Title: Scent of Triumph
Author: Jan Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction | Romance
Summary: When French perfumer 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 her the remains of her family, relying on the strength and support of Jonathan Newell-Grey, a young captain. Finally, 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.
There, through determination and talent, she rises high from meager jobs in her quest for success as a perfumer and fashion designer to Hollywood elite.
Final Rating: ♥♥♥ / ♥♥♥♥♥
I won an advanced reader’s copy of this book in a Goodreads first-reads giveaway. The book itself is scheduled to release on March 31st, 2015.
I thought “Scent of Triumph” was fast-paced, enjoyable and just a fun ride. I enjoyed the plot, and the darkness in the first few parts of the story. I found the protagonist’s vocations refreshing, and the love interest was well-developed. The romance didn’t feel forced, and it was apparent that the two belonged together from the get-go. There were interesting plot twists and plot developments throughout the story, and even though I had some very real problems with the book, the topsy-turvy, intriguing plot had me hooked until the very end.
It took me fifty or sixty pages to get involved in the story. I felt like the first hundred or so pages were executed wonderfully with fast-paced action, gritty and gruesome, brutal yet completely realistic. There were plot twists and shockers and death sprinkled throughout the beginning of the novel, showing accurately the realities of World War II and the tragedies faced by everyone involved.
And then the book took a turn. From the gritty, dark beginning, it transitioned to an overly glamorized, completely opposite ambience, tone and atmosphere. This gave me the feeling that there were, in fact, two books mashed together into one. The effect bothered me throughout. Another thing it did for me was made me wonder whether the deaths mentioned in the beginning were necessary at all, because most of the people were never even mentioned again. I wonder if Jan Moran wanted to be dubbed by her readers as someone who kills off “lovable” characters, because she can, because she’s strong enough to. The sudden change in ambience and plot told me that Moran never actually cared about the characters she killed off. Firstly, we were never, nor are ever given insight to these characters’ lives and personalities. They were flat, dull characters, used as props to the dark setting of the story. They weren’t even characters, really.
I disliked the main character. I thought she had it too easy when she moved to Los Angeles. Everybody flocked to her. Everybody was infatuated by her. Her beauty was unparalleled and her talent was unparalleled and her charity and generosity was unparalleled. This woman, Danielle, could do absolutely everything with absolutely no flaw and it annoyed – quite frankly – the shit out of me. Instead of viewing her as a strong, independent woman, I viewed her as a Mary Sue, and that’s something I never like in novels. Which is funny because for someone who is supposed to be perfect, she spent a lot of time worrying about jewels and clothes and smelling nice rather than her son, who was stuck in Poland. Her thoughts about her son were usually afterthoughts like, “Oh, I have a son in Europe who may or may not be dead.”
The writing style really annoyed me for some reason. There were lots of commas, maybe on average three in a sentence. I thought the flowery prose was okay, until Moran started inserting obnoxiously fancy words in otherwise simple sentences, making me feel like the writing was forced, the vocabulary extracted from a thesaurus. And oh my gosh, don’t even get me started on the grammatical errors in the book. I found one or two comma splices on a page. Just… why?
The author also has a tendency to tell, not show. The characters’ virtues and vices are laid out on the page in plain words. Whether a character is logical or emotional, whether he/she is obnoxious or generous- everything is there, written in plain sight. It’s like Moran’s undermining her reader’s intelligence, worried that the reader will not figure out what a character is like just by reading the story.
Moran also thinks that adding thoughts in italics – those thoughts almost ALWAYS being questions – adds to the suspense. Frankly, it just annoyed me. It would disrupt the flow and add a cheesy “What will happen next?” vibe to the story.
This book was a fun read. It wasn’t a literary gem, and I probably won’t read anything else by Jan Moran because my main issue with the novel was her writing style. But get her to write a story for a movie- I think that would be wonderful, because she has the ability and creativity to write a fantastic story.