From the blurb:
Scent of Triumph is the story of Danielle Bretancourt, a talented young French perfumer with a flair for fashion and a natural olfactory gift. In the language of perfumery, she is a Nose, with the rare ability to recognize thousands of essences by memory. The story opens on the day England declares war on Germany, and Danielle and her family are caught in the midst of a raging disaster sweeping across Europe.
Her life takes a tragic turn when Nazis murder her husband and their only son is stranded behind enemy lines. She spies for the French resistance, determined to find him, but is forced to flee Europe with fragments of her family. Destitute, she mines her talents to create a magnificent perfume that captures the hearts of Hollywood’s top stars, then gambles again to win wealth and success as a couturier. Her intelligence and flair attracts the adoration of Jonathan Newell-Grey, of England’s top shipping conglomerate, and Cameron Murphy, Hollywood’s most charismatic star.
Danielle charts her course through devastating wartime losses and revenge; lustful lovers and loveless marriages; and valiant struggles to reunite her family. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, here is one woman’s story of courage, spirit, and resilience.
One word to describe the book: divine. Such a pleasurable few days I spent lost in this fictional world.
The plot is deeply moving and feels very realistically – hauntingly so when it comes to events related to loss and the war. There’s good pace, and plenty of suspense to keep you wanting to turn the pages. I was quite caught up in the story, to the point that I was tearful on several occasions. And such a marvellous ending!
I felt enormously empathetic towards Danielle, the protagonist. She’s mature, courageous, hard-working, sensible and fiercely independent – all qualities that make her easy to like. This is not a heroine bowed down by adversity, but one who turns it to her advantage. I was especially drawn to her relationships with people – as a mother and daughter, and as a wife. There’s a compelling realism in these relationships that stands out in the writing. When a main character is so human – full of unrealised passions, doing her best with her lot while yearning for more – it is a recipe for a book that really touches the core of the reader.
I adored the themes of fashion and scent that are explored in the book, and the glimpses of life in the upper classes and Hollywood elite. There is such a sense of wartime and post-war Europe and America, and I felt transported back in time as I read. I could imagine the scenes and the people with amazing clarity.
For me, the best part of the book is the sublime description which very deliberately appeals to the sense of smell, as in the following:
Danielle gazed out of the window. She shook her hair in the cool breeze and inhaled, the scents of lavender and rose and jasmine sweet in the lucent air. To her, these were the aromas of creativity, of freedom, where she’d always been happiest.
In my own writing I always describe in such a way that the reader can see and hear and taste and feel and smell the details of a setting, and I felt a real affinity to Jan’s way of writing. Indeed, by the end of the book I would swear I could smell Danielle’s famous creation, the perfume Chimère. The author has such a wealth of understanding of beauty and scent which comes across in the book, and I found myself visiting her website (http://janmoran.com) when I finished reading, keen to learn more about her. I was delighted to find that she has a book out called Fabulous Fragrances that explores the stories behind 350 prestige perfumes – fascinating!
In sum, I count myself a Jan Moran fan now and I eagerly anticipate her next novel, which I’ve no doubt will be ‘scentsational’…
Scent of Triumph is available now from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.