Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review: The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose


A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra--and lost for 2,000 years.

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.

My Review:

3.5 Stars

Can a perfume created during Cleopatra's reign hold the key to reincarnation?  M.J. Rose's latest thriller, The Book of Lost Fragrances, is centred around this very question.   In 21st century New York, author and TV presenter Jac L'Etoile works to discover the origins of famous myths and educate the public as to their less than fantastical source.  Across the Atlantic in Paris, Jac's younger brother Robbie is attempting to revive their family's struggling perfume company.  When Robbie comes across ancient pottery shards, he thinks he has finally uncovered the origins of a long-held family myth, that an ancestor brought back a book of fragrances from Egypt that contained Cleopatra's own parfume formulas, including one that holds the secret to past lives.  Jac, however, believes strongly that the family myth has no basis in fact and dismisses her brother's claims.   When Robbie goes missing, however, Jac is forced to further investigate her brother's discovery in the hopes it will lead back to him.  Meanwhile, across the globe in Beijing, a young artistic monk hides a secret about his true identity, a secret the Chinese government thought had been suppressed.  When the monk is selected to tour Europe with a group of artists, he hopes his secret can finally be revealed.   

While Jac and Robbie's story lines seem independent from that of the young monk's, M.J. Rose carefully weaves them together in a logical flow and in such a way as to promote the reader trying to figure out how they will ultimately connect.  Although I had no difficulty following the main story lines or characters, my only qualm with the novel, and it isn't a big one, is that I did have some trouble with the story lines of the novel's minor characters, which I feel could have been fleshed out a little more with the inclusion of additional back story.  While the story itself is smart, fast-paced and intriguing and the characters interesting, the greatest strength of this novel rests with Rose's lovely descriptive prose, especially when applied to the various scents described in the novel.  Although I'm not a fan of perfume, Rose's descriptions left me wishing I could experience the scents for myself.     

The Book of Lost Fragrances is the fourth novel in M.J. Rose's popular Reincarnationist series.   Although part of a series, this novel can be read as a stand alone.  

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher as a host for the novel's Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour.

Link to tour schedule:

Twitter Hashtag: #LostFragrancesVirtualBookTour