The Scent of Triumph, by Jan Moran, is a beautiful book on so many levels! For some reason, I become often really attached to books on perfume, or other such goods/products that are passed down as an art form from generation to generation. That the novel was set amid the turmoil of WWII, just made the book more exciting for me as it’s one of the historical periods that I most like to read about, especially in terms of what happened to families, occupations, and in turn, how their lives were most often changed.
You can see quite easily upon reading that Moran did extensive research into the time and place for this book. Couple that with exquisite character development, with characters who are fully dimensional and connective, as well as lush descriptions and fluid sentences, and this novel came together as one that I had a hard time ever putting down. It’s a novel that absorbs and captivates you, compelling to read it in one sitting.
Not only that, but I love reading about women who overcome adversity by showing great courage and strength. In her main female character of Danielle Bretancourt Von Hoffman, we have a woman of such caliber and yet who holds so much grace. She is a perfumer in an old family business and she’s talented, as she has the gift of scent, one in which allows her to pick up nuances of fragrances and how they react together, in order to create perfection. It’s her passion, as is keeping her family business and history alive for future generations.
When WWII breaks out, she’s left to rebuild her life and her business, to use her art form and gifts to start anew again in a new place. From Paris to Hollywood, Danielle has to leave her life behind and fit into the glitz and glamour of America in the 1940s. I LOVED all the details of perfume and fashion of the time. Moran certainly also did her research in these areas. Chanel is one of my very favorites, as a strong business woman and innovator, and Danielle’s spirit mirrors a little of Coco. She’s very driven in a male-dominated world and it’s her passion for her work that drives her forward.
Of course, as with the alluding tension in the opening scene, there is also romance. But it’s the type of romance I prefer, a little more subtle and not overpowering Danielle’s obvious independence. It’s enough to make you want to turn the pages, but not distracting to the overall story. It’s more a ships passing in the night-type of romance. The type that makes your own heart flutter for them. You’ll definitely feel for Danielle as she also struggles with family and life moments in regards to children and how families are torn apart during war time. I know I anguished a bit for her and yet cheered in her determination to keep herself, her family, and her art afloat amid very difficult times and circumstances.
There’s a lot packed into this book, but you never feel burdened by any of it or not complete, and I felt that all parts are intertwined elegantly together into a story of devotion and zeal. This one woman will steal your heart with her unwavering spirit.
An eloquent novel that will sweep you back in time to a place of struggle and fervor for living, Scent of Triumph will leave you breathless, yet overjoyed at the nature of women who struggle to define and keep hold of their families and their art.
If you like any of M.J. Rose’s novels like I do, especially The Collector of Dying Breaths, you’ll love Moran’s Scent of Triumph. Moran’s ability to take you back in time and place, opening your mind and senses, is truly her gift as a storyteller and a writer. I hope to read more by Moran in the future!
If you want to get lost in a book, I highly recommend this one!
Enjoy this Excerpt from Chapter 29:
The gardener coaxes seeds from the earth, lavishing attention on their every fragile leaf, their magnificent blossoms. How fragile, how fleeting—this beauty, this love. Only the perfumer can capture, extend nature’s response.Oh, that we could grasp real love so. –db
22 April, 1941
Beverly Hills, California
“Merci, Danielle,” the young woman said as Danielle placed an armload of fragrant white lilies next to the blush pink roses and purple hydrangeas she had already chosen. “You always choose my best flowers.”
Danielle smiled at her friend, the owner of the Flower Pot in Beverly Hills. “And you always have the best flowers in town, Mimi.”
“Maisoui, my brother sent some potted gardenias from the farm, too. They’re heavy with buds, perfect for your boudoir. Did you see them? They’re in the front of the shop.”
Danielle meandered through a brilliant maze of cut flowers, charming topiaries, and magnificent floral arrangements. The scents that swirled through the air lifted her spirits.She drank in the aromas wafting through the air, closing her eyes as she leaned into an exotic flower or plant to breathe in its scent. I could almost be in Grasse.
