Aussie Book Review: The Perfumer's Secret by Fiona McIntosh
"'I am at one with Nature's perfection – her beauty, her colours, her fragrances – and she has allowed me to glimpse it in a man.'
On the eve of the First World War, Fleurette, the only daughter of the wealthy Delacroix perfume dynasty, is being forced to marry a man she loathes, Aimery De Lasset, head of the pre-eminent perfume manufacturer in France. It is only the cathedral bells tolling the rally to the frontlines that save her from sharing his bed.
When she receives an unexpected letter from Aimery's estranged brother, Fleurette is left holding a terrible secret, and the sparks of a powerful passion. Her discoveries risk shattering the two families and their perfume empires, bringing tragedy down on them all.
The Perfumer's Secret is an intoxicating feast for the senses, a highly passionate and dramatic story of duty, deception and desire from the beloved, bestselling author Fiona McIntosh"
Being a fragrance enthusiast myself, who can't walk past the scent of Dolce & Gabbana wafting on the air without it evoking fond memories of my wedding day, when I was asked to review this latest by Fiona Mcintosh, I just knew that I could not turn it down and I'm glad I didn't because the concept of scent throughout this novel is pervasive.
Her protagonist, Fleurette, is a gifted nose whose biggest dream is to immerse herself in the family’s business – alas, she is a woman living in a male-dominated industry with her older brother, Henri, at the helm of running not only the family’s perfume empire but seemingly her life as well.
Without a choice, Fleurette is forced by Henri to marry the head of the largest perfume manufacturer in France, Aimery De Lasset. In doing this, Henri hopes that he will be able to secure the Delacroix perfume empire’s future by bringing the two established perfumeries together. The only thing that nobody foresaw was that the bells of war would be tolled before the marriage could be consummated.
For Fleurette, this brings somewhat of a reprieve as her new husband and brothers ride off to defend their country and she is left to manage the two estates – but there are other forces at play. When she receives a letter from Sebastian, Aimery’s estranged brother, in which he reveals a closely held family secret, her whole world changes dramatically.
I am fascinated by historical fiction, more particularly the years leading up to and including those of the two big wars and, if there’s one thing I love about Fiona’s writing , it’s that she always brings her audience escapist stories about these times gone by.
The Perfumer’s Secret is no exception and, in taking us back to 1915 Grasse, France’s perfume capital, Fiona gives us fabulous insight into the creation of fragrances, building on accurate research and, by the sounds of it, a genuine passion for perfume-making whilst also making us look at how an enormous family secret can overshadow the next generation.
Not only does Fiona consistently deliver in the area of exotic locales that live and breathe off the pages but she also has a knack for drawing interesting characters and I really enjoyed Fleurette - not only is she beautiful on the outside, but on the inside too – and, even though I am always overcome with sadness at how the fairer sex were suppressed into living lives of subservience in those times, I genuinely admired the courage and wilfulness that this intelligent and gifted young woman displayed in fighting for what she wanted.
A supreme storyteller with an endless passion for research, Fiona’s writing is rich, her prose evocative and, although Nightingale remains one of my firm favourites, in The Perfumer’s Secret, she has written an alluring novel that is full of life in a time of war and the colour of flowers in bloom with the sillage, like Fleurette’s perfume, permeating the pages.
I wish to thank the publisher, Penguin Books, for providing me with a hard copy for review.
About the Author
Fiona McIntosh is an internationally bestselling author of novels for adults and children.
Fiona states that "It’s been a curious pathway to writing novels having spent years in PR, sales/marketing for the travel industry and including 15 years running a travel magazine with my husband. I was fortunate that my first attempt at a creative tale won the notice of a global publisher and I’ve been writing fiction ever since and across various genres although I am best known for my adult fantasy and my historical adventure-romances.
She loves watching movies but these days she roams the world drawing inspiration for her writing and derives immense pleasure from reading loads of research books for her historical novels
Fiona also runs a series of highly respected fiction masterclasses and there's not a great deal of space in her busy life for hobbies but she does make time to bake (usually very late), exercise (usually early), and to ritually make a great coffee brew daily - coffee is her vice .. along with dark chocolate.
If coffee and chocolate are her vices, then her addictions are winter boots…and Paris.
Although South Australia is home, she admits her best writing is done from the peace of Tasmania.