Every family has its own secrets and its own past that some would prefer to remain hidden. But as much as it remains buried, it somehow makes its way to the light.
The Magnolia Palace: A Novel, by Fiona Davis, was published last month. In 1919, Lillian Carter is in a bind. It’s been nearly a year since she lost her mother to the Spanish Flu. She has been earning her living as an artist’s model. To preserve her reputation, Lillian goes by the pseudonym of “Angelica”. But when she is found out and scandal envelops her, she has to find a new source of income.
That comes in the form of being the personal secretary of heiress Helen Frick. Helen is known as an art lover, along wither her industrialist father, Henry Clay Frick. Helen is famously mercurial and has driven Lillian’s predecessors away. The longer Lillian stays in Helen’s employ, the deeper she gets involved and the more likely it gets that her previous work will be revealed.
Nearly fifty years later, the Frick home has become the Frick Collection. Veronica is a London-based model whose career and fortunes can be made via a Vogue shoot at the museum. But that job and paycheck disappear when she is fired along with Joshua, an intern/fledgling art curator. When they are both locked in due to a snowstorm, Veronica finds a series of secret messages.
The revelations that the messages provide could help Veronica financially and solve a half a century old murder.
I loved this book. Davis brings both eras to life in a way that feels natural and cinematic. The path that the characters walk on that will lead them to the truth is a slow burn in the best way possible.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
The Magnolia Palace: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.