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The Book of Lost Fragrances: A Novel of Suspense Hardcover – March 13, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 239 customer reviews
Book 4 of 6 in the Reincarnationist Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Author One-on-One: Katherine Neville and M.J. Rose

Katherine NevilleM.J. Rose

NYT Bestseller Katherine Neville interviews M.J. Rose about The Book of Lost Frangrances.

Katherine Neville: I have to confess that part of why I was so drawn to The Book of Lost Frangrances is that you and I share a fascination with telling stories that interweave multiple themes--romance, history, science, esoteric, mystery, etc. What do you feel is the challenge and great payoff of stepping off the edge like that?

M.J. Rose: I think it's the ultimate challenge of any book, really--to make every one of those themes and elements you describe strike notes that feel true and surprising and human. But I guess the added challenge--and also the reward, if you've done it right--of 'stepping off the edge' with all those pieces in play is the hope that the notes work together to form a rich and resonant and emotionally satisfying chord by the time the book's done. Even though this is a suspense novel, a lot of my friends have told me that the ending of The Book of Lost Frangrances made them cry--to me that's the ultimate compliment!

Katherine Neville: It's often said that our sense of smell is our earliest memory. The earliest smell I could recall was ice on the branch of a tree, which may explain why I've always been captivated by stories like Hans Christian Anderson's Snow Queen and the snow scenes and music in Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.

Tell me about your own earliest recollections of scent, and how perhaps they motivated you to write The Book of Lost Fragrances?

M.J. Rose: My mother wore only one perfume her whole life, Shalimar. And that fragrance, and the way it embodied my mother, figures in so many of my earliest memories. I was a very shy child, and when I first started school I always had a hard time when she got ready to leave. We had a routine. I'd cry. She'd take a handkerchief out of her pocketbook and give it to me to dry my tears. And then she'd go. But I'd still have that fragrant handkerchief. And I could still smell her. I suppose it felt that, as long as I had something that smelled of her, she was never too far away, and would always come back.

Despite the fact that my books are labeled suspense, at heart I think I'm a very emotional writer. I think there's magic in how something as simple as my mother's perfume on a white linen cloth could give me so much comfort. I believe you find a character's heart when you discover what sight or sound or smell or taste moves them, or frightens them or makes them feel safe in the dark.

Katherine Neville: You and I both write what might be called Quest novels: the quest being the earliest tradition of literature. But in our books, instead of Parsifal questing after the Holy Grail or Jason seeking the Golden Fleece, or even Indiana Jones looking for the Lost Ark - we have female protagonists who are hunting for a mysterious object of universal power.

What do you feel are the drawbacks, the difficulties, or ultimately the advantages, of having a female protagonist in what was traditionally, until very recently, a "male genre?"

M.J. Rose: I'm not sure it ever occurred to me that I was challenging the status quo, to be honest! For instance, in this book, it seemed totally natural that Jac L'Etoile would take up the search for a 2000 year old fragrance and have as great a chance of finding her holy grail as her brother or any man would.

From first to twelfth grade I went to an all girl's school. When there are no boys around it's very liberating. It's never about "only boys should do this" or "only girls should do this." Instead it's just, what are you interested in, what do you care about? So when I started writing I never questioned the role I was assigning to my female protagonist--I wish I could say I was taking a stand, but really it just felt very natural to me.

Katherine Neville: On a more personal level, PERFUME: I cannot wear it because it "pops" on me about 3:00 in the afternoon. However, I collect it because I love the aromas, and I have my favorites that I love to smell, for various reasons. I have a collection, each reminds me of different phases of my life...

What are your favorites? Do you wear them or keep them to relish privately? How does your relationship with these scents connect with Jac, the protagonist in the new book, and the way her 'destiny' plays itself out in the course of the story?

M.J. Rose: Many of my favorites are vintage scents that are no longer available but of those that are, I'm partial to Vol de Nuit by Guerlain, Citrine by Olivier Durbano, Coromandel by Chanel, Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle... But the one that's become the most special for me is Âmes Soeurs, which translates as 'the Scent of Soulmates.' It was created by the amazing Frederick Bouchardy of Joya Studios and was actually inspired by this novel!

