Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

4 Star

An inheritance from a mysterious stranger . . .
An abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank of Paris . . .
And three exquisite perfumes that hold a memory . . . and a secret

London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London's most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn't come easily to her—and perhaps never will.

Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance. There's only one problem: she has never heard of her benefactor, the mysterious Eva d'Orsey.

So begins a journey that takes Grace to Paris in search of Eva. There, in a long-abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank, she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising, complex love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d'Orsey's story weaves through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London.

But these three perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva's past and Grace's future intersect, Grace realizes she must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be.

Illuminating the lives and challenging times of two fascinating women, The Perfume Collector weaves a haunting, imaginative, and beautifully written tale filled with passion and possibility, heartbreak and hope.

Jen - 4 Star

Any book that starts with a France, perfume and mysterious inheritance holds immediate potential for me and The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tarresso lives up to its intrigue.

It would be amazing to find yourself instantly richer on behalf of a will, but what good would it do if you had no idea who the will belongs to and why they left it to you? That’s the beginning of Grace Monroe’s journey in the book but it’s the just the start of the chain of events that make up her adventure.

Grace is a great character because I could tell right away that she was on the verge of change  at the beginning of the book was not who would be there on the last page. She was bursting to change, I could feel the tenseness in her shoulders and the hesitant breaths she took before speaking or when she thought of her current life. I think that’s a state of mind alot of women can relate to, even if they are worlds and decades apart.

The author nails descriptive writing, especially when it came to the perfumes, which were the real stars of this book. I couldn’t believe that Tessaro was able to provoke actual scents through descriptive words. I never knew that perfume could have characteristics like fire, warmth and sensuality but after reading this book, I’ll probably never under appreciate the perfume counter at Macy’s again.

From the beginning of the book to the point where Grace’s discovery of why a mysterious older woman has left her an apartment in France was a bit long for me and I thought about 30 percent into the book that it could have began right there. The secondary story of a hotel maid in the 1920s didn’t quite fit with Grace’s story right away and I found myself wishing that the connection between the two stories would have become evident faster. Both were interesting story lines and I wanted more, faster, which probably accounted for my impatience.

When their connection become clear, the story bloomed into a fascinating vacation for me. Grace finds out that the owner of the will, Eva d’Orsey was a mysterious perfume maker and led a mysterious, adventurous life that would eventually cross paths with Grace’s in a way she never expected.

The only thing missing from this book is a scratch and sniff guide. All joking aside, it’s a worthwhile historical fiction that is sure to please. 

Thank you to Harper for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

Connect with Kathleen Tessaro here:

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