Wednesday, January 26, 2022

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

 The Magnolia Palace
Book Summary

Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue, returns with a tantalizing novel about the secrets, betrayal, and murder within one of New York City's most impressive Gilded Age mansions.

Eight months since losing her mother in the Spanish flu outbreak of 1919, twenty-one-year-old Lillian Carter's life has completely fallen apart. For the past six years, under the moniker Angelica, Lillian was one of the most sought-after artists' models in New York City, with statues based on her figure gracing landmarks from the Plaza Hotel to the Brooklyn Bridge. But with her mother gone, a grieving Lillian is rudderless and desperate—the work has dried up and a looming scandal has left her entirely without a safe haven. So when she stumbles upon an employment opportunity at the Frick mansion—a building that, ironically, bears her own visage—Lillian jumps at the chance. But the longer she works as a private secretary to the imperious and demanding Helen Frick, the daughter and heiress of industrialist and art patron Henry Clay Frick, the more deeply her life gets intertwined with that of the family—pulling her into a tangled web of romantic trysts, stolen jewels, and family drama that runs so deep, the stakes just may be life or death.

Nearly fifty years later, mod English model Veronica Weber has her own chance to make her career—and with it, earn the money she needs to support her family back home—within the walls of the former Frick residence, now converted into one of New York City's most impressive museums. But when she—along with a charming intern/budding art curator named Joshua—is dismissed from the Vogue shoot taking place at the Frick Collection, she chances upon a series of hidden messages in the museum: messages that will lead her and Joshua on a hunt that could not only solve Veronica's financial woes but could finally reveal the truth behind a decades-old murder in the infamous Frick family.
My Thoughts

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis is a dual timeline novel that takes readers between 1919 and 1966.  Lillian Carter, an artist’s model known as Angelica, finds herself on the run after her landlord is killed and the police suspect her of the crime.  Sheer luck has her obtaining the position as personal secretary to Miss Helen Frick, the youngest daughter of Henry Clay Frick.  Miss Lilly, as she is called, works with the mercurial Helen.  She learns to manage the household, organize functions, handle the household accounts, and much more.  Miss Lilly hopes to earn enough money to get to Hollywood where she can become an actress.  Henry Clay Frick tasks Miss Lilly with helping to get his daughter wed.  He promises her a nice sized bonus if she can get Helen engaged by Christmas.  Miss Lilly gets drawn into the family drama that soon lands her in a precarious situation.  Veronica Weber was discovered in London after an unfortunate (or in this case fortunate) haircut.  She lands a plum assignment that has her in America in 1966 doing a photoshoot for Vogue at the Frick Museum.  After an altercation with the photographer, Veronica hides out in pipe room (where the pipes for the pipe organ are arranged) to avoid the other models.  She ends up locked in the building with an assistant archivist during a blizzard.  Veronica had found clues for a scavenger hunt in the pipe room and the pair unravel the riddles.  The result of the hunt could help settle Veronica financial dilemma and solve two long unsolved crimes.  I thought The Magnolia Palace was well-written with developed characters.  The author captured both time periods, but I thought her portrayal of 1919 was spot on.  I could tell that she did her research on the Frick family and their collections.  I am amazed at the art they collected.  Their home which is now a museum is just beautiful.  We get to see what daily life was like inside the Frick mansion in 1919 with the demanding Henry Clay Frick and the difficult Helen Frick.  I liked the action and activities that propelled the story forward to the end.  The ending nicely wrapped up the book.  I appreciated the author’s note at the end along with her reading recommendations.  I was baffled by a detail in the last chapter.  I thought it was a week or so since the previous chapter, but then there was a 1977 reference.  I wish the date has been clearly specified.  The Magnolia Palace is an intriguing historical novel with a misplaced diamond, a lady lost at the loss of a loved one, a demanding dad, a devoted daughter, a strange scavenger hunt, an attractive art assemblage, and a mysterious mystery. 

The Magnolia Palace is available from Amazon*.  You can find Fiona Davis' other novels here.  The pictures I used today show Helen and her father, Henry Clay Frick.  The second picture is of Audrey Munson, a popular artist's model during the same time period as Lillian Carter.  Thank you for joining me today and reading my review.  Tomorrow I am featuring Easter Bonnet Murder by Leslie Meier.  It is the 28th A Lucy Stone Mystery.   Did you know that you can create a wedding registry on Amazon?  I found it helpful when my nephew was getting married.  I was able to go the couple's registry and pick out a gift without leaving home.  I liked knowing that I would be getting the new couple something that they wanted.  I hope that you have a cheerful day.  Take care, stay safe, and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

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