Published by Atria on Jun 3, 2014
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Format: eARC from Netgalley
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
Jo, the firstborn, "The General" to her eleven sisters, is the only thing the Hamilton girls have in place of a mother. She is the one who taught them how to dance, the one who gives the signal each night, as they slip out of the confines of their father's townhouse to await the cabs that will take them to the speakeasy. Together they elude their distant and controlling father, until the day he decides to marry them all off.
The girls, meanwhile, continue to dance, from Salon Renaud to the Swan and, finally, the Kingfisher, the club they come to call home. They dance until one night when they are caught in a raid, separated, and Jo is thrust face-to-face with someone from her past: a bootlegger named Tom whom she hasn't seen in almost ten years. Suddenly Jo must weigh in the balance not only the demands of her father and eleven sisters, but those she must make of herself.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I ended up liking this book a lot more than I thought I would. Once the story really got going, it was captivating and I was on the edge of my seat until the very end wondering how everything was going to turn out.
It was also impressive that the book had eleven sisters who managed to have, if not totally developed personalities, at least enough unique character traits for each sister that I knew which one was which, and I cared about what happened to all of them.
Particularly, I ended up very invested in the romance between Josephine and Tom. Josephine, the main character, was likeable and I got why she felt responsible for all of her younger sisters.
The book is loosely based on the fairy tale the twelve dancing princesses, and I liked the idea of a 1920s fairy tale. However, if fairy tales aren’t your thing, don’t worry. It’s not emphasized in the book and I don’t think it would be completely obvious if you didn’t know beforehand that the book was referencing that particular fairy tale.
While I liked the book overall, the beginning is very slow. It’s a lot of backstory, where all eleven sisters are introduced in two or three long chapters. Now that I’ve read the whole book I understand why it was necessary to introduce all the girls in the beginning and develop their characters a little. However, the way it’s done is pretty boring in and of itself because it doesn’t advance the plot at all. As a result, it takes a while for the plot to really get going. I just wish the back story had been dropped in a little at a time, rather than all at once.
But after the story gets going, it’s really exciting, and in the end I thought it was worth it to go through all the back story.
On the other hand, I wish there’d been more descriptions of New York City. New York in the twenties is always a fascinating era, and I wish there’d been a little bit more color in there about the city and the bars and the dances. There are some pretty good descriptions of clothes though, and I did like reading about all the fashions the girls were wearing.
The dad as the villain is very, very easy to hate, but his resentment of his daughters never totally made sense to me. He’s a social climber and he’d mad that he doesn’t have a male heir, but I feel like daughters could just as easily have been married off advantageously. If this was about having someone to carry on his name, I wish that had been made clearer in his character.
It took me a little while to get used to the author’s writing (she uses parentheses a lot to put in very
long asides that sometimes last a whole paragraph). But once I got used to it I thought the writing itself flowed pretty easily.
Overall, this was a fast, enjoyable read.