Editorial Note – I was given a copy of Tiffany Blues by M. J. Rose in return for a review.
Tiffany Blues by M.J. Rose is a well-written historical fiction novel full of romance and mystery.
I really enjoyed how the author crafted this story, starting first with the author’s note at the beginning of the novel. Typically those sections, especially in historical fiction, appear at the end of the book. But starting at the beginning helps put into context the real-life inspiration before you read it without spoiling any aspect of the story.
The story’s main location is at Louis Comfort Tiffany’s (the famed jeweler) Laurelton Hall on Long Island’s Gold Coast. The eighty-four room estate was housed on 580 acres in Laurel Hollow and Tiffany was focused on incorporating stained-glass windows and filling the rooms with Japanese, Native American and Indian objects he had collected. In 1918, Tiffany started the the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation at Laurelton in order to aid artists, which provides the real life inspiration for Tiffany Blues.
This novel is set in 1924 and twenty‑four‑year‑old Jenny Bell is one of a dozen burgeoning artists invited to Louis Comfort Tiffany’s prestigious artists’ colony. While she continues to try and move forward with her life, Jenny’s past has followed her to Long Island. Images of her beloved mother, her hard-hearted stepfather, waterfalls, and murder, and the dank hallways of Canada’s notorious Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women overwhelm Jenny’s thoughts, even as she is inextricably drawn to Oliver, Tiffany’s charismatic grandson. Supported by her closest friend Minx Deering, a seemingly carefree socialite yet dedicated sculptor, and Oliver, Jenny pushes her demons aside. Between stolen kisses and stolen jewels, the champagne flows and the jazz plays on until one moonless night when Jenny’s past and present are thrown together in a desperate moment, that will threaten her promising future, her love, her friendships, and her very life.
One of the big standouts of this novel is the setting: it’s so vivid— from the wonders inside and outside of Laurelton Hall to the Jazz Age era and the speakeasies to the clothing and decor—you’ll feel transported back in time. I have read quite a bit of historical fiction in the past year and sometimes the characters sound a bit too modern, which I’m sure it can be difficult to maintain the word choices used in past eras. However, with Tiffany Blues, I was constantly struck by how each character sounded like they should in the ’20s.
There are vibrant details about the characters pursuing beauty in art. While Jenny is very talented, her work is devoid of color—something she hasn’t been able to incorporate after she suffered multiple tragedies. Both Tiffany and, especially his grandson Oliver, try to encourage Jenny to see more than just black, white and gray but the secret she’s hiding continues to mute her color scheme.
Some romance, some mystery
What happened in Jenny’s past is slowly unveiled for the reader and it’s quite heartbreaking. While sometimes we hope the past will stay there, it can have a way of sneaking back into the present, which is the case for her. The key is if she’s able to overcome and accept it so she can move on with her life.
Jenny is one of the characters you’ll root for the entire time and her character arc is compelling.