Thursday, May 21, 2015

Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran

Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: February 20, 2015

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 her husband and son are lost behind enemy lines. She spies for the French resistance, determined to find them, 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.

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I don't know where to begin with Jan Moran's Scent of Triumph. The book made an unmistakable impression, it left me speechless and I find myself at a loss in describing my experience with it.

Moran's style and tone grated my nerves from the start. The language she employs struck me as repetitive and the story is positively saturated with purple prose. I make a point of ignoring the odd hiccup in spelling and grammar, but Moran struggles with neither. This is a technique and one that didn't hold much appeal for this particular reader.

The book is character heavy which might have worked, if any of the cast had struck my fancy. Unfortunately, I felt the lot underdeveloped, wooden and clichéd. Danielle Bretancourt and Jonathan Newell-Grey lacked charisma and depth. Cameron Murphy had potential, but I don't feel Moran executed it to her best advantage. Heinrich and Sofia were promising, but they enjoy relatively minor roles and weren't as necessary to Danielle's experience as they were Nicky's.

To make matters worse, I felt Moran's execution predictable, unbalanced and heavy-handed. Danielle's takes place against WWII, but the global conflict hardly competes with the author's portrayal of the perfumer's art. I felt the first half of the narrative entirely unnecessary and I often found myself wondering at the author's delivery. There is a distinct lack of tension and many of the main plot points are weakly tied together.

I'm a stubborn mule and finished the novel for no other reason than a desire to say I did, but nothing about this piece worked for me and I don't see myself recommending it down the road.

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They all raised their glasses. Marie cleared her throat and held her glass high. “And to those who’ve gone on before us, may they watch after us,” she said solemnly, then added with a lilting laugh, “and may we never cease to amuse them."
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