The Last Tiara by M.J. Rose is inspired by real missing Russian Crown Jewels. M.J. Rose explains in an article to The Adventurine how she stumbled upon an NPR article about the disappearance of the missing Russian Crown Jewels that to date, have not been found. Captivated by it and how such amazing items could simply disappear, she decides her new novel will tell the story of the lost tiara.
It is apparent throughout the book that M.J. Rose researched well the Romanov Jewels, the Russian Revolution, and especially the impact it had on the Russian people. Although she never goes into gruesome details, the poverty and difficulties the people experienced at the time are carefully and respectfully mentioned.
The book is told from two different perspectives, that of mother and daughter. The alternating chapters reveal Sofiya’s life in Russia from 1915 through 1922, and Isobelle’s in 1948 Manhattan, US.
First we have Isabelle, a young architect in post World War II Manhattan. While renovating her mother’s home she finds a hidden box, and inside the box, the remnants of what once was a beautiful tiara. She knows very little of her mother’s past during the fall of the Ramanovs in Russia or about the man her mother loved, her father. Curiosity and longing to feel closer to her now gone mother propels her forward into finding out more details about the tiara, and consequently, her mother and father. With the help of a young jeweler, who is conflicted by his loyalty to the Midas Society, an international organization whose mission is to return stolen items to their rightful owners, they start investigating.
The second perspective is that of her mother Sofiya. In 1925, young Sofiya was close friends with the daughter of the Tsar of Russia and together they tended to the wounded soldiers in the makeshift hospital within the grounds of the Alexander Palace in St. Petersburg. While there, Sofiya meets a wounded soldier and finds love. But it is not easy, it is not simple, and their journey is long, painful, and full of twists and turns.
The Last Tiara is indeed about a lost tiara. But it is also about love. It is historical fiction mixed with romance and mystery. The historical aspects are well researched, the mystery keeps you wanting to know more, and the romances are tender and passionate. The perfect weekend read!
Lisa Martin here at Inklings also loved the book. Here is what she had to say: “I finished this book and loved it. The mystery and intrigue kept me wanting to read just one more chapter. It is a great story for those who love historical fiction.”
Review by Anne Zastrow; contribution from Lisa Martin