The Last Tiara by M.J. Rose

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The Last Tiara
by M.J. Rose

Historical Fiction/Romance/Mystery

Published by Blue Box Press (Due for publication on the 2nd February 2021)

Be sure to jump onto all good book retailers to pre-order and purchase this title when it becomes available!

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My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Blue Box Press, and the author via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Actual rating of 4.5

Sophia Moon has always kept her life in Russia to herself, no matter how much her daughter Isobelle asked her about it. She didn’t want to remember, she wanted to embrace her American life, and her American name, and felt that there was no point in looking back on the past, only forward. Until, one wintery evening, she dies unexpectedly, Isobelle is distraught that all her secrets died with her. Especially once Isobelle uncovers a secret hiding spot in her mother’s bedroom wall, in which she finds a box that holds the skeleton of what was sure to be a one beautiful tiara. With only the receipts for the sales of the precious gems that the skeleton once held, Isobelle feels compelled to follow the barely there trail in order to uncover not only the story of the tiara, but her mother’s story as well. Many twists and turns await her, and who knows what she will uncover.

I’m not much for historical fiction, I’ve read it on a few different occasions but just felt like it wasn’t really for me. Most of the time the pacing fell short for me and I had trouble really enjoying what I was reading, so I have NO idea really what possessed me to request an ARC of this book, but man am I glad that I did. I never thought that I’d be rating a historical fiction novel this highly, ever.

The story is told through alternating points of view for each chapter between Isobelle in 1948 and her mother Sofiya Petrovitch beginning in 1915 moving through to around 1922. The story opens when Isobelle’s mother has already been gone around a year, she still lives in the apartment they shared, above the workshop that Sophia and Lana shared in their restoration business. Isobelle is a guarded woman, she’s been hurt before and struggles to trust many people. She’s also battling against the odds of the era and forging a career as one of few female architects in New York City. Her mother would never answer any of her questions about Russia and her mother’s life before moving to America to start anew, and while it irks Isobelle that she doesn’t really know anything, it doesn’t really effect her until she finds the hidden tiara skeleton and is left with even more questions than she had before. The tiara takes her on a journey, not only to solve the mystery of the tiara itself and how it came to be in her mother’s possession and who her mother had been in her younger years, but also one of self discovery and learning to trust even when you think you shouldn’t. I felt like this story turned into a dual historical romance about two loves told in alternating time lines that really tugged on the heart strings. One fraught with heartache and the other full of hopefulness of what might be.

Sofiya/Sophia was such a secretive character. Not wanting the past to make it’s way into her present and future, she denied her daughter the chance to learn of her heritage, which I found quite sad. In a time when some weren’t proud of where they’d come from and what fires had forged them, it makes me think how awful it would have been, not wanting to be yourself or being too afraid of your own past so you ignore it completely even though it helped turn you into the person you became. Learning about Sofiya in her story was bittersweet as you have an idea on certain things that will happen as it’s in the past, but it also showed how much of a caring and strong woman she had been. I found the supporting characters good, especially Arthur as he was the one who got the most screen time in Isobelle’s story, and of course Carpathian in Sofiya’s story as well. This story isn’t so much character driven though, it’s very plot driven which I actually enjoyed. The characters probably could have been fleshed out more, but I feel like I really got the feel of who they were meant to be which I enjoyed.

As said above, I would put this more in the historical romance genre, but it’s heavy on the mystery as well. The mystery and the romance really are the driving points for this novel and it worked so well. The pacing was absolutely fantastic and not at any point did I feel bored or as though the story itself was dragging, which tends to happen with historical fiction for me 90% of the time. The mystery behind Sofiya herself was intriguing and it was fantastic learning about her life before Isobelle, and the mystery of the tiara and then the mystery of the strange man that Isobelle keeps seeing every where. Ugh, so much mystery, and I was here for it. I must admit, the twist that was there I didn’t see coming, I felt like the paranoia of one of the characters was just in overdrive so when the reveal happened I realised just before it was said what was actually going on and it was brilliant! There’s also another mystery surrounding the tiara which we aren’t aware of until close to the end, and I felt that it was an absolutely fantastic addition, but the reason for me not giving a full five stars to this novel lies here, the ending felt so rushed. The reveal of this secondary tiara mystery and the resolve of it all and the revelation it all happened in like the last 10% of the book. I felt like there was such a big build up happening through the novel and then it was all over so quickly. Also the addition of the very opening of the story and the very beginning, I’m not sure what these two chapters were meant to lend to the story but feel like they could have been done without. For me it didn’t feel as though it offered really any extra closure, and I would have much preferred to see a little bit about what happened with Isobelle after everything was said and done.

Overall, this was an absolutely delightful story that really shows the tenacity of women in the early to mid 1900s and how hard they had to push to be seen as even close to equal that of a man. I love the inclusion of the Romanovs, even though it was more of a plot thickener, it was one of the things that drew me into requesting the novel in the first place. If you like historical fiction with a hint of romance and whirlwind of a mystery, definitely get onto this one. I can’t believe how much I enjoyed it.

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