It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris

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  • International Latino Book Award Winner
  • Elle Reader's Prize Winner
  • Named a Recommended Read by the Los Angeles Times, Time Out New York, and Flavorwire


“Wise and accomplished . . . Beautifully written and executed . . . There are at least two ways to judge a novel: by how fast you turn the pages or by how many times you have to stop to underline a passage. My copy of “It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris” is all marked up. Engel, whose first book was the acclaimed story collection, “Vida,” has uncanny insight into the human condition. Through Lita, she speaks a profound language of young love and desire. Engel’s considerable gifts are on display here.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Wondrous . . . Everything about the relationship — the conversations, the plans, the increasing dependency — is believable, including the roadblocks. You will find yourself consumed in the ebb and flow of Lita and Cato, nodding in understanding and remembrance as they struggle to find their footing. Try to read “Paris” while there is still some length to the day. When you finish, you can arise from the sand or the lounge chair and still observe the sunlit world around you. You will be able to resume your normal life, ignore the ache in your throat and suppress the memories of everything you have loved and lost.”
– Los Angeles Times

“In Patricia Engel’s absorbing debut novel, It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, she writes a unique child-of-immigrants story and, in turn, creates a literature of her own. The novel is intimate in scope, erotic and, by the end, entirely unexpected. Engel meticulously chronicles the decadence of youth abroad. There is also immense tenderness in It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris. The power of this excellent novel is in how Engel holds us in her thrall as she complicates where Lita is going and what she will leave behind. The heart this story breaks, might be your own.”
Roxane Gay, The Nation

“In spare prose laced with nuggets of genuine wisdom, Engel expertly conjures the very specific guilt and shame children of parents who have overcome obstacles to make their lives possible can feel. . . It is a testament to her large talent that the story culminates with an emotional force that is both surprising and deeply affecting.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“‘We’ll always have Paris,’ lovers of this glorious city have been saying this to each other ever since Humphrey Bogart uttered those words in Casablanca. We rediscover a modern and eclectic Paris in Patricia Engel’s astonishing first novel, a story as grand and dazzling as its setting, yet as intimate and powerful as a love story that just won’t quit.”
Edwidge Danticat, author of Claire of the Sea Light and Brother, I’m Dying

“This is no saccharine tale of awakening. Rather, it’s a clear-eyed recasting of a classic storyline executed with confidence and just enough city-of-lights magic to conjure up something that manages to be familiar and new. This is a novel to get lost in . . . Engel crafts her sentences with narrowed eyes and a sardonic air, heavy on observation, discerning in details. We’re here for a story, too, the sort of full-on, hurts-so-good tale of transformation that Engel delivers with a surprising mix of tenderness and skepticism.”
The Miami Herald

“Like any word whose shimmer has dulled from overuse, Paris can seem like a cliché in itself. . . . But early on Patricia Engel . . . shows that her writing can still be original. . . . [Engel’s] fresh language leads us right into the middle of yet another love story in Paris, and a star-crossed one to boot. But by the time you get there, you may already be hooked and feeling weepy for these two young lovers.”
The New York Times

“Distills the essence of the immigrant experience. [Articulates] that trying to start a life in a strange land is an artistic feat of the highest order, one that ranks with (or perhaps above) our greatest cultural achievements.”
The Atlantic

“Irresistibly engaging . . . Refreshingly nostalgic. Even the silences between Engel’s characters are filled with intimate meaning . . . [The] plot line, tipping over the ugly rock of xenophobia, balances Engel’s City of Light travelogue with a welcome darkness . . . Engel [has a] gift for vivid and telling detail.”
The Sun-Sentinel

“A young, innocent American woman is quickly entangled in a traditional love story, complete with outraged parents and culture clashes, surrounded by the romance and mystery of Paris. The city is so essential to the story that it often acts as another character throughout the book. Lita’s relationships with the other characters, particularly her roommates and Countess Seraphine, have a profound impact on the twists her life takes and the big choices she must make.”
Elle Magazine (Elle Lettres Reader’s Prize Winner)

“Another winner for Engel—one of the most refreshing books on love, immigration and coming-of-age to land on our desks in a long time. Engel’s brilliance stems from her capacity to craft a female voice that is both moving and believable. A voice that conveys the uncertainties and anxieties of early adulthood without sounding vapid; someone who yearns for romance as a liberating, dangerous, mysterious experience. Engel’s novel is also a smart exploration of the immigrant experience.”

