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As World War I rages and the Romanov dynasty reaches its sudden, brutal end, a young jewelry maker discovers love, passion, and her own healing powers in this rich and romantic ghost story, the perfect follow-up to M.J. Rose’s “brilliantly crafted” (Providence Journal) novel The Witch of Painted Sorrows.
Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone.
So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans.
But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her.
So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave, The Secret Language of Stones is yet another “spellbindingly haunting” (Suspense magazine), “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author M. J. Rose grew up in New York City exploring the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum and the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park. She is the author of more than a dozen novels, a founding board member of International Thriller Writers, and the founder of the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz.com. She lives in Connecticut. Visit her online at MJRose.com.
Read an Excerpt
The Secret Language of Stones
JULY 19, 1918
“Are you Opaline?” the woman asked before she even stepped all the way into the workshop. From the anxious and distraught tone of her voice, I guessed she hadn’t come to talk about commissioning a bracelet for her aunt or having her daughter’s pearls restrung.
Though not a soldier, this woman was one of the Great War’s wounded, here to engage in the dark arts in the hopes of finding solace. Was it her son or her brother, husband, or lover’s fate that drove her to seek me out?
France had lost more than one million men, and there were battles yet to be fought. We’d suffered the second largest loss of any country in any war in history. No one in Paris remained untouched by tragedy.
What a terrible four years we’d endured. The Germans had placed La Grosse Bertha, a huge cannon, on the border between Picardy and Champagne. More powerful than any weapon ever built, she proved able to send shells 120 kilometers and reach us in Paris.
Since the war began, Bertha had shot more than 325 shells into our city. By the summer of 1918, two hundred civilians had died, and almost a thousand more were hurt. We lived in a state of anticipation and readiness. We were on the front too, as much at risk as our soldiers.
The last four months had been devastating. On March 11, the Vincennes Cemetery in the eastern inner suburbs was hit and hundreds of families lost their dead all over again when marble tombs and granite gravestones shattered. Bombs continued falling into the night. Buildings all over the city were demolished; craters appeared in the streets.
Three weeks later, more devastation. The worst Paris had suffered yet. On Good Friday, during a mass at the Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais Church, a shell hit and the whole roof collapsed on the congregation. Eighty-eight people were killed; another sixty-eight were wounded. And all over Paris many, many more suffered psychological damage. We became more worried, ever more afraid. What was next? When would it happen? We couldn’t know. All we could do was wait.
In April there were more shellings. And again in May. One hit a hotel in the 13th arrondissement, and because Bertha’s visits were silent, without warning, sleeping guests were killed in their beds.
By the middle of July, there was still no end in sight.
That warm afternoon, while the rain drizzled down, I steeled myself for the expression of grief to match what I’d heard in the customer’s voice. I shut off my soldering machine and put my work aside before I looked up.
Turning soldiers’ wristwatches into trench watches is how I have been contributing to the war effort since arriving in Paris three years ago. History repeats itself, they say, and in my case it’s true. In 1894, my mother ran away from her first husband in New York City and came to Paris. And twenty-one years later, I ran away from my mother in Cannes and came to Paris.
In trying to protect me from the encroaching war and to distract me from the malaise I’d been suffering since my closest friend had been killed, my parents decided to send me to America. No amount of protest, tantrums, bargaining, or begging would change their minds. They were shipping me off to live with family in Boston and to study at Radcliffe, where my uncle taught history.
At ten AM on Wednesday, February 11, 1915 my parents and I arrived at the dock in Cherbourg. French ocean liners had all been acquisitioned for the war, so I was booked on the USMS New York to travel across the sea. A frenetic scene greeted me. Most of the travelers were leaving France out of fear, and the atmosphere was thick with sadness and worry. Faces were drawn, eyes red with crying, as we prepared to board the big hulking ship waiting to transport us away from the terrible war that claimed more and more lives every day.
While my father arranged for a porter to carry my trunk, my mother handed me a last-minute gift, a book from the feel of it, then took me in her arms to kiss me good-bye. I breathed in her familiar scent, knowing it might be a long time until I smelled that particular mixture of L’Etoile’s Rouge perfume and the Roger et Gallet poudre de riz she always used to dust her face and décolletage. As she held me and pressed her crimson-stained lips to my cheek, I reached up behind her and carefully unhooked one of the half dozen ropes of cabochon ruby beads slung around her neck.
