BOOK REVIEW: The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

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:

In eighteenth century London, porcelain is highly valued because of its delicacy, transparency and strength. Yet the world’s most sought-after porcelain is manufactured in France, and English porcelain makers will do anything they can compete.


Genevieve Planché, an English-born descendant of French Huguenot refugees, wants to be an artist, but such a dream is impossible for a young woman in England at that time. So when she meets a rich and charming man named Sir Gabriel Courtenay, who offers to send her to Venice to learn oil painting from the masters, she is seriously tempted. There’s just one catch. He wants her to spy for him. An English porcelain factory is said to have cracked the secret of firing the most astonishing cobalt-blue colour, and Sir Gabriel wants to know how.


The book races along at a cracking pace, as Genevieve faces danger after danger in her quest to find out the secret of the colour blue. Not least of all is the danger to her heart …


A hugely enjoyable historical spy-adventure, The Blue also taught me a lot I didn’t know about the porcelain industry and the history of my favourite colour.

You might also like to read my review of Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements:


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