The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) "London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London's most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn't come easily to her--and perhaps never will. Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance. There's only one problem: she has never heard of her benefactor, the mysterious Eva d'Orsey. So begins a journey that takes Grace to Paris in search of Eva. There, in a long-abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank, she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising, complex love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d'Orsey's story weaves through the decades, from 1920's New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London. But these perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva's past and Grace's future intersect, Grace realizes she must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be."
This book fascinated me. The characters were very well developed and complex. Grace seemed like your typical 1950's wife, but she actually had dreams for herself beyond being a socialite. It reminded me of some of the women in A Woman's Place. She didn't care about the parties or the big events, she wanted to go back to school and feel more important. Her husband seemed like the typical 1950's husband who wanted his wife to be in her place and didn't want her to be too smart or think for herself. I did not like him, and it made me very grateful for my husband, and that I live right now, not back then. I really felt for Grace. She was in a very difficult position. When she went to France and began learning about Eva, I got completely lost in the story. It is written very well. I loved Ms. Tessaro's writing style. I enjoyed reading about Eva's experiences as a child and the people she met. Some of the ladies at the hotel like Sis and Rita seemed like hard working, great women who took care their own. I liked them. I didn't like Vanessa or Mr. Lambert from the first time I saw them, and I wish Eva had made different choices with both of them. However, something about Madame Zed and Andre Valmont intrigued me from the start. Neither one of them were wholesome or perfect, but they were fun characters because they had a little bit of mystery and drama surrounding them. The story line had so many interesting twists and turns, and I couldn't stop thinking of the characters, even when I put the book down, which wasn't very often. I enjoyed learning about the art of making perfume, and thought it fascinating how the ingredients came together. It was just like Eva's life: so many different people and experiences shaping her into who she became. Just like the different perfumes that had layers and depth, so did her life.
There is some language in this book, including one "f" word at the very end. There are a lot of innuendos in this book. "Intimacy" is laced throughout. There isn't necessarily a big scene or anything, but it is a theme that runs throughout. There is a scene where two men are in bed together, but you don't see anything happen. You also know that a girl was raped, but it isn't described. Relationships are described, and you know that "intimacy" is there, but it is more just hinted at and talked about, rather than described. I didn't love the choice that Grace made at the end. I understand where she was coming from and why she did it, but I didn't love the choice. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the glamour and glitz, the characters, and mystery of this book.
Rated: R (This doesn't follow the movie ratings exactly, it is my way of saying that it is inappropriate for younger readers.) Language, including one "f" word, and a definite theme of "intimacy" laced throughout. There is a rape and a scene with two men asleep in a bed.
Recommendation: 18 and up, at least.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.