I let the necklace slip inside my glove, the stones warm as they slid down and settled into my cupped palm.
My mother often told me the story about how, in Paris in 1894, soon after she’d arrived and they’d met, my father helped her secretly pawn some of her grandmother’s treasures to buy art supplies so she could attend École des Beaux-Arts.
Knowing I too might need extra money, I decided to avail myself of some insurance. My mother owned so many strands of those blood-red beads, certainly my transgression would go unnoticed for a long time.
Disentangling herself, my mother dabbed at her eyes with a black handkerchief trimmed in red lace. Like the rubies she always wore, her handkerchiefs were one of her trademarks. Her many eccentricities exacerbated the legends swirling around “La Belle Lune,” as the press called her.
“Mon chou, I will miss you. Write often and don’t get into trouble. It’s one thing to break my rules, but listen to your aunt Laura. All right?”
When my father’s turn came, he took me in his arms and exacted another kind of promise. “You will stay safe, yes?” He let go, but only for a moment before pulling me back to plant another kiss on the top of my head and add a coda to his good-bye. “Stay safe,” he repeated, “and please, forgive yourself for what happened with Timur. You couldn’t know what the future would bring. Enjoy your adventure, chérie.”
I nodded as tears tickled my eyes. Always sensitive to me, my father knew how much my guilt weighed on me. My charming and handsome papa always found just the right words to say to me to make me feel special. I didn’t care that I was about to deceive my mother, but I hated that I was going to disappoint my father.
During the winters of 1913 and 1914, my parents’ friends’ son Timur Orloff lived with us in Cannes. He ran a small boutique inside the Carlton Hotel, where, in high season, the hotel rented out space to a select few high-end retailers in order to cater to the celebrities, royalty, and nobility who flocked to the Riviera.
Our families first met when Anna Orloff bought one of my mother’s paintings, and Monsieur Orloff hired my father to design his jewelry store in Paris. A friendship developed that eventually led to my parents offering to house Timur. We quickly became the best of friends, sharing a passion for art and a love of design.
Creating jewelry had been my obsession ever since I’d found my first piece of emerald sea glass at the beach and tried to use string and glue to fashion it into a ring. My father declared jewelry design the perfect profession for the child of a painter and an architect—an ideal way to marry the sense of color and light I’d inherited from my mother and the ability to visualize and design in three dimensions that I’d inherited from him.
My mother was disappointed I wasn’t following in her footsteps and studying painting but agreed jewelry design offered a fine alternative. I knew my choice appealed to the rebel in her. The field hadn’t yet welcomed women, and my mother, who had broken down quite a few barriers as a female artist and eschewed convention as much as plain white handkerchiefs, was pleased that, like her, I would be challenging the status quo.
When I’d graduated lycée, I convinced my parents to let me apprentice with a local jeweler, and Timur often stopped by Roucher’s shop at the end of the day to collect me and walk me home.
Given our ages, his twenty to my seventeen, it wasn’t surprising our closeness turned physical, and we spent many hours hiding in the shadows of the rocks on the beach as twilight deepened, kissing and exploring each other’s body. The heady intimacy was exciting. The passion, transforming. My sense of taste became exaggerated. My sense of smell became more attenuated. The stones I worked with in the shop began to shimmer with a deeper intensity, and my ability to hear their music became fine-tuned.
The changes were as frightening as they were exhilarating. As the passions increased my powers, I worried I was becoming like my mother. And yet my fear didn’t make me turn from Timur. The pleasure was too great. My attraction was fueled by curiosity rather than love. Not so for him. And even though I knew Timur was a romantic, I never guessed at the depths of what he felt.
War broke out during the summer of 1914, and in October, Timur wrote he was leaving for the front to fight for France. Just two weeks after he’d left, I received a poetic letter filled with longing.
We never talked about what we mean to each other before I left and I find myself in this miserable place, with so little comfort and so much uncertainty. Not the least of which is how you feel about me. I close my eyes and you are there. I think of the past two years and all my important memories include you. I imagine tomorrow’s memories and want to share those with you as well. Here where it’s bleak and barren, thoughts of you keep my heart warm. Do you love me the way I love you? No, I don’t think so, not yet . . . but might you? All I ask is please, don’t fall in love with anyone else while I am gone. Tell me you will wait for me, at least just to give me a chance?
