I don’t read a lot of historical fiction but, as a librarian and an author, I like to try various genres. Fiona Davis is one of my favorite historical fiction authors. Her books are compelling, set in New York, and well researched. Her latest, The Magnolia Palace, is no exception. In fact, it kept me glued to the pages until the end and then I was rewarded with historical details about the Frick family who were featured in the book.
I enjoyed how the story alternated between the years 1919 and 1966. The two main characters, Lilly Carter (Angelica), a model who lost her mother in 1919 from the Spanish flu, ends up as private secretary to Helen Frick at her home before it’s turned into the New York City art museum that she founds. Lilly takes on this position by accident after fleeing her home when suspected of concealing information about her landlord’s murder. In 1966, a young woman named Veronica, also a model, travels from England to New York to audition at the Frick Museum in the hope that she can make enough money to bring home her sick sister whose medical expenses and care her mother can no longer afford.
What ties Lilly and Veronica together is a missing jewel — the magnolia diamond that is hidden somewhere in the Frick residence. When Lilly worked there, she’d followed scavenger hunt clues to locate it without any luck. Veronica, trapped alone there with a young man during a snowstorm, comes across these clues and follows the hunt with her friend.
There’s much more to the story including a romance, a murder, and a twist, but I don’t want to ruin it for those who like surprises. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, can’t-put-down read.