by M.J. Rose
Genres: Historical Fiction
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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.
It’s time once again to welcome Sophia Rose back to the blog. Today she has a delightful historical fiction for you. Grab a cuppa and check out The Last Tiara by MJ Rose.
Sophia Rose’s Review
When Isobelle Moon discovers a tarnished tiara missing all its jewels hidden inside her mother’s wall after her mother’s death, she is determined to finally get to the truth of her past. M.J. Rose has long been an author touted for her rich way of blending history and suspense into a riveting story that I was glad to finally get the chance to pick up one of her books. There is no coincidence that I latched onto the latest that has a mystery connected to a piece of jewelry made by Faberge’ and associated with the last of the Romanovs in the time of the Russian Revolution and it was a bonus that the split story was during post-WWII with an American female architect working on the mystery of the past. I love both time periods.
As I mentioned, this is a split story of Isobelle Moon in the ‘40s and her mother, Sofiya Petrovich in the early ‘20’s. The story was slow going at first because it has to establish the groundwork for two stories- two settings, two backdrops, and two cast of characters with their plots. The author did every other chapter for the two timelines, and this worked well enough for me.
Usually when this happens, I am more interested in one timeline or the other, but this time, I had things to interest me in both. Isobelle is something of a mess, even if she is a talented woman architect in the time when few women were in the field. She got tangled up with a man who used her and it really socked it to her self-esteem so that when another man is interested; she did her level best to sabotage her own happiness. I was cheering her on to get out of her own way. And then we had the mysterious Russian enter the picture to really make things interested. Meanwhile, Sofiya was living out her fleeting moments of happiness with her soldier and helping him restore his memories and receiving her friend, Princess Olga’s parting gift, neither knowing what was coming with the Bolshevik Revolution. Sofiya’s tragic life made me understand why she kept it from Isobelle even though I also felt sorry that Isobelle was told nothing and had to learn her parents’ story after the fact.
I’d not read anything from this author before and enjoyed her writing. I appreciated the work she put into the historical details and didn’t mind the side trails throughout when she shared bits of related history as the story progressed. The characters were engaging, and I really enjoyed Isobelle’s love interest. He was miffed when she was at her worst, but he stuck by her anyway and tried to be understanding, even though he had just as much reason to be standoffish toward women after what his ex did to him.
All in all, it was a lavish, deeply moving story set within an engaging historical mystery. I definitely need to pick up more of her books and I can recommend them to those who like a slow build story and relationships, soft suspense and heavier dose of historical fiction.
Sofiya’s life and love sounds like a sad story. I hope her daughter Isobelle had a happier ending. Glad to hear you enjoyed this new-to-you author, Sophia Rose!
Yeah, I knew up front that her story wasn’t going to end well based on where the story was at in the present. But, yes, Isobelle did get a different ending than her mother. 🙂 Thanks, Rachel!
Great review! Like you, I’ve seen a lot of this author around the blogosphere, and I’m now keen to pick up one of her books, too:).
Yes, they always look so good, but I finally snagged one and I wasn’t disappointed. Hope you get the chance soon. 🙂
Wonderful review Sophia Rose, this sounds like a book I would definitely enjoy. I love dual timeline stories and when both settings are equally engaging, I am in. The Russian story also intrigues me. That is a time, I don’t know a lot about.
Thanks, Carla, and yes, I got lucky that I enjoyed both women’s stories. I always enjoying learning more Russian history though this particular time period is a sad one.
Wow… this sounds exciting, but also a bit intimidating. How does it compare to some of the more common historical mysteries (other than time / locale) like Veronica Speedwell or Kat Halloway? Thanks for the review.
It was actually an easy read and I think you’d be all right with that part, Jen. As to comparing to those others, perhaps more like Kat Holloway than Veronica Speedwell since it took a bit to get going. I would compare it to Susanna Kearsley’s books if you’ve ever read those. It’s mystery is very understated.
Thank you for an interesting review. I say if it’s by MJ Rose, it’s gonna be an excellent read!
I’m a new fan now, Amy. 🙂
Debbie S Haupt
Oh wow I didn’t know you’d never read her before Sophia Rose, she’s one of my faves and until this one I reviewed her for LibraryJournal. I’m not sure why I didn’t get this one but as a matter of fact I’m reading and loving it right now. The one thing that you can always say about MJ is her attention to historical details and I know you’d love her other works too. Great review, thanks for sharing
Yes! I’m late to the party, but so glad that it was well worth it. I definitely want to go back for her backlist, Debbie. 🙂
It is good to know that the two timelines had enough to keep you interested in both.
I was glad, too, Nadene. I’ve read the split stories before and ended up impatient with one of the storylines because I just wanted to get back to the other one. 🙂
I have read a few of MJ Rose’s works, would love to read this too! Love her style of writing (very elegant and somehow descriptive enough)
I’ve heard how wonderful her writing is and now I know for sure. I’ll definitely be going back for more of her books, Ailyn.
I am pretty sure I read this author before and really enjoyed her book! Lovely review, Sophia! Putting it on my wishlist!
Yes, this was a real gem, Kara. Glad to help slip one onto your pile. 🙂
Oh I always have such a great time with books like that!
I’m definitely going to find more of her older books. This was great, Melliane.