I’d been made uncomfortable by his admission. Handsome and talented, he’d treated me as if I were one of the fine gems he sold. I’d enjoyed his attention and affection, but I didn’t think I was in love. Not the way I imagined love.
And so I wrote a flippant response. Teasing him the way I always did, I accused him of allowing the war to turn him into even more of a romantic. I shouldn’t have. Instead, I should have given him the promise he asked for. Once he came back, I could have set him straight. Then at least, while he remained away, he would have had hope.
Instead, he’d died with only my mockery ringing in his head.
My father was right: I couldn’t have known the future. But I still couldn’t excuse myself for my thoughtless past.
The USMS New York’s sonorous horn blasted three times, and all around us people said their last good-byes. Reluctantly, my father let go of me.
“I’d like you to leave once I’m on board,” I told my parents. “Otherwise, I’ll stand there watching you and I’ll start to cry.”
“Agreed,” my father said. “It would be too hard for us as well.”
Once I’d walked up the gangplank and joined the other passengers at the railing, I searched the crowd, found my parents, and waved.
My mother fluttered her handkerchief. My father blew me a kiss. Then, as promised, they turned and began to walk away. The moment their backs were to me, I ran from the railing, found a porter, pressed some francs into his hand, and asked him to take my luggage from the hold and see me to a taxi.
I would not be sailing to America. I was traveling on a train to Paris. Once ensconced in the cab, I told the driver to transport me to the station. After maneuvering out of the parking space, he joined the crush of cars leaving the port. Moving at a snail’s pace, we drove right past my parents, who were strolling back to the hotel where we’d stayed the night before.
Sliding down in my seat, I hoped they wouldn’t see me, but I’d underestimated my mother’s keen eye.
Hearing her shout, I rose and peeked out the window. For a moment, they just stood frozen, shocked expressions on their faces. Then my father broke into a run.
“Hurry!” I called out to the driver. “Please.”
At first I thought my father might catch up to the car, but the traffic cleared and my driver accelerated. As we sped away, I saw my father come to a stop and just stand in the road, cars zigzagging all around him as he tried to catch his breath and make sense of what he’d just seen.
Just as we turned the corner, my mother reached his side. He took her arm. I saw an expression of resignation settle on his face. Anger animated hers. I think she knew exactly where I was going. Not because she was clairvoyant, which she was, of course, but because we were alike in so many ways, and if history was about to repeat itself, she wanted me to learn about my powers from her.
I’d been ambivalent about exploring my ability to receive messages that were inaudible and invisible to others—messages that came to me through stones—but I knew if the day came that I was ready, I’d need someone other than her to guide me.
Years ago, when she was closer to my age, my mother’s journey to Paris had begun with her meeting La Lune, a spirit who’d kept herself alive for almost three centuries while waiting for a descendant strong enough to host her. My mother embraced La Lune’s spirit and allowed the witch to take over. But because Sandrine was my mother, I hadn’t been given an option. I’d been born with the witch’s powers running through my veins.
Once my mother made her choice to let La Lune in, she never questioned how she used her abilities. She justified her actions as long as they were for good. Or what she believed was good. But I’d seen her make decisions I thought were morally wrong. So when I was ready to learn about my own talents, I knew it had to be without my mother’s influence. My journey needed to be my own.
“I’m sorry, but I plan to stay in Paris and work for the war effort,” I told my mother when I telephoned home the following day to tell my parents I’d arrived at my great-grandmother’s house.
When my mother first moved to Paris, my great-grandmother tried but failed to hide the La Lune heritage from her. Once my mother discovered it, Grand-mère tried to convince my mother that learning the dark arts would be her undoing. My mother rejected her advice. When Grand-mère’s horror at Sandrine’s possession by La Lune was mistaken for madness, she was put in a sanatorium. Eventually my mother used magick to help restore Grand-mère to health. Part of her healing spell slowed down my great-grandmother’s aging process so in 1918, more than two decades later, she looked and acted like a woman in her sixties, not one approaching ninety.
Grand-mère was one of Paris’s great courtesans. A leftover from the Belle Époque, she remained ensconced in her splendid mansion, still entertaining, still running her salon. Only now she employed women younger than herself to provide the services she once had performed.
“But I don’t want you in Paris,” my mother argued. “Of all places, Opaline, Paris is the most dangerous for you to be on your own and . . .”
