I’ll never forget the first time I met Grace Kelly.
I was in the fourth grade and had to read about a historical figure for school. My mother brought me to our local public library—my favorite place—and steered me towards the biography aisle of the children’s section. (The fact that this shelf existed was eye-opening; at that age, I was all about Judy Blume, The Baby-sitters’ Club, and Little Women.) We browsed through the names together, and when my mother explained that Grace Kelly was a movie star who then became a princess, my search came to a screeching halt.
I can still remember sitting in the arm chair of my living room at nine years old, getting swept away by the pared-down story of the girl from Philadelphia who won an Oscar and married a prince. I guess you could say that I became enamored of Princess Grace that very day and never stopped. As I grew into an adult, I watched all of her movies over and over again, and devoured multiple biographies about the big-hearted princess. When I heard that Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb—two of my go-to authors—were writing a novel set against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s romance and wedding to Prince Rainier, I was beyond thrilled. I knew that my beloved heroine was in exceptional hands, and after reading Meet Me in Monaco, I can tell you that it exceeded my already high expectations.
Meet Me in Monaco kicks off in 1955 in Cannes, when struggling perfumer Sophie Duval allows Grace Kelly, in town for the celebrated film festival, to hide from the paparazzi in her shop. Two fateful events happen that day that change the trajectory of Sophie’s life: she and Grace form an unexpected friendship, and she meets charming, down-on-his-luck British photographer James Henderson. With Grace’s courtship and marriage to Rainier woven throughout, the novel chronicles Sophie’s determination to see her business succeed, James’s struggle to find his way personally and professionally, and the irrefutable—yet immensely complicated—feelings Sophie and James have for one another. Meet Me in Monaco beautifully explores what it takes to be dedicated to a dream, what it means to make sacrifices for love, and the painstaking truth that sometimes, the two go hand-in-hand.
It’s only fitting that Meet Me in Monaco is threaded with the Golden Age of Hollywood. It reads like a classic black and white movie, and I loved it from the opening reel to the closing credits. While I was drawn to the book because of my fascination with Princess Grace (and my adoration of these authors), Sophie and James’s love story stands fully on its own. Their dual narration hooked me from the get-go, and I found myself wholeheartedly rooting for them—both as individuals and as a couple. Just as the characters touched my heart, the vivid descriptions in the novel consumed my senses. I could taste the delicious French food, see and hear the excitement in Cannes, New York, London, and Monaco, and mostly, I could smell the fragrant concoctions in Sophie’s parfumerie. (I love a good scent. I named this blog Book Perfume, after all.)
Lastly, but absolument not least, I have to talk for a minute about Princess Grace of Monaco. Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb do an outstanding job of capturing the true essence of what made her so universally adored. She was glamorous, while still adorable; an All-American girl who exuded an air of royalty long before she met Prince Rainier. The authors pay beautiful homage to her, not as a legend or an icon, but as a real, complicated woman with a strong mind and a full heart–a woman under the crushing weight of the entire world’s scrutiny, who stepped away from her career at its pinnacle in exchange for her marriage. She’s brought to life on these pages with care and respect, and after finishing this book, I wanted nothing more than to go back and watch all of her movies over again. I only wish she’d been able to make more.
If you’re a fan of Grace Kelly or Old Hollywood, make no mistake: you must read this book. Even if you don’t care a lick about the movies, you’ll still want to pick up this wonderful tale of friendship, sacrifice, and love. Who knows? You may even find yourself with a strong desire for a Grace Kelly movie marathon. If that’s the case, let me know! I won’t invite myself over*, but I will be happy to give you some recommendations.
*unless you really want me to. I do make a mean cookie and a good cup of tea.
Meet Me in Monaco releases on July 23! Pre-order it on IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or pick it up at your favorite bookseller. For more on Heather Webb, visit heatherwebbauthor.com and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. For more on Hazel Gaynor, visit http://www.hazelgaynor.com and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. These authors writer incredible books both separately and together (check out Last Christmas in Paris if you haven’t already!).