Parris Afton Bonds’ Monarchs and Painted Ladies is like a flower unfolding, with secrets to keep and passions to share. The novel is a little bit Da Vinci Code and a bucket of adventure, not to mention a soaring romance. Caan, Maggie, and Odell are on a quest for a arcane treasure compelled by mysterious and, possibly, heaven-sent forces. These three disparate people—a cynical Vietnam war vet, a Catholic bishop with secrets, and a nurse whose children have been kidnapped for no apparent reason—travel the globe seeking something so elusive it may get them killed. Bonds weaves history and mystery, mysticism and practicality, humor and romance into a compelling cauldron of gripping fiction mingled with fascinating fact. This rich tapestry of a tale weaves present day with historical scenes that unspool from WWII back through the centuries. Bonds is such an intelligent and feeling writer, the reader lives and breathes her characters. I never wanted to leave the pages or the people whose travails and triumphs took me on both inner and outer journeys. What an book! The slow-burn romance between two damaged people soars. As all readers know, when we turn that last page and reach The End it’s both a blissful and sorrowful experience. Blissful in that the ending, at least in Monarchs and Painted Ladies, was eminently satisfying. Sorrowful in that it’s over. At least until Ms. Bonds publishes another riveting novel. I can’t wait.