The rest of her sentence was swallowed by a burst of crackling. In 1905, we’d been one of the first families to have a telephone. A decade later almost all businesses and half the households in France had one, but transmission could still be spotty.
“What did you say?” I asked.
“It’s too dangerous for you in Paris.”
I didn’t ask what she meant, assuming she referred to how often the Germans were bombarding Paris. But now I know she wasn’t thinking of the war at all but rather of my untrained talents and the temptations and dangers awaiting me in the city where she’d faced her own demons.
I didn’t listen to her entreaties. No, out of a combination of guilt over Timur’s death and patriotism, my mind was set. I was committed to living in Paris and working for the war effort. Only cowards went to America.
I’d known I couldn’t drive ambulances like other girls; I was disastrous behind the wheel. And from having three younger siblings, I knew nursing wasn’t a possibility—I couldn’t abide the sight of blood whenever Delphine, Sebastian, or Jadine got a cut.
Two months after Timur died, his mother, Anna Orloff, who had been like an aunt to me since I’d turned thirteen, wrote to say that, like so many French businesses, her husband’s jewelry shop had lost most of its jewelers to the army. With her stepson, Grigori, and her youngest son, Leo, fighting for France, she and Monsieur needed help in the shop.
Later, Anna told me she’d sensed I needed to be with her in Paris. She had always known things about me no one else had. Like my mother, Anna was involved in the occult, one reason she had been attracted to my mother’s artwork in the first place. For that alone, I should have eschewed her interest in me. After all, my mother’s use of magick to cure or cause ills, attract or repel people, as well as read minds and sometimes change them, still disturbed me. Too often I’d seen her blur the line between dark and light, pure and corrupt, with ease and without regret. That her choices disturbed me angered her.
Between her paintings, which took her away from my brother and sisters and me, and her involvement with the dark arts, I’d developed two minds about living in the occult world my mother inhabited with such ease.
Yet I was drawn to Anna for her warmth and sensitive nature—so different from my mother’s elaborate and eccentric one. Because I’d seen Anna be so patient with her sons’ and my siblings’ fears, I thought she’d be just as patient with mine. I imagined she could be the lamp to shine a light on the darkness I’d inherited and teach me control so I wouldn’t accidentally traverse the lines my mother crossed so boldly.
Undaunted, I’d fled from the dock in Cherbourg to Paris, and for more than three years I’d been ensconced in Orloff’s gem of a store, learning from a master jeweler.
To teach me his craft, Monsieur had me work on a variety of pieces, but my main job involved soldering thin bars of gold or silver to create cages that would guard the glass on soldiers’ watch faces.
To some, what I did might have seemed a paltry effort, but in the field, at the front, men didn’t have the luxury of stopping to pull out a pocket watch, open it, and study the hour or the minute. They needed immediate information and had to wear watches on their wrists. And war isn’t kind to wristwatches. A sliver of shrapnel can crack the crystal. A whack on a rock as you crawl through a dugout can shatter the face. Soldiers required timepieces they could count on to be efficient and sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of combat.
Monsieur Orloff taught me how to execute the open crosshatched grates that fit over the watch crystal through which the soldiers could read the hour and the minute. While I worked, I liked to think I projected time for them. But the thought did little to lift my spirits. It was their lives that needed protecting. France had lost so many, and still the war dragged on. So as I fused the cages, I attempted to imbue the metal with an armor of protective magick. Something helpful to do with my inheritance. Something I should have known how to do. After all, I am one of the Daughters of La Lune.
But as I discovered, the magick seemed to only make its way into the lockets I designed for the wives and mothers, sisters and lovers of soldiers already killed in battle. The very word “locket” contains everything one needs to know about my pieces. It stems from old French “loquet,” which means “miniature lock.” Since the 1670s, “locket” has been used to describe a keepsake charm or brooch with a personal memento, such as a portrait or a curl of hair, sealed inside, sometimes concealed by a false front.
My lockets always contained secrets. They were made of crystal, engraved with phrases and numbers, and filled with objects that had once belonged to the deceased soldiers. Encased in gold, these talismans hung on chains or leather. Of all the work I did, I found that it wasn’t the watches but the solace my lockets gave that proved to be my greatest gift to the war effort.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the ending and the whole story too!
