I’m a big Fiona Davis fan. I really enjoy the historical topics she chooses. They’re generally about less known events or about historical places that she creates stories around. She always incorporates real characters into her books and includes great links for more information around the people and places she writes about. In The Magnolia Palace highlights the little known Frick family and The Frick Collection, which is located on Madison Avenue in New York City. This book focuses heavily on the family’s history but is also perfect for those interested in art, as art and artists play a pivotal role in the story.
Set in a dual timeline narrator, both in 1919 and 1966 both stories are set in and around the Frick Home, which is now The Frick Collection on Madison Avenue.
In 1919 Lillian, also known as the famous artist muse Angelica, is mourning the loste of her mother and the end of her modeling career. She stumbles upon a job in the Frick household as the personal secretary to Helen Frick. Helen Frick is fickle but the pay is good and both Helen and Lillian develop a routine. That is until Henry Clay Frick, Helen’s father dies and the Magnolia Diamond, goes missing all at the same time. To add to this, Helen’s brother, who does not get along with with Helen is convinced their father was murdered. When the accusations land on Lillian’s shoulders she does whatever it takes to figure out the culprit.
Almost 50 years later, aspiring model Veronica Weber is in New York shooting a spread for Vogue. When Veronica finds herself locked in the Frick household and stranded with the curator intern Joshua Lawrence, she struggles to decide how to provide for her sister and mum now that she’s most certainly ruined her modeling career. The two stumble upon an unsolved scavenger hunt with the hopes the clues lead toward the Magnolia diamond.
I really enjoyed that both our main characters were models during very different times. While Lillian’s modeling was more for artists and sculptors, Veronica’s was more in line with what we think of a model today. Reading the different way they were treated and seen by society during their eras was interesting to me. I also really enjoyed the way the two story lines converged.
Once again Davis has done an excellent job of depicting a New York City landmark. The depth of information around the famous art the house maintains is engaging and in no way dull. I found myself looking up some of the art as I was going through the story. As always, she adds just enough extra fiction into the story to keep it engaging and the mystery really helped to humanize the Frick characters. If you’re interested in art or just enjoy a good historical fiction that is not focused war, than you’ll enjoy this one.
The Magnolia Palace comes out January 25, 2022. Huge thank you to Dutton Books for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books.
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