Book Title and Author: Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
Publication Date and Publisher: July 23, 2019 by William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: (e-arc)
Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and glamourous wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb take the reader on an evocative sun-drenched journey along the Côte d’Azur in this page-turning novel of passion, fate, and second-chances.
Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique, fending off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love, and tragedy.
James Henderson cannot forget his brief encounter with Sophie Duval. Despite his guilt at being away from his daughter, he takes an assignment to cover the wedding of the century, sailing with Grace Kelly’s wedding party on the SS Constitution from New York. In Monaco, as wedding fever soars and passions and tempers escalate, James and Sophie—like Princess Grace—must ultimately decide what they are prepared to give up for love.
I was in seventh heaven when I knew Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb were writing a book set in the French Riveria that was interwoven throughout with Grace Kelly’s fairy tale romance to Prince Rainier of Monaco. The French Riviera, especially Provence and Côte d’Azur where the novel takes place (and of course, Cannes and Monaco), is where my husband and I spent an incredible two weeks for our 10th wedding anniversary, so the book transported me right back there. Grace Kelly is also one of my favorite actresses from the Golden Age of Hollywood, so reading Meet Me in Monaco has been at the top of my list all year, and I can say that it was spellbinding, magical, glamorous, poignant, and everything that I hoped it would be!
The lavender fields of Provence are one of the most gorgeous sites―and smells―I’ve ever encountered and with expressive, vivid writing Gaynor and Webb managed to take me to the passion, glamour, and fragrance of the French Riveria in 1955 where young parfumeur Sophie Duval has a fateful encounter with beautiful Hollywood star Grace Kelly. Grace is being pursued by an English paparazzi photographer when she runs into Sophie’s perfume shop seeking a place to hide. In a surprising turn of events, the two women not only forge a friendship but Sophie and James, the tabloid photographer, develop a relationship that is lovely, yet poignant and bittersweet.
The novel is told through the alternating narratives of Sophie and James with news articles detailing Grace Kelly’s love affair with Prince Rainier and her devastating death mingled throughout, giving the story such a wonderful historical context. The story unfolds itself gorgeously, much like one of Sophie’s perfumes or the flowers she uses to handcraft the fragrance, and the way the book is divided into three parts: head, heart, and base notes like the way fragrance notes are blended for beautiful, perfect scent just intensified the way the story unfurls. Undeniably, such exquisite writing from this outstanding duo!
I have not had a lot of love for historical fiction this year, few books in the genre have wowed me as they have in past years, and I’ve often felt a disconnect, like I was falling out of love with the genre. Then Meet Me in Monaco came along and reminded me why I love the genre. It’s an emotional story written so lusciously that you can’t help fall in love. Grab a copy, grab a glass of wine, and let yourself be transported to sunny, fragrant France. This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year.
~This was a Traveling Sister’s read. Loved discussing this one so much―thank you ladies!~
**Thank you Edelweiss and William Morrow for an ARC. All opinions are my own.**