Review: The Last Tiara by M.J. Rose

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Sophia Moon had always been reticent about her life in Russia and when she dies, suspiciously, on a wintry New York evening, Isobelle despairs that her mother’s secrets have died with her. But while renovating the apartment they shared, Isobelle discovers something among her mother’s effects—a stunning silver tiara, stripped of its jewels.

Isobelle’s research into the tiara’s provenance draws her closer to her mother’s past—including the story of what became of her father back in Russia, a man she has never known. The facts elude her until she meets a young jeweler, who wants to help her but is conflicted by his loyalty to the Midas Society, a covert international organization whose mission is to return lost and stolen antiques, jewels, and artwork to their original owners.

Told in alternating points of view, the stories of the two young women unfurl as each struggles to find their way during two separate wars. In 1915, young Sofiya Petrovitch, favorite of the royal household and best friend of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, tends to wounded soldiers in a makeshift hospital within the grounds of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and finds the love of her life. In 1948 New York, Isobelle Moon works to break through the rampant sexism of the age as one of very few women working in a male-dominated profession and discovers far more about love and family than she ever hoped for.

Source: NetGalley Rating: 4½/5 stars

Despite having lived her entire life in New York, Isobelle has never quite felt comfortable or included.  As the daughter of a Russian immigrant, Isobelle walks the line between two worlds, the one she has always occupied and the mysterious world her mother once belonged to yet left behind.  For much of her life, Isobelle has asked questions but never received any answers; with the death of mother, Isobelle is finally going to solve the mystery of where she belongs.

Isobelle is absolutely crushed by the death of her mother, but she has to move on for the sake of her own sanity.  One of the biggest steps toward her recovery is putting her skills to work and refurbishing and refashioning the home she and her mother shared.  As Isobelle begins moving furniture and peeling ancient wallpaper, she discovers a hidden compartment which contains the most unusual of finds, a stripped tiara in cushioned case.  To say Isobelle is dumbfounded doesn’t even come close.  Though she is somewhat used to living with her mother’s secrets, the tiara is a whole new level of mystery. 

With nothing but a receipt to go on, Isobelle begins her search for answers with the name on the receipt.  The name leads her to a handsome young jeweler with a past of his own.  The young man is not only fascinated by the tiara Isobelle has brought him, but by Isobelle as well.  As the two begin the real search for the source of the tiara, they draw closer to one another on a personal level.  Unfortunately, the search into her mother’s tiara causes a divide between the two and their respective self-interests regarding the astounding find a wholly different. 

Isobelle sees the tiara as a link to her past and to understanding a mother who was never willing to share the secrets of her past.  The handsome young jeweler sees the tiara as a missing relic that should be repatriated if at all possible.  The wildly divergent interests not only drive Isobelle and her beau apart, but they also serve as the path to real answers.  What Isobelle discovers through her journey is that some men are worth loving, her mother’s secrets weren’t meant to harm but to protect the secret keeper, and the future is as bright as Isobelle wants it to be.

The Bottom Line:  I have long been a fan of books that sweep back and forth between the present and the past.  When you add in a bit of mystery and history, the book just gets better.  This book is very much a sweeping tale of love, lost love, fear, triumphs and tribulations that spans across the globe from the Russian imperial court to and early 20th century New York City.  For myself, I found the time of Isobelle’s mother to be the most entertaining as it really is her story, we, like Isobelle, are meant to be discovering.   The hardship and sorrow of the time and place just poured off the page leaving me feeling quite anxious and worried for the fate of all the characters.  I completely absorbed this book and was able to truly dive in and envision all that was happening.  A fine historical fiction!

Goodreads | Amazon | Paperback | Hardcover

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