Friday Book Whimsy: The Magnolia Palace

Author Fiona Davis has made her writing career by setting her stories in famous New York City landmarks. From The Dakota — famous apartment coop where John Lennon lived and was gunned down — to the New York City Library — with its famous lions and which, unbeknownst to me, has a live-in apartment within, Davis makes the iconic landmarks come alive.

The Magnolia Palace takes place in one of NYC’s renown mansions — the Frick mansion, home to steel magnate Henry Clay Frick. The millionaire was a famed patron of the arts, and his home eventually became The Frick Museum, which is home to many well-known pieces of art.

Lillian Carter had been the model for some of NYC’s most famous statues. Upon the death of her mother, along with her becoming older and less interesting for artists, she is unemployed. She stumbles into a job working as the personal assistant for Helen Clay Frick, the daughter of Henry. Helen is irascible and independent, but endlessly tries to win the love of her father. Unfortunately, her sister died at a very young age, and her parents spend too much time mourning her loss. Helen can’t seem to measure up.

Though Lillian hadn’t expected to have such a job, she basically becomes not only Helen’s assistant, but an expert on art too. She guides Helen through her difficult times.

Meanwhile, some 40 years later, model Veronica Weber, like Helen, is having trouble finding success as a model. One night she gets locked into the Frick Museum, which is without electricity because of a blizzard, and meets up with a young art expert, Joshua. Together, they solve several mysteries.

All of Davis’ novels take place in famous NYC buildings, but most don’t use real-life characters. While the author tells the reader up front that the story is a novel and she makes up story lines that aren’t based on fact, the novel is lively and contains many truths.

I hope that the author doesn’t run out of famous buildings to use as settings in many more books. Let’s see, the Empire State Building, Ellis Island, the Chrysler Building……

Here is a link to the book.