A Review of The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose

Remember how about 6 weeks ago I won a goodreads giveaway? Well, I got a free, brand new, hot-off-the-presses book in exchange for a review! Here’s that review!

The premise is spectacular: There are pot shards containing an ancient Egyptian fragrance that helps people remember their past lives. Everybody wants them.

The cover art is gorgeous! I brought it to the coffee shop where I work and every other person who saw it asked about it. That has never happened with any of the other (many) books I bring to read!

There is a lot of interesting history and a few good plot twists. I now want to visit Paris so I can see all the things that Rose described in such rich detail. I am also now much more interested in Napoleon, the Reign of Terror, Cleopatra, the art of perfume making, and the catacombs beneath Paris. There is no doubt that the author went to great lengths to do all the research involved in writing this very involved book!


It took me three weeks to finish this book. I usually finish a book in about two days. For a suspense novel, it just wasn’t very suspenseful! Suspense novels should be page-turners that keep me on the edge of my seat. I shouldn’t be able to put it down! Instead, once I put it down, I wasn’t excited to pick it back up.

The story felt cluttered. There were about two subplots too many. There was a side romance that was great, but it was so great that it probably should have been its own story. There were at least ten different locations spread across four countries. And about three distinct time periods were explored- some spread across continents and some spanned lifetimes. It makes me dizzy just summing it all up! Add five names to each time period/location and you get quite the confusing ride.

Also, the whole thing could have used another round of editing. I was hit with some facts over and over. Others were confusing and barely touched on. For example, the protagonist suffers from delusional episodes, but when they were first described, the wording switched between “dreams” and “visions,” which are two very different things. If you have delusional dreams, you have sleeping problems. If you have delusional visions, you have serious issues. As the book progressed, I better understood her condition, but the vagueness with which it is described at the very beginning made it tough to judge our heroine’s mental state. And I probably wouldn’t have minded that vagueness, except I spent the first half of the book trying to keep all the locations and time periods straight.

To add to the confusion, it sometimes felt overwritten or self-indulgent. Examples: Three sentences in a row would describe the same thing; A chapter ended like this. It. Ended. Like. This (a sentence followed by the same words in one-word sentences); There were detailed descriptions followed by summations. (For a hypothetical example: “There were holes in the once-plush carpet. The stained glass windows were smudged and stained. The wallpaper was coming off in sheets. The room had seen better days.”) Normally I’m not a stickler for those things, but they cropped up more than consistently.

The characters were pretty interesting and some of them had great backstories, but there were too many of them for me to care deeply for any one. I would have to say my favorite was Xie- he seemed to be in the most precarious situation and his very intense, quiet personality was intriguing. Valentine was a close second, although I liked her so much I wish she’d been given her own book! I found it hard to root for Jac and Griffin, but not in that gut-wrenching, Romeo-and-Juliet, I-want-to-root-for-them-but-I-know-I-shouldn’t way. I guess I was just expecting it to be more than it was.

All in all, it was a wonderful story, but I wish it had been a better book. I give it a 2.5!


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