About the book:
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.
In M.J. Rose’s deftly constructed narrative, the secrets of Sofiya’s early life are revealed incrementally, even as Isobelle herself works to solve the mystery of the historic Romanov tiara (which is based on an actual Romanov artifact that is, to this day, still missing)—and how it is that her mother came to possess it.
I was first entranced by the cover of this book and decided that I had to know more about it. Then the backmatter absolutely hooked me, and I couldn’t wait to read it!
Rose did a fabulous job of weaving history and fiction to bring both her characters and the real historical figures to life. Usually when a story is told of the Grand Duchesses of the Romanov family, it centers around Anastasia. She is never actually mentioned in this book, which was kind of refreshing. I enjoyed learning a bit about the eldest of the Grand Duchesses, Olga and Tatiana, and their work as nurses during WWI, even though that was only a small bit of the breadth of the story.
It was easy to see how much research the author put into this story, incorporating everything from troikas and Fabergé to Agatha Christie and Gregory Peck to Bolsheviks and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. To be able to take all these seemingly disparate bits and meld them into one cohesive and interesting tale is impressive, and I really did enjoy both the grand scope and the intricate details.
I do have to admit that it took me a while to really get into the story. It begins with Isobelle’s voice, and for some reason, I found it difficult to connect with at first. I picked the book up and put it down five or six times in that first chapter, reading other books in between, before I finally found myself getting sucked into the story. Once I did get lost in the narrative, however, it was fascinating. Now, I need to check out M.J. Rose’s other work!
I would definitely recommend you grab this book when it comes out in February 2021. And if you find yourself, like me, not quite sure of the story at first, don’t give up. It is seriously worth the read. An easy 4 out of 5 stars.
Many thanks to Blue Box Press and NetGalley for the digital ARC of this book for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions are my very own! 🙂