Editorial note: I received a copy of Meet Me in Monaco in exchange for a review.
So I figured out my favorite kind of historical fiction book: when authors take a real-life figure and bring them back to life on the pages. However, the twist is that the famous person is not the main protagonist but rather a supporting character who is essential to the plot. It’s a similar style done well with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in The Editor by Steven Rowley and Queen Elizabeth II, or rather her dress, in The Gown by Jennifer Robson.
In Meet Me in Monaco, actress Grace Kelly serves as somewhat of a fairy godmother to both a young French perfumer and a British press photographer. Their lives are changed forever by their chance encounter with Grace Kelly who is about to become a princess.
When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique to fend off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love and tragedy.
Glitz, glamour and perfume
The story starts off during the Cannes Film Festival, which is the height of glitz and glamour for the film industry. Even if you’re not a big follower of Hollywood stories, you know about the Cannes Film Festival. The setting is fabulous! I felt as if I was transported back to 1950s France and I didn’t want to leave. So many vivid details that truly made me want to book a trip to the French Rivera ASAP.
But for Sophie, it’s all about how to keep her struggling perfume business alive. She took it over after her father lost his life during WWII. While she has a talent of putting together the most incredible scents, it’s hard to compete with the bigger players who cut corners to save money.
I really enjoyed learning more about the perfume business—something that I knew nothing about going into this novel. You can tell the authors put much research, time and thought into describing how Sophie makes her scents, the process and the business aspects of it all. I was so engaged with it—especially with Sophie’s passion for the business. She’s not one to settle; her dream is for the business to succeed.
I went through a phrase where I watched countless old Hollywood movies and Grace Kelly is one of my favorites. I especially enjoyed To Catch a Thief and Anastasia. She truly was a style icon and the definition of sophistication. So I was so compelled with how the authors wrote her—they went beyond public perception and really painted an image of an girl in her 20s who falls in love with a prince. I kept thinking about the similar parallel to Meghan Markle and Prince Henry, too.
The relationship between Grace and Sophie is really sweet and James also develops somewhat of a friendship with Grace as well. She really sets in the motion for Sophie and James to embark on a romance. However, it won’t be an easy ride for the two of them.
I so enjoyed this transporting novel and I have a feeling you all will too! For book clubs, check out my discussion questions here.