I enjoyed this newest book in the La Lune story. I enjoyed the historical setting and the character of Opaline. The entire idea of Opaline's "talent" of creating mourning jewelry and then being able to communicate with the deceased once she's given the jewelry to the intended recipient, was very different. I look forward to future books in the series.
It is very rare that a second novel in a series can equal or surpass the excellence of its predecessor. But authoress, M. J. Rose, has managed to do just that, with the second offering in her acclaimed Daughters Of La Lune series. Told from the viewpoint of Opaline Duplessi. The daughter of The Witch Of Painted Sorrows' Sandrine and Julien. The Secret Language Of Stones is the story of a young woman struggling to come to terms with a family legacy that she can neither escape, nor deny. Opaline's alchemical bloodline has bestowed upon her the gift of lithomancy. Or, the ability to read the energy of stones. As WWI rages around her, Opaline sets upon the task of righting a perceived wrong in her young life. By crafting exquisite mourning talismans for grieving loved ones of fallen soldiers. Now living in Paris, far from the dark influence of her mother's communion with the spirit of La Lune. Opaline is wary of what fully embracing her burgeoning gift could mean for her life. Until the day that a very special commission her puts her soul to soul with the one love that not even the bonds of astral distance are strong enough to tether. M. J. Rose leaves no stone unturned in her quest to bring her epic second novel to life. From her vivid descriptions of a war-torn Paris; to her references to both literary and artistic masters. Ms. Rose crafts a story that lives and breathes with an inspired and utterly magical mix of history, intelligence, passion and the occult. Whether watching as our heroine carefully chooses stones for her latest creation, or trailing her in her unlikely quest to aid the dowager czarina of an imperiled Russian dynasty. Readers are left to always listen for that next haunting whisper, fleeting glimpse, or lingering taste of life in the world of The Daughters Of La Lune.
I read book one in this series, The Wiches of Painted Sorrow (CHECK OUT MY REVIEW HERE) , and felt the same way about it as I do about The Secret Language of Stones. It starts slow but is full of history and background that is necessary to truly understand and appreciate the story. The picture that M.J. Rose portrays of Paris during the time of war and how the people are affected is amazing and vivid. I could hear the raid sirens and picture the underground areas where they took cover. I could picture the jewelry store that Opaline works in and the people that she worked with. This story has a ghost twist that I loved! I loved seeing Opaline interact with the different ghosts and help the wives and mothers of soldiers lost to war. This is a great part of the story with so much heart and sorrow. I loved that there was only one ghost… one love… The Secret Language of Stones is a sequel to The Witches of Painted Sorrow yet this book could be read without reading the first one. As with most series they are better read in order but each could be read in any order. Either way I recommend picking up both books and reading them.
I loved this novel as much as the others I have read by M J. It is very insightful and suspenseful. Always learning something new through her books and enjoying them very much! I love gems and the way they are used and described is beautiful.
The Secret language of Stones was a beautifully crafted story that blended history, fantasy, adventure, and romance. Though I don't read them often, I adore historical novels. Last year I came across this series but I hhaven't had the chance to read it. There was something so intriguing about this synopsis for book 2, that I couldn't pass up this series again. With the world building and the history infused into each page, this story quickly captured my attention. The book is set during WW1. While Paris has always been a beautiful city of lights and wonder, the war has dulled it in many ways. Opaline, is twenty-two, and comes from a very unique past. Her family are decadents of La Lune, a courtesan that practiced the magical arts. Opaline is a jeweler but she was also a necromancer. She has the ability to use the energy from stones to speak, hear, and, see the last messages of those that have passed on. After she lost someone very dear to her, she headed to Paris to work at the La Fantasie Russie, the shop owned by friend's of her family. I found Opaline to be fascinating. She was just a normal girl but she was her own person. She had an adventurous spirit. She always questioned her abilities and if she was doing the right thing with the powers that she had. It effected how she loved and cared for others. While she made many trinkets, her true talent was the talismans that she made for the loved ones of those that had passed on. Normally she only receives snippets of messages from the dead. Whether by fate or by chance, soon after making a particular charm for a solider's mother, Opaline beings to experience strange new things. The imaginary in this novel was so vividly detailed. I felt I could see each stone sparkle, each piece of art came to life, and the sights and sounds felt so real. I loved pacing of the book. At times the flow of events seemed rushed, but some how Ms. Rose was able to balance it out well. There were many pieces to this story and I enjoyed the mystery and adventure of it all. As for the romance..... it was not your typical romance. Yet it the connection , care, and concern for each other was there. It wasn't the exactly the center of the story but it was always present. Throughout the book I was rooting for my ideal outcome, even if it seemed impossible. The ending was so fitting for this story. I may have shed a tear. I can definitely see myself continuing on with this series.
