Paperback, 432 pages
December 29, 2009
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Received from Inkwell Management for review
“In the glittering world of nineteenth century opera, Sabine Conrad is a beloved star feted by New York’s high society, showered with adulation from her audiences, and courted by wealthy patrons. Ensnared by a man who both loves and controls her, Sabine risks everything—including her lustrous career—to break free from her lover. But her plan backfires; by the end of the night, she is a criminal on the run from a grisly murder.
Changing her appearance and her name, she flees as far from society as she can, to the rough and gritty town of Seattle. There, hidden among the prostitutes, drunks, and miners, she must put aside the prima donna she once was and learn how to survive on her own.
Until her past returns to offer a terrifying proposition…”I was excited to read this book for a couple of reasons – particularly the choice of setting and unique character occupation – and I really don’t know what took me so long to get to it. The story itself moves between the present with Marguerite in Seattle and the Journal of Sabine Conrad. I liked how the author used his technique to reveal certain information to the reader from the journal that helped to piece together some of what was happening in the present. The aspect of the story that I found most interesting was the choice of Seattle as the setting for most of the current-set plotline. I don’t know of too many hist-fic novel that have taken advantage of this locale. I think that it is a unique choice and it was so interesting to see it juxtaposed with the bigger, more established cities like New York and Philadelphia at that time. It was almost like another character that you got to know – a seedy, dirty, up-and-comer!
In another unique move, Sabine Conrad (as in “The Journal of”) is an opera singer. I haven’t read any books about opera singers and it was certainly interesting to be immersed in that world of music. I learned many things about music, opera, and the stories that they tell. What was interesting to me is that at this time, during the 1800’s, opera appeared to be a very popular entertainment. Everyone seemed to at least know something about the opera, even if they couldn’t afford to attend – they were the celebrity singers of the day. I couldn’t name one opera singer for you if I tried!
Just a quick word of warning – there is some violence and sex scenes and much of the story takes place in a “box house” which is like a bar with private rooms. Certainly not terribly graphic but there are some mildly disturbing descriptions (particularly toward the end of the book).
I really enjoyed this story. The writing was fast-paced and kept the story barreling ahead. At the end of each chapter I didn’t want to put it down because there was always a little something to keep you coming back – especially the Journal chapters. You really don’t find out for certain what happened until right at the very end – and you will find it very hard to guess accurately! I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to have the chance to look into some of this author’s other novels.
Megan Chance has also has written several historical books including The Spiritualist, An Inconvenient Wife, and Susannah Morrow. She also has a new book being released in June 2011 City of Ash. You can visit the author’s website or blog for additional information about the books. You can also find the author on her Facebook page. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
The video below is the author reading the prologue of the novel and answering a few questions at an event:
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