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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book Review & Giveaway: Scent of the Past by Erin Marie Bernardo

About the Book

Title: Scent of the Past
Author: Erin Marie Bernardo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Scent of the Past by Erin Marie Bernardo

A secret diary. A forgotten past. Another time.

When people think of time travel, they think of the clichéd manufactured kind. Of giant electronic machines with flashing lights and buttons calibrated to shoot you into the past with one press. But it doesn’t work that way. You need a reason, a connection, and—most important—a link. But you can’t choose when and why you go. That would be too easy, and we’d all be snapping our fingers in hopes of seeing lost treasures of yesteryear. It must choose you.

Close cousins Addison and Elissa live in present day New York City and lead somewhat ordinary lives. When uncertain circumstances surrounding a set of antique perfume bottles sends them back to eighteenth-century France, they must uncover the truth behind their travel.

Disaster strikes when Addison finds herself in a nearly identical situation to a mishap she experienced in the present—the witnessing of a murder and release of a secret. Only this time the truth could destroy the entire French monarchy. With Addison’s head on the line, the young women search for answers before Addison suffers her unlucky fate twice. It is only when they discover the haunting connections to life in the present, that they understand why they both were sent, and why a repeating past...may not always be such a bad thing.

Review of Scent of the Past
History repeats itself, right?   That’s what people say.  And as a history teacher, I have to admit that I at least like the thought that it just might.

Scent of the Past is a story of romance and mystery, about two very different young women, who find themselves transported through time.  Elissa is a simple but sharp-nosed girl who loves antiques and a quiet life.  Addison is wild and adventurous, and likes to live a bit too dangerously.  Addison sees something she is not meant to see, putting her life in peril.  A series of unhappy accidents leads to the breakage of a few priceless perfume bottles and the release of gorgeous scent (from the past, get it?).  This very scent triggers something almost supernatural, and the two women find themselves waking in pre-revolution France, in the court of Louis XV.  Elissa and Addison have to find out how they got there in order to discover how to get back—and Elissa also has to try and corral Addison’s tendency to make poor choices with the wrong men.  And in this case, the wrong man is the very king of France himself, Louis XV.  The two women not only have to find out how to get home, but are also thrust into the middle of an all too familiar royal paternity scandal that could lead to Addison’s demise.

The book has it all.  There’s time travel, and a story rich with delicious historical detail, giving the story the golden hue of French Baroque, and some of the pastel whimsy of a Rococo frolick.   I really want to praise how well this book wove history with narrative, so that the story did not read, at times, like a few paragraphs hastily rearranged from a Wikipedia page.  Author Erin Marie Bernardo did her research, and did a wonderful job creating a believable historical backdrop.  

There’s also romance.  Addison loves dangerous men, and Elissa holds her heart close and closed.  So it stands to reason that Elissa will find love, but then how will that love manage to persist even when spread out over the course of a few centuries?  And how will the concept of past lives and rebirth play to Elissa’s favor?  And will Addison’s wild side end up hurting her beyond repair?

I also have to say that, though the author might not have intended it, I found a bit of feminist hurrah in Scent of the Past.  The story eventually unfolds an impressive truth: that the Elissa and Addison of the past, the ones whose bodies the modern girls have been pushed into, were artisans and entrepreneurs.  Not too easy for women in 18th century France.  Not only that, but they were closely connected to the Queen, a woman whose only real desire is to protect her son.

I was really happy with this book as I read further in.  Scent of the Past is the sort of book that compels you to finish because there is just enough twist and turn to keep the story new and interesting.  Enough that, as a reader, you can’t predict the end of Elissa and Addison’s story.  Even better, you want to see the story through to the end to find out how everything plays out.  It was a wonderfully clever novel that balanced fiction and truth, thrill and romance, toward a delightful and graceful end.

Excerpt from Scent of the Past
Elissa opened one eye. Slowly. Someone was talking to her. Her head hurt, and the room was blurry, so she shut it. The talking didn’t stop. It was annoying, like a pesky mosquito buzzing around your ear right before you fall asleep. She pulled the covers over her head and groaned. She felt horrible.
The woman’s voice was persistent. She spoke quickly: “Bon matin, mademoiselle. Temps de se réveiller.”
Elissa rolled over, hoping to block out the noise and instantly realized she was naked. Oh, my gosh, I’m naked! she thought in fright. Instantly in tune with her surroundings she peeked out from underneath her blanket and surveyed the situation.
First observation. She was in a bed.
Second observation. Already noted, she was naked.
Third observation. This was not her room, and the woman standing at the foot of her bed was clearly not speaking English. Nor was she familiar in any way.
Elissa’s panic meter raised a few notches, and she grasped frantically at her neck. She relaxed. The ruby key was still there. Naked or not, the necklace never came off.
But where am I? she wondered. Whose bed is this? And why can’t I remember anything?
She noted the headache that was descending lower over her forehead. Her eyes made a quick sweep past the bed and around the room. Wherever she was, it certainly was magnificent. Shrouded in a curtain-lined canopy bed, she felt small among the grandness of the space. Although the walls were white, they were heavily decorated in crown molding panels, with intricate cut-out designs cresting the length of each wall. A large stone fireplace faced the bed, and an unlit crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, which was at least ten feet high or more. A mirror, larger than any table, reflected her baffled face as it sat in triumph above the mantel. Noticing an open door leading to another bedroom, she realized the place only got larger.
Elissa groaned. This must have cost me a fortune. Why didn’t I pick a Holiday Inn?—thinking she might have checked into a hotel. The thought quickly passed before she had a chance to wonder further.
  The woman, who had awakened her earlier, stood scowling at Elissa. She wore some sort of period-style dress and looked like an old-fashioned chambermaid, with a cap and oversized smock. Elissa listened again. It was French. The woman was speaking French! Quite pleased with herself, Elissa smiled at the short lady who was frowning and waving her finger with a tsk, tsk. She hurried around the room picking up this, rearranging that.
“Vous avez dormi. Levez-vous avant qu'ils ne commencent à répandre des rumeurs à votre sujet.”
Elissa listened.  Ahh, French. What a beautiful language, she thought, smiling to herself. She lay there in a sleepy lull, listening on and off while dozing—still feeling a bit drugged. But it didn’t take her too long to think a little deeper. She paused. Wait, why is this woman speaking French?
“My lady, you’ve overslept. Get up before they start spreading rumors about you.”
She gasped. And why do I understand it?

About the Author

Erin Marie Bernardo is an American writer of historical fiction. She has a degree in Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota, and is the author of the time-travel novel, Scent of the Past. A lover of historic places, Erin's novels connect the past with the present.

Erin is currently at work on her second novel, Blackbird's Bounty, set in the bayou of Louisiana – and is actively seeking a home for her children’s collection, Beautiful and Extraordinary Barnyard Stories, based on true events from on her farm. 

Erin lives in Tennessee, but has roots in both Minnesota and Washington State. She is married with two young children. 


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