of the time asking to be apprenticed to him. Her request is denied but her conversation is overheard by the charismatic Sir Gabriel Courtenay.

Courtenay is a man with an obsession of his own - porcelain and the perfect shade of blue to decorate it. By promising her a new life in Venice studying art, he lures Genevieve into his scheme to steal the formula of a blue under development at the Derby Porcelain Works. This blue will revolutionize the porcelain market and bring great wealth to those who can produce the most porcelain with this colour.

Once at the Works, Genevieve finds that security is very tight. Her task is made more difficult by her French heritage. Many view her with suspicion, for one of the Works' major competitors is the Sèvres factory in Paris, and England is currently at war with France. The more time she spends at the Works, the more she questions what she is doing and can she really trust Sir Gabriel Courtenay?

I was a little skeptical that the colour blue would make a good subject for a novel, but Nancy Bilyeau, with her mastery of description, presents a fascinating and entertaining story of the 18th century porcelain industry and the pursuit for that perfect shade of blue. There is plenty of suspense and a few twists that reveal there is more behind the theft of the formula than first realised. Betrayal and romance also play a role in this intriguing tale.

The Blue is a great read. I enjoyed it very much and learnt some interesting facts about the manufacture of porcelain and the production of the colour blue.

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. Her fourth novel, THE BLUE, will be publishing on 3rd December.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Twitter: @tudorscribe


  1. This really does sound good. Thanks!

  2. Sorry if this shows up twice... I can't see the first comment I left, so I'm trying again! This really does sound good.