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The Perfume Collector

Title: The Perfume Collector
Author: Kathleen Tessaro
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: May 14, 2013
ISBN: 9780062257833
Pages: 456
How I Got It: SheReads

Stuck in an unhappy marriage and uncomfortable social settings, Grace Monroe is depressed. The options for women in her situation in 1955 are bleak. As her best friend Mallory states "Face it, a woman has to be very rich indeed to change husbands the way one changes clothes and get away with it." Although Grace is of a comfortable standing, when she receives "an inheritance from a mysterious stranger" her life takes a new direction. Curious to know the full background of her benefactor she takes off for Paris and unravels the mysterious connection between her and Eva D'Orsey. 

The settings are absolutely delicious whether author Kathleen Tessaro is describing New York, London or Monte Carlo, you will sigh as a reader and wish that you were at that cafe, this office or that hotel. When Valmort walks into the Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo, Tessaro provides my favorite descriptive sentence of the book: " Guests were checking in and out, flowers were being delivered, and valets were scurrying to procure tickets for luggage and dinner reservations while exquisite women lounged on the rose silk settees, pulling lazily at the fingers of their white gloves and smoking gold-tipped Russian cigarettes behind the veils of their hats." Lovers, mistresses, and prostitutes were kept in grand style in the 1920s. Hotels were places of entertainment both public and private and there is just as much going on behind the scenes with the servants as there is in the ballroom with the guests. The decadence pours off the page. 

The characters provide wonderful cutting remarks and insight to personal frictions, such as Madame's warning of "Some day you will have a nemesis...someone who has the ability to do everything you wish you could, but with greater ease, style, success." 

And of course, perfume plays as prominent of a role as any character in this story. I myself have never been a fan of perfume however, I love that Valmort found that the perfume "blended naturally" and "finished her." I believe it is true that a person "adds to the composition" of a scent, that it doesn't exist to stand alone.  Scent triggers memories and one scent can evoke such different responses in people. To one the scent may invoke happiness while another may experience bleakness. I liked the concept of a perfumerie where you concoct a scent specifically for you rather than purchasing a a mass produced scent where you may smell exactly like the next woman on the train or at a party. 

I have not read anything previously by Kathleen Tessaro but based on how much I enjoyed the mental vacation. 

** I received this book in exchange for an honest review **

During a Twitter chat Tessaro provided this bit of advice (dismiss the typo): 

Kathleen Tessaro (@KathleenTessaro)
For those who love the smell of old books, try L'Air De Rein by Miller Harris, designed for Jane Birkin to small like old books #srbkchat

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