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Reviewed by Colleen Turner
Emma Temple’s life seems to quickly be unraveling. Her mother has recently died, she’s ended a long-term relationship with a man who cheated on her with their mutual friend and coworker, she’s discovered she’s pregnant by her ex and she’s being pressured by the same man to sell her mother’s fragrance company. Her heart is further broken when her ex dies suddenly and she can no longer stand to stay in London were she had envisioned them having a life together.
The perfect opportunity to heal and start over presents itself when her mother bequeaths her a rundown villa in Valencia, Spain. Emma sets out to repair the home and her heart, have her baby and possibly begin a new fragrance company using the local exotic scents, a skill and love she acquired from her mother. But Emma’s grandmother, Freya, and great-uncle, Charles, caution her not to go. Both are hiding secrets connected to their time serving in the Spanish Civil War and are terrified that Emma will uncover the truth of what happened in Valencia almost seventy years before, information that will change everything Emma thought she knew about who she is and where she belongs.
Weaving back and forth between the early 2000s and the late 1930s, The Perfume Garden shows the horror and brutality of a world at war but also the strength and courage of those that will fight for the truth even when everything else has been lost. It also highlights the devastation that can come from secrets and fear and the need for honesty and love to repair the damage life can cause.
Loving stories that mesh together the past and present I was very excited to read The Perfume Garden. The descriptions and story lines centered around the Spanish Civil War were vibrant and compelling. The horror and savagery of war was made even more poignant by humanizing it through Freya and Charles’s perspectives. These scenes are very realistic and hard to read at times but made so touching by the beauty – in butterflies and babies – the characters seem to find through the haze of horror. These portions were beautifully done.
I found Emma’s modern story line to be less interesting. While I understand that Emma remodeling the villa and meeting the people she does helped bring about the secrets Freya and Charles have been keeping for so long, I kept waiting for more from her, especially more dealing with her garden and the business of making perfume. I didn’t really connect with the romantic aspect of her story and the story ended rather strangely to me. I found myself hurrying through the modern story line to try and get back to the 1930s.
While I love history, I knew very little about the Spanish Civil War and The Perfume Garden did an excellent job of bringing that portion of history to life and making me want to read more. Even with the issues I had with Emma’s story line, I still enjoyed the story very much and would be interested in reading more from this author.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review and giveaway copies were provided free of any obligation by Kate Lord Brown. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.