Excellent World War 1 Paranormal - 2nd Book in La Lune Series I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher as a part of a book tour and rated it 4.5 out of 5 Stars. A gifted storyteller M.J. Rose takes us back to Paris during World War I in The Secret Language of Stones, the second book in The Daughters of La Lune series. Melding historical fiction, romance, and paranormal/occult gifts, Ms. Rose has created a world with multi-faceted characters, intriguing mysteries and an almost fantasy like romance. Although this book can be read on its own, to really enjoy the book I personally recommend reading The Witch of Painted Sorrows first. Ms. Rose does a wonderful job introducing the primary character, Opaline Duplessi, right from the start. An apprentice jeweler, Opaline has inherited a rare gift from her mother, a form of lithomancy/necromancy. Able to receive messages from the precious stones she works with, Opaline uses her talents to pass on messages from the dead to their loved ones, and she’s got plenty to work with living in Paris during World War I. I really liked Opaline’s character right from the start, she’s determined not to make the same mistakes with the gifts she’s inherited from her mother, Sandrine (the main character in The Witch of Painted Sorrows) and works to make sure her gift doesn’t drag her into the darkness. The secondary characters are also well developed and I really enjoyed getting to know Monsieur Orloff, the master jeweler Opaline goes to work for, his wife Anna and their son Grigori. Russian ex-patriots living in Paris, they secretly work to gather funds, and whatever else they can, to free the Russian Royal Family from the Bolsheviks and restore the Russian monarchy so they can go home. I enjoyed the occasional glimpses we got of Sandrine, Opaline’s mother, and her continued attempts to get Opaline to embrace and build on her gifts from La Lune. Using the darkness of World War I, and the political, social and emotional upheaval it caused, Ms. Rose makes you feel as if you are in Paris through one if it’s most difficult periods. Air raids, food shortages, severely wounded soldiers, and the fear of the unknown, all become a part of daily life. Still, this is Paris and Ms. Rose reminds us of its beauty and charm, a beauty and charm that no war can fully destroy. The story’s pace is fairly even, though there are some points that were a little slow, and Ms. Rose’s voice as an author is well established and highly enjoyable. The romantic aspect of the story is different and interesting because Opaline has several relationships throughout the book. And not all of them are with flesh and blood characters – and that’s all I’ll say about that because I don’t want to give away too much. I will say that the story has a really great ending and that the epilogue really brought things together. Will Opaline learn to embrace all of her gift or will she only dabble with the “magick” she has inherited from her family? Will she become an accidental victim of the political machinations of her friends and mentor? And will she find the love she’s looking for? You’ll have to read The Secret Language of Stones to find out. I really enjoyed this installment in the La Lune series and hope we get to read about both Opaline and Sandrine’s future.
This book can be read as a standalone even though it's the second book in the series. Opaline is a descendant of a long line of witches. Her mother is an artist with supernatural gifts which she doesn't always use for the greater of good. Opaline has an affinity with gemstones but she doesn't want her mother to help her to develop this gift for fear of ending up on the dark side. France is in disarray of world war I and many are escaping to safer destinations. Instead of going on the journey Opaline's parents had planned for her, she makes a detour to Paris. Here she is hoping to receive "safer" guidance to develop her gifts. She works with a famous jeweller where she makes trench watches and mourning jewellery. She choses to do this to make amends for a mistake which riddles her with guilt. She makes the mourning jewellery in the form of talismans, imbued with magic to bring comfort to those who have suffered losses from the war. In turn she takes comfort in knowing that what she does brings tranquility to those in need. She receives messages from departed ones through the stones whilst connecting to their dear ones. On this one occasion, Jean Luc, the victim speaks to Opaline directly and they find solace in each other. Their feelings are very strong despite the fact that she cannot see him. Besides, having to go through all the misery of the war, she is drawn into the Bolshevik's politics. She is sent to England to help the Romanov dowager and this proves to be as treacherous as the war. The story is very intense and touching. The locations and events are very descriptive. The interactions between Jean Luc and Opaline are very real and emotional. The pace, the plot and character development are perfect. I savoured every single part of this compelling and evocative novel and I also love the way the story ends. I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This was a great addition to an enjoyable series. The author always has a way of drawing you into her books and the next thing you know you are lost in another time and place. She has a way with her words that includes such detail that you feel like you are really a part of the story. I think she also does a good job with capturing the time and place in this story. I felt as if I was really in Paris. There is plenty of romance, suspense and adventure to please me. There is also bits of history that are included which is a bonus to the story. Don't forget about the mixture of a little magic and witchcraft. Even though this is the second book in a series you are able to read it as a stand alone book. I look forward to more books by this author.
