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The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis
Historical fiction

The Magnolia Palace

by Fiona Davis

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Quick take

A rich tale suffused with intrigue, mystery, and betrayal that swirls around the history of the infamous Frick family.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Real-life-characters

    Real-life characters

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Nyc



Eight months since losing her mother in the Spanish flu outbreak of 1919, twenty-one-year-old Lillian Carter’s life has completely fallen apart. For the past six years, under the moniker Angelica, Lillian was one of the most sought-after artists’ models in New York City, with statues based on her figure gracing landmarks from the Plaza Hotel to the Brooklyn Bridge. But with her mother gone, a grieving Lillian is rudderless and desperate—the work has dried up and a looming scandal has left her entirely without a safe haven.

So when she stumbles upon an employment opportunity at the Frick mansion—a building that, ironically, bears her own visage—Lillian jumps at the chance. But the longer she works as a private secretary to the imperious and demanding Helen Frick, the daughter and heiress of industrialist and art patron Henry Clay Frick, the more deeply her life gets intertwined with that of the family—pulling her into a tangled web of romantic trysts, stolen jewels, and family drama that runs so deep, the stakes just may be life or death.

Nearly fifty years later, mod English model Veronica Weber has her own chance to make her career—and with it, earn the money she needs to support her family back home—within the walls of the former Frick residence, now converted into one of New York City’s most impressive museums. But when she—along with a charming intern/budding art curator named Joshua—is dismissed from the Vogue shoot taking place at the Frick Collection, she chances upon a series of hidden messages in the museum: messages that will lead her and Joshua on a hunt that could not only solve Veronica’s financial woes, but could finally reveal the truth behind a decades-old murder in the infamous Frick family.

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Get an early look from the first pages of The Magnolia Palace.
The Magnolia Palace

Chapter One

New York City, 1919

Lillian Carter stood half naked, one arm held up like a ballet dancer, the other hanging lightly down at her side, and calculated how long she could avoid paying rent while her landlord was in jail. If Mr. Watkins was released right away, she’d have to avoid him until she pulled together enough money to pay for the one-?­bedroom apartment she leased in the crumbling, five-?­story tenement building on Sixty-?­Fifth Street. Not an easy task when Mr. Watkins and his wife lived off the lobby on the first floor. On the bright side, the Watkins couple had shouted each other to pieces in a terrible fight earlier that morning, the screeching carrying on for a good forty-?­five minutes before silence finally reigned. Not long after, as she left for work, Lillian had passed the police as they tramped up the front steps. Maybe they’d keep the tiresome man for a few days this time, as a lesson. Not that she felt any sympathy for his bulldog of a wife. Mrs. Watkins had hated Lillian on sight, especially after she discovered what Lillian did for a living.

“Angelica, your drapery has fallen. Again.”

Mr. Rossi waited, holding a boxwood shaper in one hand and a rag in the other. Even after six years of posing, Lillian had never quite gotten used to being called by her stage name, chosen by her mother, Kitty, to protect her family’s reputation, which was a real laugh. As if they were the Astors or something. Lillian pulled the silk up over her shoulder so only one breast was exposed. The material was slippery and refused to stay in place.

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Why I love it

Who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt? I certainly do, and when perusing art museums, I can’t help but look for clues and hidden messages among the paintings: camouflaged words, disguised symbols, perhaps a face hidden amid brush strokes.

If you’re anything like me, you’re in luck. Fiona Davis’s latest, The Magnolia Palace, is a story rich in family drama, tangled romance, cryptic clues and long-buried secrets.

Set in an art museum, no less.

With her trademark flair for weaving together two tales separated by decades, Davis has penned a compelling mystery set at one of New York City’s most iconic landmarks, the lavish estate-turned-museum known as the Frick Collection. The Magnolia Palace brings to life the artists’ model posing at the front of the famous Frick Collection and imagines what might have transpired if this woman met the willful Helen Frick, daughter and heiress of the renowned Henry Clay Frick. The Frick mansion lends not only a powerful sense of place to The Magnolia Palace but provides a vivid backdrop to the turmoil that ensues when two iron-willed women find themselves at odds with one another.

The Magnolia Palace is sure to be loved by Fiona Davis’s devoted and new readers alike. Amateur sleuths will be delighted with the mystery at the heart of the story. And art lovers? Why, look no further.

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Member ratings (30,593)

  • Kathleen B.

    Killen, AL

    So beautifully written that I could feel myself walking the halls with the characters. I loved it so much that I actually spent hours researching the people and places referenced. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Mandi K.

    Essexville, MI

    Historical fiction isn’t normally my thing, but the synopsis of this one sold me with the mystery aspect to the story. I ended up really enjoying it and added 2 of the author’s books to my TBR! 4⭐️!

  • Allison C.

    Baltimore , MD

    I loved the intriguing, artistic setting of the Frick Mansion in dual timelines, and the progression of the characters’ lives sprinkled with mystery. A bit slow at times, but so glad I chose this! 4⭐️

  • Jessica J.

    Martinsburg , WV

    This book has everything! Murder! Mystery! Romance! Drama! It took a bit to differentiate between Lillian’s and Veronica’s timelines, but once I did, I devoured it over a long weekend. A new favorite!

  • Victoria K.

    Mundelein , IL

    I really enjoyed this dual timeline historical novel centering around the Frick mansion. It’s a light and engaging read that I couldn’t put down! The modeling aspect & the storyline about Polly shine!

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