Monday, 8 April 2013

Scent of Triumph

Author: Jan Moran
Type: e-book ARC
Genre: Historical Fiction (WWII)
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Briarcliffe Press
Publication Date: December 7, 2012
First Line: "Danielle Bretancourt von Hoffman braced herself against the gleaming mahogany-paneled stateroom wall, striving for balance as she flung open a brass porthole."

Note: My sincere thanks to Briarcliffe Press and NetGalley for providing me with this complimentary e-book copy in exchange for my honest review.

Publisher's Description: Scent of Triumph is the story of Danielle Bretancourt, a talented young French perfumer with a flair for fashion and a natural olfactory gift. In the language of perfumery, she is a Nose, with the rare ability to recognize thousands of essences by memory. The story opens on the day England declares war on Germany, and Danielle and her family are caught in the midst of a raging disaster sweeping across Europe.

Her life takes a tragic turn when her husband and son are lost behind enemy lines. She spies for the French resistance, determined to find them, but is forced to flee Europe with fragments of her family. Destitute, she mines her talents to create a magnificent perfume that captures the hearts of Hollywood's top stars, then gambles again to win wealth and success as a couturier. Her intelligence and flair attracts the adoration of Jonathan Newell-Grey, of England's top shipping conglomerate, and Cameron Murphy, Hollywood's most charismatic star.

Danielle charts her course through devastating wartime losses and revenge; lustful lovers and loveless marriages; and valiant struggles to reunite her family. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, here is one woman's story of courage, spirit, and resilience.

My ThoughtsThis book felt like it was two  very different books rolled into one.  The first third of the book was a historical fiction read based in the tumultuous WWII.  It was a very 'edge of your seat' and emotional read and I really enjoyed it.   

Somewhere around the time that Danielle moves to the USA the feel of the book, its pace and intensity change dramatically.  It went from gripping historical fiction to more of a romance saga, a la Sidney Sheldon.  There's nothing wrong with that but the sudden change in pace and feel of the book surprised me.  Unfortunately the last two thirds of the book felt much more predictable and the characters were clich├ęd.  I think that allowing the reader to get to know the characters inner feelings and thoughts would have helped make them more dynamic and real to me.

That said, I did enjoy Danielle as the main character.  She is a resilient woman who gets all sorts of life's horrors thrown at her and yet she keeps struggling to make something of herself in order to support her family.  What took away from her successes is that a lot of it hinged on quite a lot of good luck on her part.  I always had the feeling that something would pop up to help her on her way which didn't help with the predictability issue.

There were also the 'near misses' that Danielle and the man she truly loves have due to a simple omission of information or a misunderstanding.  This happened a few times and ended up, for me, feeling a little hokey and just made me feel frustrated with their relationship.  Overall, the last two-thirds of the book suffered from this predictability and the pace suffered as well.

Personally, I would have loved to have more of the book focus on the WWII action.  It was intense and emotional and griped me from the beginning.  One of the characters who helped make it so 'edge of your seat' is the villainous Heinrich.  Unfortunately he had a very minor role in the book and I was more than a little shocked that he wasn't used more to stir things up later on.

There is another character in the book whom I wanted to learn more about but sadly it didn't happen until the very end of the book. Danielle loses contact with this person due to WWII. Throughout the book her loss is felt but when she finally gets closure with this missing person it's done in such a rushed and quick manner that I felt a little jilted. I wanted to know exactly what his/her story was and what they went through in the past several years.

This is a book about triumphing over life's obstacles.  It's about holding onto hope and being successful despite what life throws at you.  It centres around the science, techniques and skill involved in the development and design of perfume (which I found really interesting).  Unfortunately, the predictable plot and the switch from griping historical fiction to more of a slow romantic saga effected the pace and energy that was in the beginning of the book.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

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