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.
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As a fan of historic fiction, the era surrounding World War II has always fascinated: different but sill familiar, a clear villain to abhor, and people struggling to survive and thrive against desperate odds. Jan Moran uses the backdrop of war and change to bring us the story of Danielle Bretancourt and follows her journey.
Danielle is, at the outset, a Nose: one of those blessed with the ability to distinguish and remember distinct scents, highly prized by perfumers. Married to a successful businessman, pregnant with her second child, and her eldest son in the care of his grandmother, the story opens at sea, heading for England from the US in September 1939.
Europeans, at that time, were familiar with the rise of Hitler, and whether it was a wait and see attitude, or a sort of blithe disregard to the threat, the continent and the world are on the edge of massive change. With England’s declaration of War on Germany, the quiet passage across the Atlantic soon is disrupted by this war, and Danielle and her husband are sent to England.
The early chapters are portent of things to come: a story that is laced with dramatic events, some teetering on the edge of melodrama, the multiple subplots are simple backdrop to Danielle and the strength of character and determination she shows. Her character is, fortunately, believable and solidly drawn: she has a sense of who she is, where her strengths lie, and a wonderful ability to transform herself to fit the role most needed at the time Most emotionally present in her story is the frequent insets of Danielle’s devotion to her son, and the questions that surround his whereabouts, health and future (if any) as she had left him behind with his grandmother before war was declared.
A story that spans multiple years, it was a read that was intriguing, even as parts were overburdened with melodramatic reactions not necessary to the plot. The war years were horrid, and Danielle’s ability to morph and change to fit situations was beautifully done: intelligent and with an innate flair for fashion and her perfumer’s nose, she was able to redefine herself for the world’s eye repeatedly. Several twists and turns lead the reader on an emotional journey that keeps Danielle at the forefront: not just a witness to the changes in her life but an active participant and captain, steering her path in ways she feels will ensure her survival.
Danielle was a character that shone through the story, while some twists and moments were overworked to add dramatic effect, the strength of her character as written by Moran allowed readers to keep her at the forefront of the story. Indomitable yet facile in her ability to react and grab for every opportunity presented, Danielle’s story does stick with readers long after the final page is turned.
I received an eBook copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.