Belle Epoque started off on shaky ground when it kept alluding to ugly and plain people as less worthy of...well, anything. I was not sure if this was some sort of stance the author was making or was just the cliche societal pressure aspect. Judging by the summary you would assume the latter so I pushed on. Overall, Belle Epoque has moments of wonderful quote-worthy prose, but is bogged down with a disjointed plot and some unlikely developments. In some ways Belle Epoque cements the status quo of beautiful people being the be all and end all, but in others it highlights the beauty of a person's inner workings. In many ways the author was successful in showing the beauty within someone, through Maude, the girls at the agency and even Isabelle (despite being seen as attractive). I especially loved that Isabelle was looking to study at the Sorbonne rather than marry, the inclusion of late 19th century photography techniques and the lukewarm (cold?) initial reception of the Eiffel Tower. While the novel does not rank as an elaborate HF, I did come away thinking the author had done a decent job in showcasing the feel of the era, although more would have be very much welcome.