From New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller M.J. Rose comes a provocative and moving story of a young female architect in post-World War II Manhattan, who stumbles upon a hidden treasure and begins a journey to discovering her mother’s life during the fall of the Romanovs.
Sophia Moon had always been reticent about her life in Russia and when she dies, suspiciously, on a wintry New York evening, Isobelle despairs that her mother’s secrets have died with her. But while renovating the apartment they shared, Isobelle discovers something among her mother’s effects—a stunning silver tiara, stripped of its jewels.
Isobelle’s research into the tiara’s provenance draws her closer to her mother’s past—including the story of what became of her father back in Russia, a man she has never known. The facts elude her until she meets a young jeweler, who wants to help her but is conflicted by his loyalty to the Midas Society, a covert international organization whose mission is to return lost and stolen antiques, jewels, and artwork to their original owners.
Told in alternating points of view, the stories of the two young women unfurl as each struggles to find their way during two separate wars. In 1915, young Sofiya Petrovitch, favorite of the royal household and best friend of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, tends to wounded soldiers in a makeshift hospital within the grounds of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and finds the love of her life. In 1948 New York, Isobelle Moon works to break through the rampant sexism of the age as one of very few women working in a male-dominated profession and discovers far more about love and family than she ever hoped for.
In M.J. Rose’s deftly constructed narrative, the secrets of Sofiya’s early life are revealed incrementally, even as Isobelle herself works to solve the mystery of the historic Romanov tiara (which is based on an actual Romanov artifact that is, to this day, still missing)—and how it is that her mother came to possess it. The two strands play off each other in finely-tuned counterpoint, building to a series of surprising and deeply satisfying revelations.
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Fly Girl’s Review:
Wow, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish this one. My attention span seems to be that of a gnat. This book starts out very slow but finishes up with a quick 1-2 punch. There were several twists and turns in the story I didn’t see coming, but I’m not a Russian revolution expert. With that said, MJ Rose is definitely educated on the subject of the Russian revolution and Russian emigres and their plight in the ’20s and ’30s.
As the book blurb says, the lives of the Mother and Daughter are revealed incrementally and in some places drag on. Happily, as the book progresses, the storylines pick up the pace, and it ends in a crescendo of discovered secrets, disclosed falsehoods, and a little bit of action. If you like true-life unsolved mysteries, this will be right up your alley. It’s based on the Last Tiara, which to this day is still missing. It’s a lovely proposed ending to the mystery.
The characters are full of life. The Sofiya is suffering from the loss of her family, homeland, friends, and lover so bad she refuses to open up her heart to anyone and thus pushes that off onto her daughter. She never teaches her daughter how to read people and how to understand their intentions from their actions because of shutting herself off. Isobelle makes bad decisions with regards to her love life and ends up shutting herself off just the same and mistrusts pretty much everyone in her life except her Aunt and Uncle. Both women end up with men that make them open up their hearts and love just a little. For Isobelle though, her life looks much rosier at the end for having known her Mom’s secret and the secret of the Last Tiara.
I highly recommend this if you are a fan of historical fiction, historical romance, gritty characters, well-done imaging, and lots of angst. I’m giving this a 3.5 of 5 because, for me, the pacing was too slow, and right now, if it isn’t quickly moving, it’s hard to keep my attention. Pick this one up and let us know what you think of it. We’d love to hear from our passengers.
3.5 of 5 Propellers
Connect with MJ Rose
M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice… Books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.
Rose is a New York Times, Wall St. Journal and USAToday bestseller as well as an international best seller. She has published more than nineteen novels and 3 books on marketing. She has been published in more than 30 countries and sold over 1.5 million books. The Fox TV show, Past Lives, was based on Rose’s novel, The Reincarnationist.
In 1998, her first novel Lip Service was the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.
Rose has been profiled in Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, Business 2.0, Working Woman, Newsweek, and New York Magazine. She has appeared on The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USAToday, Stern, L’Official, Poets and Writers, and Publishers Weekly.
Rose graduated from Syracuse University and spent the ’80s in advertising. She was the Creative Director of Rosenfeld Sirowitz and Lawson and she has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. (compliments of her website)