Title- Magnolia Palace
January 2022 Book of the Month Selection
Author- Fiona Davis
Genre- historical fiction (with duo time period)
POV- There were two different time periods. 1919 and 1966. For those who are super great at math like me, that’s 47 years difference, give or take. They went back and forth between Lily/Angelica in 1919 and Veronica in 1966. Both were third person past tense.
Steam level- 0/5 spice
Cover– gorgeous and representative of genre. Great colors
Twenty-one-year-old Lillian Carter’s life has completely fallen apart. For the past six years, under the moniker Angelica, Lillian was one of the most sought-after artists’ models in New York City, with statues based on her figure gracing landmarks from the Plaza Hotel to the Brooklyn Bridge. The work has dried up and a looming scandal has left her entirely without a safe haven. So when she stumbles upon an employment opportunity at the Frick mansion—a building that, ironically, bears her own visage—Lillian jumps at the chance. But the longer she works as a private secretary to the imperious and demanding Helen Frick, the daughter and heiress of industrialist and art patron Henry Clay Frick, the more deeply her life gets intertwined with that of the family—pulling her into a tangled web of romantic trysts, stolen jewels, and family drama that runs so deep, the stakes just may be life or death.
Nearly fifty years later, mod English model Veronica Weber has her own chance to make her career—and with it, earn the money she needs to support her family back home—within the walls of the former Frick residence, now converted into one of New York City’s most impressive museums. But when she—along with a charming intern/budding art curator named Joshua—is dismissed from the Vogue shoot taking place at the Frick Collection, she chances upon a series of hidden messages in the museum: messages that will lead her and Joshua on a hunt that could not only solve Veronica’s financial woes, but could finally reveal the truth behind a decades-old murder in the infamous Frick family.
First chapter- The first chapter showed Angelica/Lillian’s current life well. A goal was shown early to reestablish her career as a model & complications have been thrown in with her old age of 21 & running out of money. Plus throw in a murder downstairs in her apartment building, and we’ve got a full show. The cliffhanger had me hooked right off the bat to fly into chapter 2
Character Development- Lily wants to be more than just a pretty face, but should she follow her dreams, consider marriage, or stick out a terrible job? She learns new skills while working under Helen.
50 years later, Veronica is only 18 and figuring out what career she wants in the world. She finds inspiration through new friend, Joshua.
Best part- the mini cliffhangers at the end of most chapters
What I would change- more romance, change to first person, less mundane details shown about daily lives
Setting- NYC. The Mogolia mansion was described pretty well, but since I’m not art admirer I had a hard time picturing a lot of the art they had shown.
Prose- a little dry sometimes
Character goals/motivations- Lily wanted a way to earn money and move to California. This was shown well and backed up through her actions. Veronica wanted a way to earn money as well to move her sister out of a group home.This goal felt less strong.
Theme- family forgiveness, moving on after tragedy, class differences
Vivid sensory descriptions- average
Dialogue- Helen was a riot
Diversity- class differences were apparent. Servants were still living in the household but their ethnicities were unknown in 1919. Joshua was shown to be Black in 1966 and his race played into conversations. No LGBTQ characters that I recall.
Conflict/tension/obstacles- Yes but not in the way I expected. I would’ve been okay with increased complications
Ending- Satisfying. It felt a little preachy at the end, but resolved well.
Pacing- Medium except the mini chapter cliffhangers made it go faster
Thoughts while reading-
Page 67- I was a bit bored with the backstory earlier but intrigued again once I hit this page
Page 79- romantic interested introduced? It feels a little late for that.
Page 101- turning point. I almost missed it from the casual slide in conversation.
Page 103 uh oh. Her secret has been found out!!!
Page 121- the two timelines are starting to come together in the story! I love books with dual times that intersect
Page 150- it’s a bit dry & flat with too many mundane activities being shown
Page 161- I wasn’t expecting that romantic connection until just before it happened
178-the individual chapter cliffhangers are great
Page 194- oh my! What will she decide?!
Page 221- that took an unexpected turn. Don’t tell me there is a ghost …
Page 246- an ominous warning? Dun dun dun!
Page 311- miss Helen old is hilarious