Jac wouldn't exist if not for my love of scent, and (to go back to that idea of "quest" you mentioned earlier) a search I started about ten years ago to find my own "signature scent." This led me deep into the fascinating world of fragrances, how they're created, and I became obsessed with the idea of a woman so attuned to scent that she could be haunted by it.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


"Compelling... suspenseful tale. Once you catch a whiff, you will be enchanted". - Associated Press

"Rose has entered another realm and written what is bound to be one of this year's best books." -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Entertaining... working history, the science of scents and a mystery together with the aspects of a perfect thriller to create a perfect read." --Crimespree Magazine

"A time-defying journey filled with passion and danger...A kaleidoscope of memorable characters and exotic locales. Elements of both thriller and paranormal romance dominate, and the insights Rose offers on the methods and science of perfumery throughout history add a fascinating top note." Shelf-Awareness.com

"Enthralling. A supple and elegant thriller. There is simply no more daring writer than MJ Rose, and her blisteringly original [novel] shows why." Providence Journal

"A fascinating mystery with many twists and turns... combines intrigue with a touch of history and the art of exotic perfume." The Free-Lance Star

"Provocative...a sweeping sense of romance [and] history." - Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Deliciously sensual...Rose imbues her characters with rich internal lives in a complex plot that races to a satisfying finish." (Publisher's Weekly (starred) )

"A simmering brew that mingles the erotic sensuality of Patrick Suskind's Perfume with the dark and timeless obsessions of Rider Haggard's classic, She. M.J. Rose has once again again dipped into the deep flask of history and brought those rich aromas of the past back to life through the eyes of Jac L'Etoile, a woman who has mastered the scent of conflict, passion and danger." —New York Times bestselling author Katherine Neville

"The Book of Lost Fragrances by M.J. Rose is an amazing novel, an utterly engrossing thriller that weaves together reincarnation, ancient Egypt, international intrigue, and a lost book of fragrances. Elegantly written, with unforgettable characters and flawlessly realized international settings, here is a novel that will keep you up all night—and leave you with powerful feelings of revelation, wonder, and the infinitude of human possibility." —New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston

"A bewitching brew of history and suspense, as well as a deeply felt love story that transcends time, The Book of Lost Fragrances had me spellbound from the very beginning, taking me from Ancient Egypt to Napoleonic France to the mordern day. This is a book full of delicious surprises, superb research, and brilliantly drawn characters that will live on in your heart long after you turn the last page." —Anne Fortier, author of Juliet

"The Book of Lost Fragrances is one of those rare novels that reminds us of the beauty and enormous complexity of the human soul. The way Rose uses perfume's evocative power is both intelligent and intriguing - triggering her characters memories of their current lives as well as memories of their past lives. This novel is a marvelous discovery." —Javier Sierra

"The Book of Lost Fragrances resonates with spirit, blending myth with reality, tragedy with triumph, pain with joy. You'll find yourself questioning everything you believe—and wanting more." —New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry

"Clever, with beguiling characters; a wonderful mixture of suspense and pace and good old fashioned storytelling, and the research never gets in the way of the plot." —Kate Mosse, author of Labyrinth, Sepulchre, and The Winter Ghosts

"An absorbing and thrilling ride through the centuries." (Library Journal )

“M. J. Rose’s multi-stranded plot skillfully hits all the right buttons, blending exotic settings, romance, and paranormal fantasy with political intrigue into a colorful story that would be right at home as a Hollywood thriller.” (New York Journal of Books )

The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; First Edition edition (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451621302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451621303
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,026,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By joyful VINE VOICE on March 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Book of Lost Fragrances is the epitome of what I enjoy the most about M.J. Rose's works: fascinating historical facts mixed with thought-provoking spirituality and exciting storylines to form a potent elixir of a novel. Like the most complex perfumes, this book had layers of intrigue, most ostensibly involving the Chinese suppression of Tibetan Buddhists and a French family of perfumers' personal and financial troubles. These two initially separate narratives eventually collide in thrilling action which centers around an ancient legend of a perfume with unique, magical properties.

These sections, where Rose describes scents and their powerful associations, transported me. If words could have aromas, then Rose's writing is lyrical fragrance.

The magical perfume at the heart of the novel, and one which everyone is desperately searching for, at whatever cost, is that of "âmes souers" or the scent of soul mates. Rose weaves a legend that Cleopatra, still in love with the dead Julius Caesar, commissions a very special concoction, that which will allow her in her future lives the ability to find her soul mate, Caesar, no matter where or when, through scent.

The mixture of memory, scent, and love is a powerful and heady combination. The passages dealing with doomed lovers through the centuries were the most moving for me. For instance, this image of a woman pining for the man who broke her heart and buying bottles of his scent because she's still in love with him.

"Jac thought the scent promised stories, too, but based on its essences. Its ingredients were as old as the Bible: bergamot, lemon, honey, ylang ylang, vetiver, civet, and musk.
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Format: Hardcover
M. J. Rose's latest addition to her best-selling thrillers on reincarnation, A BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES, is spellbinding and so rich with fragrances, past and present, that I literally found myself sniffing the pages. Beyond that, this book holds all of the elements that keep a reader up all night, heart thumping for the long-ago lovers who spring to life anew, fated to continue their romances in a new time and with new bodies. As always, Rose's action is riveting, her characters likable and three-dimensional, and her sense for exotic locations enthralling. Her historical authenticity rings true and you really do find yourself in Cleopatra's catacomb, getting a lingering whiff of the long-lost fragrance along with Napoleon. Even His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, makes an appearance. This book is a real treat for both the mind and the senses.
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Format: Hardcover
Last summer I read M.J. Rose's The Hypnotist, which was a perfect summer thriller, and so I was excited about her next book in her reincarnation series. I wasn't disappointed; in fact, I enjoyed this one more than The Hypnotist, perhaps because I liked the main characters and I enjoyed the intrigue.

It's been shockingly summer-y in Boston this spring, and I spent a few happy nights with this book, wine (although tea was tempting, given all the descriptions of fabulously unique blended teas the characters drank), and my sunny porch. While this is the fourth in a series, I've found each book works very well as stand alone novels. Only one character really spans the four books (I believe), and his role is explained clearly. References are made to his connection with the previous novel's, and I had enough info to enjoy this one.

The plot is fun enough: a French-American family of perfumers stumble upon what might be the recipe for a fragrance that will allow people to recall their previous lives. Robbie, a Buddhist, is convinced this perfume exists and would assist the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama in achieving independence from China; Jac, his sister, is a pragmatic myth buster, of sorts, afflicted with horrible visions and a broken heart. At odds about their family's failing perfume atelier, they become the focus of nefarious groups wanting the possibly magical perfume. There's some romantic drama, reincarnation-y flashbacks, international intrigue, and lots of tantalizing descriptions of scent and fragrances.

For those who like French historicals or novels set in Paris, this is for you. If you're not a paranormal fan, I'm not sure if this novel will appeal.
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Format: Hardcover
A deeply satisfying mixture of Ann Rice (Vampire Series, Mayfair Witches) meets Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code), M.J. Rose crafts a tale that combines obscure history with modern day current events into a Gothic suspense thriller in the vein of Cornell Woolrich. It's also a romance spanning two thousand years of history from Cleopatra's Egypt, and her Persimmon Groves, to Ancient and modern Tibet, China to New York City and Revolutionary France to the current day beauty of Paris. It lures the reader into a plot that is as intriguing as the perfume at it's center.

Jac L'Etoile along with her brother, Robbie, are the heir to the famous and once profitable L'Etoile Parfumerie in France. She now lives in the U.S. and has a `myth busters-like' cable TV show having left the running of the family business to her brother Robbie. Jac is a fragile women who suffered from delusional episodes as a child after her mothers suicide. She was treated by renown hypnotist and reincarnationist Malachi Samuels of the Phoenix Foundation.

In Paris, Robbie has discovered a collection of Egyptian pottery shards that once held what is thought to be a perfume that could aid in revealing past lives and reuniting soul mates across the centuries. It may be a memory tool, sought by Malachi, Tibetan Buddhists and shadowy factions of different governments.

Inscribed on the pieces of pottery are a clue to Cleopatra's The Book of Lost Fragrances. With the help of Jac's one time lover and Robbie's friend, Egyptologist and Archeologist, Griffin North, Robbie hopes to translate the characters on the pottery shards and ultimately deliver them to the Dali Lama.
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