Author: Kathleen Tessaro
Genre: historical fiction
Published: expected May 13 2013
Source: publishers via edelweiss
London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a young newlywed, eager to make a success of her marriage. However, with her intellectual curiosity and her unladylike talent for advanced mathematics, she finds the routine of elegant luncheons and exclusive parties among post-war London’s social set more tiresome than exciting.
When Grace receives an unexpected inheritance from a woman she’s never met, she finds herself suddenly in Paris, embarking upon a journey to discover not only the identity of her mysterious benefactor but also the hidden secrets of her own past.
In a story that takes us from New York in the 1920s to mid-century Monte Carlo, Paris and London, Grace discovers a world filled with the evocative, intoxicating power of perfume; an obsessive, desperate love between muse and artist; and a trail of dark memories that may mean she isn’t the person she thinks she is at all.
Reviewed by Danielle.
The Perfume Collector is a historical set in an interesting time. Starting in 1955, before backtracking to the 1920s, it’s a mystery, and romance, that largely explores the roles and tragedies of independent women in a pre-second wave society.
I will say, it’s not an overly thrilling mystery. The secret connecting Grace Monroe, English socialite, and Eva D’Orsey; American maid and perfume collector, becomes evident pretty early on. The foreshadowing is heavy handed, (the black bobs,) and sometimes I wanted the pace to pick up. However, the book makes up for a light mystery by being richly detailed and emotionally powerful. It’s lush.
I found myself charmed by Eva and, despite knowing her eventual fate, I kept hoping for a happy ending. In fact, I was completely in love with the story and both POVs, right up until the Lolita shit that 13 year old girls are totally seducing poor old men and they're the real injured parties. Gross as hell. It really put a cloud over the middle of the book that took a long time to shake off.
However, I did overcome that icky feeling and truly reveled in Eva’s transformation from unnoticed maid to professional gambler and again into shopgirl and muse and finally...well let’s not spoil that. Grace’s transformation took place over a much smaller scale, but felt like a bigger accomplishment in a lot of ways. In all, a beautiful story.