It’s not just American or British history that I’m interested in, I also dabble a bit in Russian history, especially during the Russian Revolution of 1917 that led to the capture and killing of Tsar Nicholas and his family. So when I saw The Last Tiara by M.J. Rose being offered on NetGalley and Blue Box Press for my honest review, I took a chance. The Last Tiara will be released to the general public February 2, 2021.
From the publisher: “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.”
I had a hard time putting down The Last Tiara (Amazon). From the beginning of Sofiya and Isobelle’s journeys, I wondered how they would end. Of course, we find out how Sofiya came to have the tiara (a gift from Grand Duchess Olga), but Isobelle doesn’t. And we don’t know how Sofiya met Isobelle’s father until the story progresses. Isobelle is in the dark about her mother’s past, and slowly uncovers clues that lead to more questions than answers.
In 1948 New York, when Isobelle finds the tiara with two receipts from a jeweler dated 1930, she sets off on a journey of discovery of her mother’s past, including information about her father. With the help of the jeweler’s grandson, Jules, Isobelle slowly peels back the layers of Sofiya’s life. Jules and his grandfather reveal that the tiara was part of the Romanov collection, so how did Sofiya end up with it? But soon Isobelle learns that Jules has an ulterior motive: he’s a member of a secret society that vows to return stolen art and jewels to their rightful owners. Isobelle knows her mother wasn’t a thief, but proving that is another matter.
Going back and forth in narratives, M.J. Rose weaves a tale that compels the reader to continue on to find out all the secrets. Of course, the reader knows the provenance of the tiara from reading Sofiya’s story, but Isobelle doesn’t, and that’s what makes the journey so interesting. The secrets of the tiara are more than Sofiya even knows. When a man from Sofiya’s past in Russia turns up, claiming to be Isobelle’s father, long thought dead in a Siberian prison, the mystery gets more tangled.
I did not see the ending unravelling the way it did. What started out as a historical novel with a mystery and two love stories ends up like a Dan Brown novel, with intrigue and adventure thrown in. I was pleasantly surprised with the ending, although I found the very last entry unnecessary and out-of-place for the plot.
I can imagine future books for Jules and his Midas Society and would gladly read them.
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