“The Last Tiara” by M.J. Rose is inspired by real missing Russian crown jewels. She explains in an article in The Adventurine, an online fine jewelry magazine, how she stumbled upon an NPR article about the disappearance of the jewels, which to date have not been found. Captivated by it and how such amazing items could simply disappear, she decided her new novel would tell the story of the lost tiara.
It is apparent throughout “The Last Tiara” that M.J. Rose researched well the Romanov jewels, and the Russian Revolution, especially the impact it had on the Russian people. Although she never goes into gruesome detail, the poverty and difficulties the people experienced at the time are carefully and respectfully mentioned.
The book is told from two different perspectives, that of mother and daughter. The alternating chapters reveal Sofiya’s life in Russia from 1915 through 1922, and Isabelle’s in 1948 Manhattan.
Isabelle is a young architect in post-World War II Manhattan. While renovating her mother’s home she finds a hidden box and, inside the box, the remnants of what once was a beautiful tiara. She knows very little of her mother’s past during the fall of the Ramanovs in Russia or about the man her mother loved, her father. Curiosity and longing to feel closer to her now-gone mother propel her forward into finding out more details about the tiara, and consequently her mother and father. With the help of a young jeweler, who is conflicted by his loyalty to the Midas Society, an international organization whose mission is to return stolen items to their rightful owners, they start investigating.
The second perspective is that of her mother, Sofiya. In 1925, young Sofiya was close friends with the daughter of the czar of Russia; together they tended to the wounded soldiers in the makeshift hospital within the grounds of Alexander Palace in St. Petersburg. While there, Sofiya meets a wounded soldier and finds love. But it is not easy, it is not simple, and their journey is long, painful and full of twists and turns.
“The Last Tiara” is indeed about a lost tiara. But it is also about love. It is historical fiction mixed with romance and mystery. The historical aspects are well researched, the mystery keeps you wanting to know more, and the romances are tender and passionate. It’s a perfect weekend read.
Lisa Martin here at Inklings also loved the book. Here is what she had to say: “I finished this book and loved it. The mystery and intrigue kept me wanting to read just one more chapter. It is a great story for those who love historical fiction.”
• “The Last Tiara” by M.J. Rose was released by Blue Box Press in September. It retails for $16.99.
• Anne Zastrow works for Inklings Bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers review books in Thursday’s SCENE every week.