Review of Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran

Scent of Triumph coverJan Moran’s Scent of Triumph is an engrossing historical tale of a woman’s fortunes in World War II.

The main character, Danielle Bretancourt Von Hoffman, travels via ocean liner from New York to England. When she and her husband Max make the ocean journey, she is pregnant with their second child. In the course of the journey, the Nazis threaten to sink the ship. What unfolds made me think of the end of the movie Titanic. Yet Scent of Triumph is just getting warmed up.

Danielle’s family has a long history of success in the perfume business – success that has provided Danielle with a privileged and sheltered background, as well as an accurate and discriminating sense of smell. She is known as a “nose.” This contributes to her success.

In the course of the story, Danielle works for the French underground, escapes from the Germans, goes to Hollywood, and socializes with several major celebrities of the day. The overarching themes of the novel are war and its effects on family, home and economic security; loss; and courage and survival in the face of adversity – themes that are so relevant to today’s society.

Danielle spends much of the book trying to reunite her family. Her development into a strong and courageous woman makes this a fascinating read. The story is well-crafted with believable characters. Moran engages all five senses in her vivid and realistic descriptions of the many settings of the novel. The historical details are well researched, and give the reader a feeling of actually being in the story. As far as I could tell (not having lived through World War II myself), Moran accurately portrays the World War II experience.

I heartily recommend this book to both lovers of historical fiction and general fiction readers. And I can’t wait to see the movie.

Margaret of the North by E. Journey

Margaret of the North

E. Journey’s Margaret of the North is an engaging sequel to Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. The story of Margaret and John’s romance from North and South is one that really engages readers and leaves them wanting more. Journey has fulfilled that desire with her book. Readers who enjoyed North and South will find reading this sequel to be a distinct pleasure.

Journey brings a freshness and vitality to Gaskell’s characters. Margaret is every bit as compelling a character as she was in Gaskell’s work. The romance between Margaret and John is continued in this novel. Their intensely passionate relationship and abiding love are revealed in touching moments described in evocative prose. John’s mother, Mrs. Thornton, is deliciously unlikeable. She really does not care for Margaret. She is a bit harsher in this book than in the original, but that serves Journey’s story well. Journey clearly loves these characters. They are well-crafted and multi-dimensional in Journey’s capable hands.

Journey includes a necessary retelling of events that happened in the original book, to remind readers who may have forgotten, and to orient those who have no experience with the original.

The themes of the novel  — the effects on society of industrialization, and the interplay of a Victorian woman’s independence with her romantic relationship to a man – are artfully woven around a storyline that furthers the story in North and South quite well. Journey’s voice is reminiscent of Gaskell’s, and I found the transition between reading Gaskell and reading Journey to be rather seamless. Journey’s prose is well written, and her historical details well researched.

I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoyed North and South.