And while I’m at it, I’ll share a link to my vlog!
This story takes place in 1899 New York and follows Ella Shane, a successful opera singer with her own company. While performing Capuleti (aka Romeo and Juliette), Shane’s other leading lady–Shane herself played the role of Romeo as a trouser-role performer– suddenly dies! Turns out unfortunate ‘Juliette,’ whose actual name is Frances, wasn’t Canadian like she claimed, but instead is part of the British aristocracy.
So, when Frances dies tragically by poison (oh the irony) and a mysterious duke arrives, claiming to be Frances’s cousin, Ella’s life is completely overhauled. There’s mystery, murder, fencing, romance, and a dash of good, ol’ fashioned 19th century sexism.
Even with that last bit–a character literally says that ‘women’ and ‘rights’ shouldn’t be in the same sentence… *shudder*–it’s a fantastic read! I was thoroughly captivated by both plot and characters and think you will too. I love how descriptive Kalb is and think that Ella, her cousin Toms, friends Marie and Hetty, and the Duke are all very well fleshed out (well, all the characters are) which is great because they seem that much more realistic.
On the note of characters, I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of helpless Juliette vs. all the female characters, who are able to hold their own. It was refreshing to see strong characters considering the time period of the setting. Even though they are definitely operating within the parameters of 19th century propriety, there are glimpses into their pushing the boundaries. For example, I loved how Hetty, a journalist (twinning!) is frustrated by having to write about hats and parties and desperately tries to report on things of importance–eventually writing an expose. Similarly, I thought it was really interesting how Ella herself tries to support her female doctor provide reproductive care to other women.
I also enjoyed the male characters, however. Tom, Ella’s cousin, was a delight, as were his friends, and the Duke was simply swoon-worthy. His obvious discomfort but growing acceptance of Ella and her ‘progressive’ views was adorable to watch, as was their budding relationship.
The plot was also well done. Kalb expertly set up the plot from the beginning, bringing back small details that are so easy to miss upon first reading; but when they came up again, you have that ‘wait! I know what’s going to happen!’ moment. I suppose one could argue that the villain is somewhat conventional and predictable, but to be honest, I didn’t mind that much. (I was more focused on the character development.)
It’s a great read if you have the chance. Perhaps if you’re not a romance and/or mystery fan, you might find it a bit dull, but if you like either of those genres, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
That’s all I’ve got for Fatal Finale! Be sure to look out for next week’s posts on Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly. (I did it again, starting in the middle of the series… just my luck)