Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Imprint: Atria Books (13 Mar 2012)
Category: FICTION – ADULT: Historical & Biographical: Historical
Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances–and of her mother’s suicide–she moved to America.
Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it’s financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing–leaving a dead body in his wake–Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.
Back in Paris to investigate her brother’s disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L’Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation – or is it just another dream infused perfume?
The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra’s Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet’s battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac’s quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.
When I saw The Book of Lost Fragrances on NetGalley, not only did the suspense and historical aspect draw me in … I’ve also read and experienced how scent/aroma is a trigger to memory. Add in the mystery of reincarnation and I’m totally hooked!
We begin our reading journey with a prologue. This is a newspaper report that explains the unrest in Tibet, the 14 part regulation banning living Buddha’s from reincarnating without permission and the abduction of a Panchen Lama. This is one of the threads that links with the L’Etoile family discovery.
A large part of the story is spent in the present time – with Jac and her brother Robbie, with the Chinese Mafia in Paris and Xie Ping in China. The timeline does regress. In Egypt in 1799 we meet Giles L’Etoile while he is exploring Nefertum’s tomb (the god of perfume) with Napolean and further back, Cleopatra and her obsession with perfumes. This may sound confusing but it isn’t … it’s all linked with the discovery Robbie found in the family archives. Each chapter gives the reader just enough information so that there is a need to keep turning those pages to see what will happen and how it will all come together.
The characters have had childhood trauma or have an obsession and therefore have something to prove. It’s the obsession that leads the story through the suspense, crime and mystery. The romance is sparked when Griffin (someone from Jac’s past) is involved in the discovery by Robbie. I really can’t say much more without giving away too much! The intimacy is beautifully written and will touch your soul.
Robbie’s discovery is coveted by different factions for different reasons but underlying this is Jac’s childhood experiences of visions that have made her feel insecure about her own stability. Although there is sadness there is understanding and release.
The Book of Lost Fragrances doesn’t disappoint. There is plenty of suspense. There are two key points that had me sitting on the edge of my seat – in the catacombs under Paris and in the gallery. I experienced everything the characters did. There were a couple of characters that I wasn’t sure whether I should be wary of or take them at face value and so watched them very carefully. The Buddhist aspect and Tibetan unrest is well-written.
It is clear that MJ Rose has researched her historical facts. Although this is a work of fiction, all the separate parts are drawn to come together to create a gripping story.
I am giving the following rating: