Book Review: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

This is yet another book about a secret history. Yawn! Aren’t there too many books about that already? Well, who cares? This book is fantastic! I loved every page of it (and there are quite a few).

The Perfume Collector: What it is about

What the publishers say: “London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London’s most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn’t come easily to her—and perhaps never will.

Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance. There’s only one problem: she has never heard of her benefactor, the mysterious Eva d’Orsey.

So begins a journey that takes Grace to Paris in search of Eva. There, in a long-abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank, she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising, complex love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d’Orsey’s story weaves through the decades, from 1920s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London.

But these three perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva’s past and Grace’s future intersect, Grace realizes she must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be.

The Perfume Collector: What I thought

I enjoyed reading this book so much! It was a very quick read, and I found it hard to put it down. Grace inherits a lot of money as well as a beautiful apartment in Paris. Wonderful! We readers get a look around the apartment and while it’s meant to be sold, I hoped Grace would be able to keep it and maybe live in it herself.

Most of the story is about Grace trying to find out why she has been left all this wealth. She doesn’t know the deceased and rather than accepting the inheritance just like that, she wants to find out who this Eva d’Orsey is. In a sense, the book is a mystery in which Grace, step-by-step, tries to find out how Eva knew her. Her search brings her to an abandoned perfume shop and an old lady who lives above it.

It’s also the story of Eva, who we find 30 years earlier, in the 1920s, working as young woman in a New York hotel. Here she meets all kinds of guests, some of which play a role in her further life. Most of these guests are flamboyant types and it’s good fun reading about their antics while staying in the hotel. Eva isn’t supposed to talk to the guests, but she does make some life-long friends there.

There is a really good sense of place and time. I especially loved reading about the hotel where Eva worked and about the perfume shop. The story is build up well, and I couldn’t stop reading and finding more about Eva and about Grace’s search for Eva’s history.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Number of pages: 464

First published: 2013

I got this: from Harper for review

Genre: historical fiction


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

22 Responses to Book Review: The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

  1. Melinda says:

    This sounds like such a great read. I absolutely love the 1920’s and similarly perfume shops. I’m going to have to check it out on goodreads!

  2. Charlie says:

    I love reading about the 20s and find the 50s interesting too so this appeals to me just for that, but perfume too? Yes please!

  3. Mystica says:

    I too like this time frame. Making a note of this one.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Ohh yes, this sounds like it would be my cup of tea! Thanks for the great review Judith 🙂

  5. The ARC of this one is sitting on my bookshelves in my bedroom taunting me. I must read it! Thanks for the push, Judith. 🙂

  6. Isi says:

    wow you really liked it!
    I also love books about family mysteries (or mysteries or the past, in general). I feel the same that you said; there are a lot of books with this argument, but I love them all 😀

    When you showed the book a few days ago I thought it could be similar to “The perfume”, but I see I was absolutely wrong!

  7. heavenali says:

    I really liked this one too 🙂 more than I had expected to I think.

  8. Yes, yes, I want to read this. Thanks, Judith!

  9. I’ve never heard of this one, but it does sound like an interesting story. And who doesn’t wish they’d be left a surprise inheritance? I dream about it all the time… lol

  10. This sounds great. I have already requested it from my library!

  11. I had the chance to read this for TLC Book Tours but I wasn’t inspired, at the time, to read it. If I’d read your review first though I would have jumped at it I think. 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      What a pity, Shannon. This was a really good read. But, to be fair, when I picked the book up (to start reading it), I wasn’t really sure why I wanted it. It didn’t appeal anymore.

  12. melissa says:

    Thanks for reviewing this book! I love the “secret history” books, and historical fiction set in the 1920s in NYC is a gem!

  13. joan says:

    I just finished reading the Perfume Collector and found many, many typo errors. Really enjoyed the book, but the editing was a real distraction.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Strange, Joan, I didn’t find any or many. I’m an editor and I’m sure I’d have noticed. You obviously had a different edition than I did. I enjoyed the book a lot. Sorry that it wasn’t for you.

  14. Darlene says:

    I agree with Joan, there were lots of typos that I noticed but the one that bothered me was close to the end when the French attorney calls Eva, “Madame Hiver”. Not really sure if that was intentional but since it doesn’t make sense, I think it was an error. I read the Kindle version, maybe the printed version does not have the same mistakes?

    • Leeswammes says:

      Darlene, Hiver means Winter in French. But that doesn’t make sense, does it (it’s too long ago since I read the book)? I usually notice typos but don’t think I found that many. Maybe the Kindle version was “read” from a pdf – it can go wrong sometimes.

  15. I’m somewhere in the middle of writing a blog post about top10 books about perfumes, it will take me another couple of weeks to read all I want but your review and all those comment show that people not only want to smell perfumes but also willing to read books about them!

  16. Pingback: Thoughts on The Perfume Collector | bibliosue

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