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The Secret Language of Stones

The Secret Language of Stones

(historical fiction)

 Release date: July 19, 2016
by Atria Books/Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7809-9
320 pages

Author’s page | Goodreads


Nestled deep within Paris’s historic Palais Royal, safe inside La Fantasie Russie’s once-bustling workshop, young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi spends her days making trench watches for soldiers at the front and mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. Opaline has a rare gift, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones enable her to receive messages from beyond. 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 “entrancing read that will long be savored” (Library Journal, starred review).
“Spellbinding.” —Alyson Richman, author of The Lost Wife



The Secret Language of Stones,
Excerpt from  Chapter 1
©Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster


“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

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


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


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.

Eiffel Tower Orange


mj-roseM.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
—and reading her mother’s favorite books
before she was allowed.
She is the author of more than a dozen novels,
the co-president and founding board member of International Thriller Writers,
and the founder of the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz.com.
She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Please visit her website, her blog: Museum of Mysteries
Subscribe to her mailing list and get information about new releases, free book downloads,
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