Author: M.J. Rose
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (March 13, 2012)
Genre: Suspense/Time Travel/Romance
Review Copy: eARC provided by the publisher
A Secret Worth Dying For …
Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by visions of the past, her earliest memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up with as the heir to a storied French perfume company. These worsened after her mother’s suicide until she finally found a doctor who helped her, teaching her to explore the mythological symbolism in her visions and thus lessen their painful impact. This ability led Jac to a wildly successful career as a mythologist, television personality and author.
When her brother, Robbie—who’s taken over the House of L’Etoile from their father—contacts Jac about a remarkable discovery in the family archives, she’s skeptical. But when Robbie goes missing before he can share the secret—leaving a dead body in his wake—Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.
Traveling back to Paris to investigate Robbie’s disappearance, Jac discovers that the secret is a mysterious scent developed in Cleopatra’s time. Could the rumors swirling be true? Can this ancient perfume hold the power to unlock the ability to remember past lives and conclusively prove reincarnation? If this possession has the power to change the world, then it’s not only worth living for . . . it’s worth killing for, too.
The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion and suspense in an intoxicating web that moves from Cleopatra’s Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet’s battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. This marvelous, spellbinding novel mixes the sensory allure of Perfume with the heartbreaking beauty of The Time Traveler’s Wife, coming to life as richly as our most wildly imagined dreams.
The Book of Lost Fragrances starts off in 1799 in Alexandria, Egypt with the opening of a tomb. Giles L'Etoile, a perfumer from Paris, is at this event and finds something that will affect his family for generations to come. The story brings us from Egypt to present day New York and Paris, to Paris of the late 1700s and early 1800s, to the Egypt of Cleopatra, with stops in China and London.
The main characters are Jac L'Etoile and her brother Robbie L'Etoile. They are the present day owners of the House of L'Etoile perfumers. Jac has career hunting for the truth of myths to debunk them. Robbie is trying to maintain the family perfume business, which is seriously in debt. Robbie is obsessed with finding the Book of Fragrances created by Cleopatra's perfumer and supposedly found by his ancestor Giles L'Etoile. He also is certain that he has found the ancient perfume that helps people remember their past lives. I liked both Robbie and Jac for completely different reasons. Jac is cynical and refuses to believe but she will help her brother even though she is fighting her own ghosts. Robbie is idealistic and resourceful. He's committed to getting the fragrance into the right hands to help bolster the belief in reincarnation. Not everyone wants him to succeed.
Into this mix are added Xie Peng (a calligrapher from China), Dr. Malachai Samuels (a reincarnationist and Jac's former therapist), and Griffin North (a former boyfriend of Jac's and an archaeologist). Each of these characters is integral to the story and is well-developed.
I love all the details about the House of L'Etoile perfumers. The naming of individual components used to make perfumes, the description of various scents, is wonderful. Scent, even without one that will help you remember your past lives, is very evocative. We can probably all link scent to events and have those memories come rushing back. The creative use of historical detail and historical figures throughout the novel is very well done.
The pacing is excellent with plenty of action. The story held my attention from the opening in a tomb in Egypt in 1799 to the end in present-day Paris. This is a story of suspense, but also of love lost, found, and lost again. M.J. Rose has done a masterful job of weaving together reincarnation politics, perfume making, history, and mythology to create a captivating novel with memorable characters.
I give The Book of Lost Fragrances 5 Qwills.