Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Review The Last Tiara Interview with author M.J. Rose

 Today on the blog I'm reviewing The Last Tiara by one of my most favorite authors, M.J. Rose and as a special treat M.J. sat down and chatted all about her new book. I know if you don't have it on your list after learning all about it you will.

ISBN-13: 978-1952457098
Publisher: Blue Box Press
Release Date: 02-02-2021
Length: 437pp
Source: Netgalley/Publisher for review
Buy It: Amazon/B&N/IndieBound


A provocative and moving story of a young female architect in post-World War II Manhattan who stumbles upon a hidden treasure and begins a journey to discovering her mother's life during the fall of the Romanovs.

Sophia Moon had always been reticent about her life in Russia and when she dies, suspiciously, on a wintry New York evening, Isobelle despairs that her mother's secrets have died with her. But while renovating the apartment they shared, Isobelle discovers something among her mother's effects — a stunning silver tiara, stripped of its jewels.

Isobelle's research into the tiara's provenance draws her closer to her mother's past — including the story of what became of her father back in Russia, a man she has never known. The facts elude her until she meets a young jeweler who wants to help her but is conflicted by his loyalty to the Midas Society, a covert international organization whose mission is to return lost and stolen antiques, jewels, and artwork to their original owners.

Told in alternating points of view, the stories of the two young women unfurl as each struggles to find their way during two separate wars. In 1915, young Sofiya Petrovitch, favorite of the royal household and best friend of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, tends to wounded soldiers in a makeshift hospital within the grounds of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and finds the love of her life. In 1948 New York, Isobelle Moon works to break through the rampant sexism of the age as one of very few women working in a male-dominated profession and discovers far more about love and family than she ever hoped for.

In the two narratives, the secrets of Sofiya's early life are revealed incrementally, even as Isobelle herself works to solve the mystery of the historic Romanov tiara (which is based on an actual Romanov artifact that is, to this day, still missing) and how it is that her mother came to possess it. The two strands play off each other in finely-tuned counterpoint, building to a series of surprising and deeply satisfying revelations.

Read an excerpt:


"Isobelle, listen," she whispers. "It's time. I need to tell you about my last evening on this Earth and the days and nights leading up to it. Honor must be paid. Justice must be done."

She watches her daughter shift in her sleep, not knowing if she can hear her, but Sophia continues, nonetheless.

"I was standing on the corner when I saw him. Was it possible it really was him? With the snow falling so heavily, I couldn't be sure. Then he hunched up his shoulders the way I remembered, and I was certain. He always stood as if he was uncomfortable.

"I shivered. From the cold. Or the memory. Or perhaps both. Just like that, while standing on the corner of Madison Avenue, I was suddenly catapulted back in time to St. Petersburg more than twenty-five years before, to the last time I saw him. Over two decades had passed. Lifetimes lived. Loves lost. Treachery and death stood between us. And there he was.

"After all that I had endured and dealt with and survived, how was it possible that we were one crosswalk away from each other? And in the snow? As if nature herself was playing a game with us."

For this last year, Sophia has missed touching her daughter's hair, kissing her cheek. Although she has no corporeal presence, she reaches out and tries to smooth down Isobelle's ebony waves. Nothing happens. She tries harder. A single curl settles. Sophia sighs, feeling a deep satisfaction, and continues.

"He didn't see me. Even though he stood right across from our house. Even though he was staring at our building. Even though he had to be headed my way, looking for me. I've told you so many times, I never believed in coincidences. After all those years, he could not just happen to be there.

"I stepped off the curb to cross to him, so preoccupied with keeping my eyes on him that I didn't see the car. Or because of the swirling snow, the car didn't see me. I heard a screech. I felt a sudden jolt. Then pain. Everything was suddenly quiet. Like those winter nights in Russia when it seemed the snow muffled every sound in the whole world, and all I could hear was my own breath...and your father's.

"As I lay there on the pavement, I realized with an urgency as terrible as the pain, that I should have told you our story long before. Instead of waiting for a time when I felt strong enough to face those memories. I shouldn't have kept them buried in that secret city deep inside of me. But sharing them would have meant suffering it all over again. The longing. The guilt. And greatest of all, the loss.

