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As the Belle Epoque dawns, Paris attracts artists from everywhere. One is Jeanette Palmer, daughter of a prominent Ohio family, who has left Vassar College under a cloud of scandal.
Amid the city’s great bohemian neighborhoods and teaching studios, Jeanette befriends other female artists, as well as an American Civil War veteran named Edward Murer. She begins to achieve a level of artistic success. And her happiness increases as she and Edward grow more intimate with each other.
But Edward is plagued by his demons and addicted to laudanum—and as the world opens its arms to Jeanette, and the society around her is transformed by cultural and scientific innovations, she must resolve a conflict utterly new to so many women: the choice between ambition and love.