Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: March 31, 2015
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon
When French perfumer Danielle Bretancourt steps aboard a luxury ocean liner, leaving her son behind in Poland with his grandmother, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. The year is 1939, and the declaration of war on the European continent soon threatens her beloved family, scattered across many countries. Traveling through London and Paris into occupied Poland, Danielle searches desperately for her the remains of her family, relying on the strength and support of Jonathan Newell-Grey, a young captain. Finally, she is forced to gather the fragments of her impoverished family and flee to America. There she vows to begin life anew, in 1940s Los Angeles.
There, through determination and talent, she rises high from meager jobs in her quest for success as a perfumer and fashion designer to Hollywood elite. Set between privileged lifestyles and gritty realities, Scent of Triumph by commanding newcomer Jan Moran is one woman’s story of courage, spirit, and resilience. (Goodreads)
The book begins with a WHOA action-packed scene that launches the story into 1939 Europe, into a time of war. My heart was beating so fast when in this opening scene! Danielle arrives home from America to find that her mother-in-law and son have been forced to flee the family estate due to the threat of enemy forces. Danielle and her husband go through a period of searching for them, to no avail, and after separating to (sort-of) broaden the search, Danielle finds herself moving around the country in order to keep herself safe.
This part of the plot was exciting and quite a page-turner. The plot goes on and things progress until Danielle has moved a few times, her husband is no longer with her due to the horrors of war, and she is making the choice to move to America to flee wartorn Europe – still without her child.
Here is where the book feels like it takes on a different tone, almost like a different book entirely. In America, Danielle finds a completely new set of challenges. She has to blend in, first of all, because she is not American: her accent, the way she dresses, etc. Plus she is faced with having to provide financially for her small family without the help of a husband. Danielle does the only respectable thing she knows to do in order to find work: European fashion and perfumery.
Even though they are living in pretty shabby housing because of having to start completely over, Danielle’s new career in fashion affords her the opportunities to attend some swanky parties and creep up the social ladder – this, to me, makes for some exciting scenes in this segment of the book. Glamour, which I love. Danielle does find romance, more than once actually, and she ends up doing pretty well for herself and her family.
I absolutely LOVE reading about this time in history.
And I love Danielle. She is feminine and loves nice, lovely things, which I love. She doesn’t apologize for this, and good for her. She is also brave and strong and resilient while at the same time, I feel like she is pretty honest about being tired and unsure if she will be able to manage all that she has going on. And Danielle has a ton of things going on. She does things while in Europe – mostly to find her son – that are almost unimaginable and she survives! Then, when in America, she literally begins from almost nothing as she makes a name for herself in the perfume and fashion industries. She becomes a true success story, all while managing the still-ongoing search for her child and still seeking out love, love, true love.
Okay, so Danielle’s romantic life: she goes through several husbands when it is clear to me that there is only one of these men that she really, truly loves. She does give reasons for her romantic relationships – a misunderstanding here, a missed opportunity there – but it was almost torturous to read these unions when I knew which one she really loved and that the feeling was mutual.
But the biggest thing about this story: it felt like a sweeping historical fiction. What I mean by this is that it felt huge, but I think this is because of the suspension of belief required, not because of the size because it isn’t really all that long. Danielle’s life always seemed to fall into place even through everything that happened around her – everything always resolved so neatly, it seemed. This is totally fine with me; I think this made this book fun to read and gave way to the adventurous feel of it. I do think that sometimes other readers have this complaint, about the neat resolutions and some suspension required, but as for myself: I enjoyed this. I read the entire book fairly quickly and found the book easy to visualize and follow.
Scent of Triumph is a fun story. Danielle is a fun character. She goes through all sorts of things: traumatic things and dangerous things and adventurous things and joyful things. She takes her life and makes something of it. She takes care of her family. She is resilient and strong and honest, and I like that. I also liked the way that it ended (even though I wouldn’t have minded a little bit more after that last scene). I recommend Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran for fans of historical fiction and fans of strong women.