Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
On the eve of the First World War, Fleurette, the only daughter of the wealthy Delacroix perfume house, is being forced to marry a man she loathes, Aimery De Lasset, head of the pre-eminent perfume manufacturer in France. It is only the cathedral bells tolling the rally to the frontlines on her wedding night that save her from sharing his bed.
When she receives a letter from Aimery's estranged brother warning against their union, Fleurette is left with the burden of a terrible secret. It is one that has the power to shatter the two families and their perfume empires once and for all.
I’d been wanting to read one of Fiona McIntosh’s historical fiction novels for such a long time, and I finally got around to it! I listened to the audiobook of this, and I have to say:
This was pretty hilariously bad.
Entertaining, sure. And McIntosh has also certainly done her research on the time period; the actual setting was really fun and interesting to read about. But basically, this was just an historical romance novel dressed up to look classier. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good historical romance. I’ve read quite a lot! But when I go into a book having certain expectations, it can be really confusing and really put me off if things are different than expected. I mean, really, look at some of McIntosh’s covers:
These are pretty indicative of most of her Australian covers. These say to me “Here’s an historical fiction novel, that deals with hard topics (war etc.), but isn’t too heavy, and there will probably be some romance in there somewhere to liven things up”.
The major issue I had with this book was not only that the romance took up most of the book (when there were many other interesting things we could have focused on), but also the romance itself was very off-putting. Fleurette constantly compares her love interest to her brothers. I mean, constantly. It’s weird and gross. Sure, she can admire similar qualities in Sebastian that she admires in her two brothers, but she often refers to how similar Sebastian looks to her twin brother. And there is some major insta-love going on. There was one point in the novel where I had actually forgotten how much time was supposed to have passed between Sebastian and Fleurette having met. Luckily for me, when Fleurette declares her undying love for Sebastian, she states “I know I only met you yesterday, but I love you!”. Yesterday. It’s only been a day since the MET. I laughed out loud when I read this part. Sebastian himself is ok, nothing to write home about. Of course, he’s “bedded many women” and is skilled in the art of seduction, and our main character is a virgin. Because that is definitely not a trope I’m sick of.
Aimery was comically evil. Yes, we are to understand that he is not a good guy: but things get pretty ridiculous. I will say this though, I’d never heard the name Aimery before, and now I love it, so there’s something.
Fleurette is portrayed throughout the novel as being a strong-willed young women, willing to push social boundaries so as not to live her life as the oppressed wife of a wealthy and respected man. This was pushed onto the reader so much, so often that it didn’t work at all. Too much telling, not enough showing. The novel opens with Fleurette being forced to wed Aimery against all her wishes. Giving in so willingly to this goes against her whole character, it actually makes no sense.
The thing I enjoyed the most about this novel was the setting: Grasse, in Southern France. I had never heard of Grasse and really enjoyed learning about the town that is considered the perfume capital of the world. The descriptions for the setting were truly lovely.
This definitely wasn’t a great book, but I found it entertaining enough. Mostly because it was quite ridiculous. I’m definitely willing to give McIntosh another go, probably again on Audiobook, as the narrator of this, Madeleine Leslay, was quite nice to listen to. And I got to learn about Grasse, which was fun.