Monday, May 27, 2013

Blog Tour Review: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

From the Back Cover:

London, 1955: Grace Munroe is a young newlywed, eager to make a success of her marriage. However, with her intellectual curiosity and her unladylike talent for advanced mathematics, she finds the routine of elegant luncheons and exclusive parties among post-war London’ s social set more tiresome than exciting.

When Grace receives an unexpected inheritance from a woman she’s never met, she finds herself suddenly in Paris, embarking upon a journey to discover not only the identity of her mysterious benefactor but also the hidden secrets of her own past.

In a story that takes us from New York in the 1920s to mid-century Monte Carlo, Paris, and London, Grace discovers a world filled with the evocative, intoxicating power of perfume; an obsessive, desperate love between muse and artist; and a trail of dark memories that may mean she isn’t the person she thinks she is at all.

My Thoughts:

The Perfume Collector is an elegant and evocative novel spun around two women from different lives who turn out to have more in common than meets the eye. The story moves between Grace Munroe in 1955 to Eva d'Orsey (who left Grace her small fortune when she died), beginning in the late 1920s and continuing through World War II. Grace is a lost soul, floundering in a marriage in which she doesn't live up to her husband's ambitions, and hiding from a social scene she doesn't fit into. A sudden inheritance from someone she's never met draws her to Paris, where she begins a journey that leads to her discovering the truth of who she is and who she wants to be. As Grace follows Eva's trail in Paris searching for clues to the connection between them, we get to know Eva too. Eva is also a bit of a lost soul, though rather than hiding, she tackles life head-on, working her way up from an orphaned chambermaid through one life experience after another until she settles into her own skin as one of the most admired and mysterious women in Parisian society.

I was immediately drawn into this story. I started reading and when I stopped and looked up it was three hours and 150 pages later. The story is very well written and Ms. Tessaro's subtly brilliant descriptive prose creates a lush reading experience. From the power of scent in its physical and psychological manifestations to the settings of London, New York, Monte Carlo, and Paris, all of the reader's senses are immersed in the story world--a world of perfumers and showgirls and casinos, of drunks and gamblers and soldiers--and caught between the bright lights and dark shadows of the upper crust of society, and ultimately, in how Eva and Grace fit into this world.

I enjoyed this novel and didn't want to put it down, but after all was said and done, I was left feeling like there could have been more to it. For example, there were a couple of pretty big events from Eva's story that were only touched on in retrospect, and I would have liked to see them play out myself, particularly during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Grace was a good character and her journey was compelling, but her husband was disappointingly one-dimensional, so the resolution of that aspect of the story came as no surprise. And the ending happened very quickly and there was hardly any substance to it. It's clear what happened and it satisfied, but I was left feeling like pieces were missing from it, especially the underlying emotion. The writing style has a bit of an omniscient feel about it, as each new character, important or otherwise, is introduced with a healthy dose of description and backstory, and there are in-scene point of view shifts, which I'm not always a fan of, but in this case they didn't distract too much from the story. Despite feeling that the story was a lighter version of what it could have been, it was still a very engaging and thoughtful read, vibrant and different--a perfect beach read for historical fiction fans.

My Rating:  3.5 Stars out of 5


Enter to win a copy of The Perfume Collector by leaving a comment with your email address.

This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada and ends at 11:59pm Sunday, June 9, 2013. Winner will be selected at random. Thanks, and good luck!

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
Check out my sidebar for more great giveaways!

The Perfume Collector is on a blog tour!
Click here to view the tour schedule.
Click here to visit Kathleen Tessaro's website.


  1. I enjoy reading novels with a WWII setting. This sounds interesting. Thanks for the giveaway.

  2. I love the setting and the lighter aspect of this story just might work for me. Thanks for the giveaway!


  3. I too like the story. Don't count me in for the giveaway though.

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful review. The story and its locations sound really interesting to me and I think my wife and I would both enjoy it. Thanks for the giveaway. carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

  5. The era and the setting are appealing to me. Thanks for this great giveaway.

  6. I forgot my e-mail. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  7. Your wonderful review caught my interest and the storyline and period are special. Many thanks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  8. This looks so great! Thanks for sharing with us! I adore that cover as well.
    Books like this make me wonder whether the author had any influence from friends and family while writing it.
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    mestith at gmail dot com

  9. Ooh, "elegant and evocative" are great words for this book!

    Thanks for taking the time to read and review it for the tour.

  10. I think everything about this sounds intriguing and compelling. I like that the main character does not seem to fit perfectly into the mold of what was expected of a 1950's woman. Thanks for the great review!

    Jaime @ Twisting the Lens

  11. Lovely review! Glad to have found your blog through TLC, this one sounds like a fantastic read.

    rivercityreading [at]

  12. Lovely review! Glad to have found your blog through TLC, this one sounds like a fantastic read.

    rivercityreading [at]

  13. Thank you for this-I like books set in WW11

    chocolate and croissants at yahoo . com

  14. Great review, Jenny! I would love to read this book, thanks for the giveaway!

    Passages to the Past (at) gmail (dot) com


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