She rubbed the glossy green leaves of a gardenia, touched the moist earth in the pot, and let her fingers trail along a fresh white flower bursting from a tightly swirled bud.
Perhaps I’ll capture this aroma, she thought. Cool greens combined with sweet gardenia, the moist earth, the warmth of the sun—it would be perfect for this season. Maybe a new line of garden-inspired perfumes—
Am I hearing things? She heard someone call her name. And not just anyone, but it sounded just like—And that scent…the patchouli, the hint of rose…it was Spanish Leather and the scent of his warm skin…oh, mon Dieu! She felt a hand on her shoulder, and a quiver coursed through her.
Slowly she swung around. The shop seemed to fall away. She blinked, staring at a handsome man holding a bouquet of roses. “Jon?”
“It must be kismet.” A wondrous smile spread across his face. “I stopped to buy flowers for Abigail, and here you are.” He touched her shoulder and caught her hand, drawing her to him, intensifying his delicious scent.
“I can’t believe it,what brings you here?” Her heart beat wildly, and she was certain he could see it beneath her blouse.
“I had to attend to some business with ships in the Long Beach harbor. I didn’t have much notice. So I thought I’d surprise Abigail.”
Danielle laughed nervously. “Oh, you would have. But she’s not here. She’s in San Francisco with Lou. He has a film shooting on location.”
He ran a hand through his thick hair, releasing a faint scent of the sea. “Ah, once again, I should have called ahead.”
He smiled wistfully at her, his warm eyes crinkling at the corners. She remembered how one side of his mouth tugged more than the other, and the cleft in his chin seemed more pronounced. His face was leaner, but his chest was broad, and he looked more muscular. He’s even more magnificent than I remembered.
“Then our meeting really is kismet,” he murmured. His deep baritone voice was charged with emotion. “You look different, Danielle, you’ve bloomed, just like these flowers. How long has it been since that day outside your apartment?”
Danielle’s cheeks grew warm, and she moistened her lips to speak. Before Cameron, she thought with a jolt.
“Here, I’ll get these for you.” Jon paid for her flowers and scooped them into his arms.
She said, “I’m parked in the back, follow me.” As he held the door for her, she glanced over her shoulder, and noticed his gaze lingering on her body. She laughed nervously. “I’m in the Delahaye.”
Jon walked to the car and let out a low whistle. “What a beauty—the car, too,” he added, looking appraisingly at Danielle.
“Jon, you’re being naughty. And I’m supposed to be mad at you.” She unlocked the doors.
“At me? Why?”
“Well, why shouldn’t I be? You show up again with no notice at all.”
“Danielle, let’s not waste time on the past.” Taking the keys from her, he opened the car and placed the flowers inside. “I didn’t call you, or anyone, because I didn’t know how much time I would have. As it is, I only have a few hours, and I don’t know when I’ll return.” A serious look shadowed his face for an instant. He took her hands in his. “But I’m here now, and it’s a beautiful day. May we enjoy it together?”
Scent of Triumph: A Novel of Perfume And Passion~
By Jan Moran
Release date: March 31, 2015
at St. Martin’s Press
Perfume is the essence of beauty, the heart of illusion, the soul of desire. It is my past, my present, my future. —from the journal of Danielle Bretancourt
When French perfumer and aristocrat Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, leaving her son behind in Poland with his grandmother, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens her beloved family, scattered across many countries. Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches desperately for the remains of her family, relying on the strength of Jonathan Newell-Grey, a British shipping heir and Royal Navy officer. Finally, in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, she is forced to gather the fragments of her impoverished family and flee to America. There she vows to begin life anew, in 1940s Los Angeles.
Amidst the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Danielle works her way up from meager jobs to perfumer and fashion designer. Still, personal happiness eludes her. Can her sheer force of will attract the elusive love she desires, or will it only come at the ultimate cost?
A fragrance and beauty industry expert, she has been featured on CNN, Instyle, and O Magazine,
and has spoken before prestigious organizations, including The American Society of Perfumers.
She earned her MBA from Harvard Business School and attended the University of California at Los Angeles Extension Writers’ Program.
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