“Engel’s debut novel tells a familiar story, that of the intensity of first love and its almost certain abatement. Yet Engel’s remarkable, razorsharp prose transforms this banal situation into a wholly unique and tender conflict. Her evocative descriptions authenticate the couple and their emotions, preserving the delicate balance between innocence and rebellion. A compassionate read that honors all that should be treasured about those intense first experiences.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Unpredictable and touching . . . Warm, quirky and intelligently observed. A bonus is [Engel’s] wonderful evocation of Paris — if you haven’t been lucky enough to spend a year learning to love that glorious city (or if you have and want a vivid reminder), this bright and charming novel is the next best thing to a visit.”
Tampa Bay Times

“The number one reason you need to read this novel is to experience Engel’s writing. It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris is wry, melancholy, enchanting, seductive, and downright delectable. I savored every single page.”

“Defies clichés . . . Immediately enthralling . . .  Masterfully crafted, intelligent use of language to create a vivid setting of Paris. It, unexpectedly, leaves the reader with plenty on which ruminate.”

“Quietly devastating and wise depiction of love, as well as a clear-eyed portrait of modern-day Paris.”
The Latinidad List, Best Book of 2013

“Vibrant. Enchanting. Sensual. Engel continues to be a refreshing voice in literature. Patricia’s prose is seductive; her narrative evocative. She does a great job of bringing her characters to life and making us care about them, cheer for them, cry with them. This is a great book.”
Latina Book Club

“A timeless tale of fragile young love and awakening in the City of Light. Perfect for fans of foreign-set contemporary fiction and classic literature alike.”
Library Journal

“The perfect page turner to end your summer.”
Latina Magazine

“Engel, a young writer with a great collection under her belt (Vida), approaches her love affair without florid prose or salacious encounters. Its heady and cool approach brings real substance to the summer fling while making it an antidote to the usual seasonal fluff.”
Time Out New York

“Engel’s first collection, Vida, is a warm, lush living thing that brought her much acclaim — and her forthcoming first novel, the story of an American girl from an immigrant family navigating life in Paris, is likely to be the same.”

“This story is not only for those who have been to Paris, but also for those who have ever felt like outcasts and hoped for a haven. The writing is honest, the characters real, and the ending not-so-predictable. For anyone who has ever been to Paris or has ever suffered in love, It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris is about finding a home away from home, finding yourself, and finding amongst all the distractions of obligation where your true passions reside.”
–  The Thursday Review

“This is a book filled with incomparable sentences, a book so international in its aura, so mysterious in its trajectory, so veiled and so specific at once. Yearning is a universal language. Paris just after Princess Diana’s death, in a house of many languages, through the eyes of an unchastened soul is resolutely particular. I read in awe of Engel’s ability to bridge so seamlessly between the two—to burrow so deeply into the story itself and to transcend with great swaths of sudden truth.”
Beth Kephart Books

“Has an appealing fairy tale quality . . . Engel has a knack for showing how Paris’s charms are both real and always verging on cliché.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“Lots of readers have wanted to know what Engel would write after her arresting debut, Vida, a PEN/Hemingway finalist. And here it is, an enticingly written work featuring Lita del Cielo, daughter of two Colombian orphans who made a fortune in America in the Latin food market. She’s not hanging around, though, but going to Paris for a year to study before taking her place in the family business. In Paris, Lita rents a room in Countess Séraphine’s decaying mansion–cum–boarding house and eventually finds love with sweet, introspective Cato, son of a virulent right-wing politician. Now what happens to her plans?”
–  Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal


Patricia Engel’s story collection, Vida—New York Times Notable Book and finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award—established its author as one of our country’s best young writers. Her first novel is a vibrant, wistful narrative about an American girl in Paris, who navigates the intoxicating and treacherous complexities of independence, friendship, and romance.

Lita del Cielo, the daughter of two Colombian orphans who arrived in America with nothing and made a fortune with their Latin food empire, has been granted one year to pursue her studies in Paris before she must return to work in the family business. She moves into a gently crumbling Left Bank mansion known as “The House of Stars,” where a spirited but bedridden Countess Séraphine rents out rooms to young women visiting Paris to work, study, and, unofficially, to find love.

Cautious and guarded, Lita keeps a cool distance from the other girls, who seem at once boldly adult and impulsively naïve, who both intimidate and fascinate her. Then Lita meets Cato, and the contours of her world shift. Charming, enigmatic, and weak with illness, Cato is the son of a notorious right-wing politician. As Cato and Lita retreat to their own world, they soon find it difficult to keep the outside world from closing in on theirs. Ultimately Lita must decide whether to stay in France with Cato or return home to fulfill her immigrant family’s dreams for her future.

It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris is a spellbinding love story, a portrait of a Paris caught between old world grandeur and the international greenblood elite, and an exploration of one woman’s journey to distinguish honesty from artifice and lay claim to her own life.

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