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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, Multiple_Viewpoints

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Slow_Build

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Real_life_characters

    Real-life characters

  • Illustrated icon, NYC

    NYC

Synopsis

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.

Free sample

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.

Member ratings (30,942)

  • Alexandra P.

    Spokane, WA

    I LOVED this book!! Sat for 5 hours and read right through! I love the time jumps they were so compelling to me. I love the setting in both times and the artwork. Such a dynamic book!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Laurel B.

    Woodway, TX

    I really enjoyed this one! The mystery was intriguing, I loved the dual timelines, the social pushback, the hint of romance. I love this type of historical fiction. Definitely recommend it! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • 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. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Lauren Y.

    Loveland, OH

    They were right about the “slow build”…it took me about 100 pages to really get hooked - partly because there’s just a lot of details. BUT once I got into it I couldn’t put it down! Def recommend :)

  • Brittney S.

    Lisbon, OH

    This story was a lot better than I expected. I got lost in the tale and couldn’t stop reading. I was more invested in Lilly’s story but it’s woven together really well. Also love that it’s based irl!

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Historical fiction
View all
Lady Tan’s Circle of Women
The Women
The Lion Women of Tehran
Shelterwood
All We Were Promised
Spitting Gold
The Mayor of Maxwell Street
The Great Divide
The Storm We Made
The Disappearance of Astrid Bricard
Lessons in Chemistry
The Frozen River
What We Kept to Ourselves
The River We Remember
Take My Hand
The Last Russian Doll
The First Ladies
The House Is On Fire
River Sing Me Home
The People We Keep
The Attic Child
Malibu Rising
The Book of Longings
Hester
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
The Nightingale
Daisy Jones & The Six
The Lincoln Highway
The Secret Book of Flora Lea
Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?
The Circus Train
Peach Blossom Spring
Hang the Moon
Booth
The Good Left Undone
Sisters in Arms
The Perishing
The Postmistress of Paris
The Family
Things We Lost to the Water
The Spectacular
Still Life
Send for Me
The Magnolia Palace
The Bookbinder
China Room
This Tender Land
Atomic Love
All the Light We Cannot See
The Vanishing Half
Outlawed
The Four Winds
Independence
The Fountains of Silence
Libertie
Queen of Thieves
The Great Believers
The Clockmaker's Daughter
A Gentleman in Moscow
The Great Alone
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
The Paris Hours
The Heart's Invisible Furies
Rules of Civility
Circling the Sun
The Moor's Account
Jacqueline in Paris
Don't Cry for Me
The Christie Affair
Bloomsbury Girls
The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle
Bronze Drum