The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose
Author: M.J. Rose
Genre: Fiction (Historical / Perfumers / Archaeological Excavation / Reincarnation / France / New York City / Secret Societies)
Publisher/Publication Date: Atria (3/13/2012)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour / NetGalley
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A family of perfumers, torn by debt and disparate beliefs, gamble on whether a mystical fragrance can bring back past life memories while bad guys and secret societies try to steal their discoveries.
Reading Challenges: E-books, Historical Fiction, NetGalley
Do I like the cover?: I do -- it captures the feel of the novel very well.
I'm reminded of...: Dan Brown, Kate Mosse, Danielle Trussoni
First line: Giles L'Etoile was a master of scent, not a thief.
Am... I coveting the real-life fragrance inspired by the book's mystical scent?: YES. I am a fragrance and perfume addict, and stuff like this just makes me giddy with delight.
Do... I love that M.J. Rose posted her book's soundtrack online?: YES. I'm a geek; these things make me happy. Also, I think it's so adorable her husband composed a theme for the book.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow - start with this book or any in the series for fluffy, vaguely paranormal-y fun.
Why did I get this book?: I had read her previous novel and liked the premise.
Review: Last summer I read M.J. Rose's The Hypnotist, which was a perfect summer thriller, and so I was excited about her next book in her reincarnation series. I wasn't disappointed; in fact, I enjoyed this one more than The Hypnotist, perhaps because I liked the main characters and I enjoyed the intrigue.
It's been shockingly summer-y in Boston this spring, and I spent a few happy nights with this book, wine (although tea was tempting, given all the descriptions of fabulously unique blended teas the characters drank), and my sunny porch. While this is the fourth in a series, I've found each book works very well as stand alone novels. Only one character really spans the four books (I believe), and his role is explained clearly. References are made to his connection with the previous novel's, and I had enough info to enjoy this one.
The plot is fun enough: a French-American family of perfumers stumble upon what might be the recipe for a fragrance that will allow people to recall their previous lives. Robbie, a Buddhist, is convinced this perfume exists and would assist the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama in achieving independence from China; Jac, his sister, is a pragmatic myth buster, of sorts, afflicted with horrible visions and a broken heart. At odds about their family's failing perfume atelier, they become the focus of nefarious groups wanting the possibly magical perfume. There's some romantic drama, reincarnation-y flashbacks, international intrigue, and lots of tantalizing descriptions of scent and fragrances.
For those who like French historicals or novels set in Paris, this is for you. If you're not a paranormal fan, I'm not sure if this novel will appeal. Reincarnation is treated as a thing, a life event like any other, so the supernatural-y-ness is pretty low, but if reincarnation seems fantastical to you, then this will read as a bit of a fantasy. This felt more like a religious thriller -- minus the Catholic church -- than an urban fantasy or supernatural fic.
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Learn more about M.J. Rose and her writing by checking out my interview with her!