The Secret Language of Stones is the story of Opaline, a daughter of La Lune, a famous artist and mystic. It is World War I and Opaline thinks she is escaping her fate of following in her mother's mystical footsteps, she runs away to her Grandmothers in Paris to help with the war cause. She apprentices to a jeweler in the store of a family friend making memorial necklaces for loved ones of soldiers who have lost her lives in the war. She finds that she has a magical affinity with stones and, if given a memento of the soldiers' she can weave it into the charm and hear their voices calling out a message. As she delivers that message to their loved one, she helps them all move on. One day, a mother comes in with her sons hair who has died at the front, and she finds that this son does not only speak, but keeps speaking... And he can hear her speak back. The author, M.J. rose did a wonderful job of setting the scene. The romance and grit of Paris during the war, the Russian emigrants stories of the royal family, the jewels, her messages from the dead and of course the love story between she and her soldier, Jean Luc, were all intertwined very delicately, giving this story a magical feel that was appropriate to the type of story she was telling. The mixture of historical facts with the fantasy of a magical city and mystical messages made the love growing between this young woman and her dead soldier seem fantastical, yes, but also real, could she join him? Did she have the magic to keep him with her? Should he move on? The pace of this story was slow, gentle and romantic, a direct contrast to the hard grittiness of the War torn city they were living in, creating the impetus that helped moved the story forward, yet somehow it did not feel like a dark and hopeless book. The glitter of jewels and tales of Russian royals, Jean Lucs letters to a loved one, all gave the reader hope that Opalines journey would end on a lighter note, and she could somehow find happiness within herself, with this gift she had, but also with this unlikely love that she'd found. The lyrical language and romance with which this tale is told was well worth the few hours it took me to read it.
Opaline Duplessi has run away to Paris with a Russian expatriate. She makes jewelry but not just any common jewelry. One could call it memento jewelry that will be bought by grieving mothers, wives, sisters, lovers, and/or friends of those who have perished during the horrific First World War. She also makes watches that can be worn on the battlefield and easily used, unlike the more popular watches with covers worn by nonmilitary men. Within each beautiful jewel piece, Opaline inserts a lock of hair or another miniscule personal item. Her skill is called lithomancy, an illegal practice involving contacting the dead. When she is done choosing precious gemstones and working her magic, the stones emanate energy that enables her to communicate with the dead soldier and listen for the message to be spoken to the loved one of the dead person. Opaline is just learning to use her gift but is clearly frightened beyond words at how this power overcomes her, even to the point of being ill. She fears going insane and therefore seeks help to manage her gift or curse, depending on how it is experienced! This, however, is just the basic gist of Opaline’s skill and the story to come is a wonder indeed! A young mother comes to Opaline and questions her about how she acquired this skill and how she uses it. Opaline begins to fashion a new jewel for this mother but before she can deliver any message she is haunted by the dead son and actually develops a relationship unlike any one any reader has encountered. This then is the story which eventually turns into a mystery involving the family of the lately assassinated Tsar of Russia. M. J. Rose is unlike any other writer this reviewer has ever read. She has researched her fascinating subject and presents it uniquely in a mesmerizing fashion each reader will never forget. The occult is depicted in a balanced manner that rejects any quick judgment and seeks only to find the truth with a purpose. Her descriptions of shapes, colors and sizes of different jewels and their arrangement are artfully presented as well. The Secret Language of Stones is the second book in the Daughters of La Lune series but stands as a solo novel just fine. This is a must read that readers won’t be able to put down, crafted cleverly and skillfully by this very talented writer. Highly recommended!