Synopsis (from Amazon): A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra--and lost for 2,000 years. Jac L'Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances--and of her mother's suicide--she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it's financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing--leaving a dead body in his wake--Jac is plunged into a world she thought she'd left behind.
Back in Paris to investigate her brother's disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L'Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation - or is it just another dream infused perfume?
The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra's Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet's battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac's quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.
My Thoughts: M.J. Rose is one of those authors who write books that contain so many different parts that you are wondering throughout "What's that got to do with the price of tea in China?" Then as you keep reading the different layers coalesce into one beautiful story line that has you thinking "Wow, what an ending!" and also "How come I didn't see how all that tied together earlier?" Such is the case with The Book of Lost Fragrances. The story starts off in 1799 Alexandria with Giles L'Etoile who is exploring a tomb that turns out to belong to the perfumer of Cleopatra. There he finds two mummies holding vials emitting a curious scent that makes all in the party hallucinate. Fast forward to present day. Jac and Robbie L'Etoile are siblings in charge of the great perfume empire House of L'Etoile which is in dire financial straights. When Robbie discovers some ancient pottery shards among their father's belongings at the shop in Paris, Jac believes his discovery may be the answer to their problems while Robbie has other ideas for the shards. While investigating the inscription on the shards with family friend (and Jac's old love Griffin) Robbie mysteriously disappears leaving few clues as to his whereabouts and an unidentified corpse behind. Meanwhile Jac begins to have disturbing dreams which she hasn't experienced since childhood. When it is discovered the pottery shards may actually be tied to past life regression it becomes clear that Robbie is in great danger and must be found. It seems everyone has an interest in getting their hands on those shards for their own purposes.
This book has a little bit of everything-from tomb raiding with Napoleon, to visions of a life in the court of Cleopatra, to the plight of the Tibetans being persecuted by the Chinese government. You'll be asking yourself one question after another-What exactly is the significance of those pottery shards? What happened to Robbie L'Etoile? Who was the dead man left behind in the perfume shop? How does ancestor Giles L'Etoile fit in? How do Cleopatra's perfumer Thoth and his lover Iset figure in? What about the Dalai Lama, the visiting group of Chinese artists and the Buddhist nun? I found each individual facet of this book to be interesting. I completely did not see how it was all going to tie together. The book does have a relatively slow pace in the beginning and doesn't really get intense until the last 75 pages or so but the different story arcs were enough to keep my attention until the action picked up. I liked the idea of exploring past lives through scent. For those who have read Rose's previous novels, Dr. Malachai Samuels who specializes in past life regression makes an appearance in this book and is (as always) on a quest to fulfill his dream to possess a memory tool (in this case he thinks the shards may be it). I loved delving into the different historical periods and gaining insight into the world of perfume making and the plight of the Tibetans. It helped a great deal that the story was pulled along by likable characters Jac, Robbie, and Griffin. I really liked the ending to this one and I hope M.J. Rose continues to write books dealing with reincarnation. If she does I will definitely be reading them.