"So, I left you with a mystery. And I fear, not enough clues to help you solve it. My story is one of Mother Russia and its demise. Of the war and the tsar and tsarina and their daughters and their fortunes. Of the holy men and the psychics and the Bolsheviks and their revolution that came and wiped out everything we knew. Of starving and stealing. Of pity, pathos, and desperation. The story of your heritage and your influences — all the things I could never bring myself to share with you before because it is such a tale of sorrow. And my darling Isobelle, I wanted you to have only sunshine and joy. And because, even in New York, far away from the onion domes and frozen Neva and the terror, here in this land of freedom and hope, my fear controlled me.

"I wish you could have known your father. You are so like him. Your aristocratic features, your height, your jet-black hair, and storm cloud gray eyes. They all come from him. Even without his influence, you've inherited so much from him — your curiosity, your willingness to meet a challenge head on. The way you remain determined despite your fears, even to the point of being stubborn. Most of all, I see him in the way you believe there is always a solution. Nothing ever broke your father, and I hope nothing will ever break you.

"Isobelle, can you hear any of this? It's important. It's time. You need to know that once your father risked his life to provide an insurance policy to protect us. But instead left us with a curse responsible for our separation and death. First his. Then mine. And now, you are about to discover it, and you will have to deal with it. What will you think, you curious darling? You determined soul.

"I should have answered your questions when you asked them instead of brushing them off with a wave of my hand and a curt caution that we can never go back, so why do you need to know?

"I was so wrong, my darling Isobelle. You did need to know. And now, you need to find out why this thing mattered so much. Why so many years later, the truth about it is worth hunting down. Why your father begged me to never let it leave my possession. Why something that was once thought to be so valuable proved to be nothing but glass, so easily broken. Like our dreams."

Interview with M.J. Rose:

MJ I absolutely LOVED The Last Tiara, I’m not surprised because I love your writing. The one thing I can always count on in your historical novels is the historical accuracy.
Why is this historical attention to detail so important to you?

I think for a reason that will surprise people. It’s so very difficult to re-create a world that I can’t visit. I find if I get ultra-specific with the historical details, I can put myself into the scene and see it and feel it and smell and taste it and be able to then write about it in a more believable way. 

When and how did your love of history start?

I didn’t fall in love with history in the abstract but rather with history as it is reflected in art and books. I grew up a couple of blocks away from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and my mother took me there instead of the playground. I became obsessed with the ancient Egyptian wing, the impressionistic paintings, and the actual rooms full of furnishings taken out of houses dating back to 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The books that appealed to me also told of the past. The Secret Garden and Little Women are still two of my favorites.  I have always loved travelling back In time through museum doors or covers of a book and I love doing it in my own books.

When starting research on this book did you learn anything that really surprised or shocked you that you had no idea had happened?

I knew almost nothing about the Manhattan Project and the Secret Cities our government built, almost overnight, so scientists and their families could live in a protected and safe environment while they helped create the Atomic bomb. Also the depth of the poverty endured by Russian citizens after the Bolshevik revolution. And lastly, how accessible the Romanov sisters were  — working as regular nurses in the hospital during that same war.

When you pick your stories what comes first the characters or the settings or do they happen simultaneously?

The setting or object almost usually comes first. The characters are really hard for me to create and take a very long time. 

I also really enjoy your references to past novels in your current novel. In this novel I noted several references notably Tiffany and L’Etoile perfumes.
Did this habit start accidentally or was it planned?

Early on in my career I read about literary Easter Eggs. An object, action, piece of dialogue or character which might be hidden to most readers, but which gives those in the know a little pleasure because they get the reference. I decided that I wanted to do that and have been doing it all along. Thank you for noticing. 

I want to talk about the women in your novel, Sophia/Sofiya and Isobelle, as I mentioned in my review they are both strong women, they have to be to survive the things they have and yet they’re also vulnerable.
Some people think it makes them weak to give them vulnerabilities I think it makes them more relatable.
What do you think and why do you expose them like this?

I believe that one of the reasons readers keep reading a novel is that care about the characters and need to know what happens to them. Worry about what is going to happen to them. I don’t think you can care about someone if don’t know what makes them vulnerable.

