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.
As a librarian, I like to read new authors. I’ve heard good things about Fiona Davis from patrons and thought I’d give one of her books a try. This is the first I’ve read but not the last. The novel focuses on two women, Art teacher and artist Clara Darden whose story takes place during the 1920’s and Virginia Clay, a divorced woman in the 1970’s, who finds work at Grand Central Terminal in New York City and discovers the remnants of an art school hidden within its walls. When she locates a watercolor by an unknown artist, she begins a search that leads her into a mystery involving Clara Darden and the battle to save Grand Central. Along the way, she develops the courage to overcome her fears about her own deficiencies that include the removal of one of her breasts during cancer surgery. I enjoyed the way the story moved back and forth between the two women, and I was surprised by the twist at the end. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Davis’ books.
About the Author
(from her website: https://fionadavis.net):
F I O N A began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater.
After getting a master’s degree at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. Fiona’s books have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
She’s a graduate of the College of William & Mary and is based in New York City.
Connect with her on her social media links: