- Book: Meet Me in Monaco
- Location: French Riviera (Cote d'Azur)
- Author: Hazel Gaynor, Heather Webb
A perfume has notes: The Head Notes, The Heart Notes and The Base Notes. The novel is accordingly divided into three sections of varying length.
A future princess, love, romance and perfume, fashion and glamour all make for a heady confection, set against the vibrant backdrop of the Côte d’Azur in the 1950s. A formula that cannot but succeed.
It is the Cannes Film Festival, 1955, and actress Grace Kelly is in attendance, garnering the focus of attention wherever she goes. James is a British photographer shadowing this particular star as she flits around the glamorous and star-studded venues. He loses her, however, as she slips into the Duval perfume shop. It’s an auspicious hideaway as it is here that James encounters Sophie, head of the Duval dynasty of perfumiers. Despite the rather initial awkward encounter (Grace Kelly is now hiding in the back), James and Sophie both sense a spark (although the latter is in denial). But any romantic inclinations are dampened because James has ties (a daughter) back in London and Sophie is linked to wealthy businessman and cad, Lucien.
Meanwhile Grace, who inadvertently brought them together, is taking the first steps in her burgeoning relationship with Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi of Monaco (in other words His Serene Highness Prince Rainier III of Monaco. But don’t worry, when they marry she acquires 140 titles herself!). The courtship progresses and culminates in their engagement. Her father pays for an ocean liner to transport her across the Atlantic in readiness for the upcoming wedding (plus her family members and entourage and members of the press). In Monaco the ship is to be greeted by Aristotle Onassis’s private jet dropping a cascade of red and white carnations. It is truly eye popping the amount of money spent on nuptials and celebrations in royal circles in those days – and presumably the authors have researched the era and found this to be true.
Sophie Duval, after her brief, serendipitous encounter with Grace Kelly finds herself in the position of creating her wedding perfume. What an incredibly honour for her!
Press harassment – which culminated in the death of Diana, Princes of Wales several decades later – is already becoming an issue. The pursuit of the single photo that will make a financial killing, the one that will hit the headlines, is beginning to take precedence over human life…..
The path that Sophie and James embark upon is not without difficulty. Sophie is on a financial tightrope and on the point of having to sell assets. James has to return to England for an emergency. We know how the Grimaldi union worked out but we don’t know how the romantic match between Sophie and James will pan out…..
As the beautiful cover indicates, this is a novel about romance and the 1950s, glamour and the South of France. An enjoyable and nostalgic read.