I loved Isobelle and Jules’ love story both had been betrayed in the past by a partner and I liked the fact that it was Jules who made the most effort to be understanding of Isobelle’s wounds.
Was this intentional on your part or was it just who Jules and Isobelle are?

It was just how they developed. How characters come to be is a mystery to me. I can’t see them when I start a book and just let my unconscious talk for them. After a first draft I read the book several times to find the clues the characters have given me about how they are and then in the next draft I can develop those aspects of their personality – their history.

The mystery of the tiara was quite the eye-opener.
Was this tiara or diadem a real royal jewel or was it made up?

Oh very much a real tiara that belonged to the Russian Imperial family. The image on the cover is based on this — the only known photograph of it. It has been missing for 100 years

Here is the story of how I learned about it.


Here is a video included in the above link


Did a lot of the actual royal jewels end the way you describe in the book as being sold to support the new regime?

Yes, the Bolsheviks sold off many of the crown jewels in order to buy tractors and farm equipment of all things. Diamonds for threshers.

I always love your endings there’s just enough closure to satisfy those of us who need the bow tied at the end of a read and yet there’s always still a bit of mystery left for those of us who like to imagine what ifs.
How often do you find yourself changing your endings?

There are two things I know about a book when I start – the beginning and the end. The book is the journey to get there. I have to know the ending before I start writing the book or I feel lost. I often do change aspects of it when I get to it finally but it mostly stays the same. 

MJ thanks for taking the time to chat with me about The Last Tiara, good luck with the book.
In this time of Covid do you have any virtual events that fans could attend?

We have several coming up

Feb 25 @ 7pm. 


 –March 23 at 7PM   https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcufu2srTMuHtXaPJBJN_MxWXu9QiChY1t7

My Review of The Last Tiara:

The Last Tiara
M.J. Rose


Rose’s (Cartier’s Hope) latest stand-a-lone is a fantastic tale about mothers, daughters, secrets and what those secrets cost when tragedy strikes.  It’s a mystery and a love story told in two timelines about Sophia/Sofiya and Isobelle Moon, two unforgettable, strong, talented, independent yet imperfect and vulnerable women.

With a historian’s eye and a master storyteller’s voice M.J. will take readers on an incredible journey from the war-torn streets and unrest of post WWI Russia and the story of Sophia/Sofiya, an art restorer trained at the Hermitage from a privileged upper middle-class family with ties to the Tzar’s family. Then to post WWII New York after Sophia’s tragic and sudden death we’ll follow Isobelle, Sophia’s daughter an architect with a leading NY firm who during the war helped build the secret city of Oak Ridge, TN and now after her mother’s death is finding out that her mother who never spoke of her life in Russia had secrets that Isobelle is left to unravel, especially when she discovers hidden in her mother’s bedroom the skeleton of a tiara.

With fanatical and fantastical historical attention to detail readers will find themselves flies on a wall in both timelines as this master storyteller unravels this story within a story about how a Russian Royal headpiece ends up hidden behind wallpaper in a NY apartment, the lengths Sophia went to get it safely to America and the lengths Isobelle is willing to go to find the truth about it.

Along the way thanks to period perfect dialogue, very visual settings and a fluent prose like narrative the audience will learn about the lives of both women, the men they loved, the mistakes they made and what those mistakes cost them.

Fans of historical fiction with a focus on accuracy, of this author, Lauren Willig and Kristin Hannah will find this soon to be bestseller impossible to put down.


 About the author:

M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother's favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice... Books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.
Rose is a New York Times, Wall St. Journal and USAToday bestseller as well as an international best seller. She has published more than nineteen novels and 3 books on marketing. She has been published in more than 30 countries and sold over 1.5 million books. The Fox TV show, Past Lives, was based on Rose’s novel, The Reincarnationist.
Rose is a founding member of International Thriller Writers, founder of the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz, and the co-founder, with Liz Berry of 1001DarkNights.com.
In 1998, her first novel Lip Service was the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.
Rose has been profiled in Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, Business 2.0, Working Woman, Newsweek, and New York Magazine. She has appeared on The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USAToday, Stern, L'Official, Poets and Writers, and Publishers Weekly.

Rose graduated from Syracuse University and spent the '80s in advertising. She was the Creative Director of Rosenfeld Sirowitz and Lawson and she has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.