Title: Dancing at The Chance
Author: DeAnna Cameron
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
ISBN-10: 0425245594 (Penguin/Berkley)
ISBN-13: 978-0425245590 (Penguin/Berkley)
Reviewed by: Kiwi
A chance for love. . . A chance for fame. . .
New York City in 1907 is a kingdom of endless possibilities for anyone who dares to dream. The Gilded Age has ended, and immigrants fill the bustling streets. The glamour of Broadway lures those who desire the limelight—but only a few are fortunate enough to thrive in the lights of a city that casts long, dark, and merciless shadows…
Pepper MacClair and her mother arrived penniless in New York thirteen years ago, and their fortune has not changed. A dancer of fluid grace and motion, Pepper is still only one chorus girl among dozens, struggling for an opportunity to prove herself worthy of something bigger.
For now, Pepper dances at The Chance, a rundown venue long past its prime. It is not only Pepper’s workplace, where she has pushed her physical endurance to its limit, but also her home. And as the larger world changes around her and she is pulled into the intrigues of New York’s elite, it is her last hope, not only to fulfill her dream, but to fulfill her heart.
Quick & Dirty: A heartwarmingly beautiful story of loss, love and talent.
Opening Sentence: For a full half hour the stage manager sat on a stool near the footlights, his fingers curled on the hooked head of his cane, silently watching the vaudeville players at morning rehearsal.
Picture, if you will, early twentieth century New York City. Back before terrorism, before the Great Depression, or even the Roaring Twenties. Back to the days of stage performing, before moving pictures were so popular. Back to the little theaters featuring vaudeville — variety acts much like one would see on, well to be current, on America’s Got Talent. This book has dancers, singers, dog acts, even a guy who spins plates on sticks.
This story features one of these vaudeville performers, Pepper MacClair. Pepper and her mother, Bessie, arrived thirteen years prior to the opening of this story on a boat from Scotland, braced for a new life beginning with the reunion with Pepper’s father. When the man never showed, Bessie was forced to make do, to find ways to support herself and her daughter, and that’s where The Chance Theatre comes in. For the past thirteen years, Pepper has called the theater and its small basement rooms her home, and its employees and performers her family.
After a disastrous premiere as a dancer on the stage, on what was apparently the worst night of her young life, Pepper was relegated to work behind the scenes. That is until an opening in one of the chorus line acts gave her another chance at stardom. But, stardom is a hard row to hoe in a place as unkempt and obscure as The Chance is. But, The Chance is apparently her only shot, as she is rather reluctant to leave. So, there she dances, every night, hoping for her big break. Or is it something else that keeps her there. Perhaps it is the return of her true love that she is truly waiting for.
On the night of her debut, she had given herself to one Robert DeGraaf, son of the owner of The Chance. Robert swore to love her forever, and never forget her. But, also on that night, Robert’s father had sent him away, back to school, refusing them the ability to be together. Pepper had always assumed that it was because she was a lowly immigrant showgirl. And when Robert returns, she naively thinks that he will go against society and his father and marry her.
Alas, upon Robert’s return to New York, all is not as Pepper had planned. Robert does indeed want her back in his life, but as his mistress, not his wife, and he wants her to quit dancing. And when Pepper is fired from her job, he gets what he wants. But, when his father dies, she comes to realize that he cares nothing for his father’s theater legacy, or what it meant to Pepper and all the others involved therein. And, it turns out that Robert was perfectly willing to leave her back then to return to school. In fact, it was his idea all along. But never fear, for waiting in the wings is the one man who always has and always will truly love her, Gregory Creighton. Gregory and Pepper both came to The Chance as young children, and she has always held a special place in his heart. Gregory is there for her when everything crumbles at her feet, holding her up, helping her deal, loving her anyway.
So, with the demise of her relationship with Robert, Pepper is forced to return to her stage family and it is she who delivers the news to them of The Chance’s imminent demise. But, she will not allow them to go quietly into the night, and she and her friends come up with a brilliant idea. They will do one final show for free, a showcase of everyone’s talents, with a title completely unlike anything The Chance’s stage has seen.
After the show, which was a hit by the way, Pepper is summoned to attend the reading of Robert’s father’s will. And what happens there is quite the shock to everyone, including Pepper and that piss poor excuse for a human being, Robert. Best part of the book, and where we finally receive our happy ending.
You might say that this book stands alone among the other type books that this website features. And I believe you would be correct. This is, after all, a largely paranormal based site, hence the name, and a large percentage of books featured here are just that — paranormal. This story is straight up historical women’s fiction, I guess the term would be. Not our usual mojo, nor is it my personal preference of reading material. I am more of a steamy-medieval-romance-with-a-mysterious-vampire-sex-god kind of gal. But, the genre of this book shouldn’t keep any of you from reading it, however. It is still a very well written, heart-wrenching story without the sex, mystery, or fanged love machine.
“What would he do with it?” She knew the answer, she just could not believe it.
“Who knows, and who cares? It isn’t my concern.”
And it wasn’t. She could see it in his sneer, his stony glare. He did not care about the theater, not the show, not anything that mattered to her.
“Is that what your father thought?”
“Hardly.” Robert took his glass to the cabinet again and poured another drink. “He flew into a rage and wouldn’t stay in that damn rolling chair. He actually tried to throw the agreement letter in the fire.”
A numbness was settling over Robert. His words had lost their strength. Pepper remained silent; she did not trust anything she might say.
“When I wrestled those papers from him, he clutched at his heart and began to gasp—all very theatrical, very dramatic, just what you would expect from an old show horse like him.” He gulped from his glass. “He made such a scene that Gertie flew in and threatened to throw me out. Can you imagine? The maid throwing me out of my own home? She demanded a doctor be called, but I told her it would be done after my father signed the papers. You see, I know his tricks. I knew it was a bluff.” He shook his head. “I thought it was a bluff.” He drank again. “As it turns out, it wasn’t.” He paused, then added, “I suppose I won’t be needing his signature now. The theater shall be mine by inheritance.”
Pepper could not move. This was too much to take in. “And you intend to sell it?”
“Have you not been listening? Of course I am going to sell it. What do I want with a shabby old theater? That old-fashioned vaudeville is dead. People want flash and sparkle, they want something new. Ziegfield has it right and so does Keith and the others. That’s why the patrons are moving uptown.”
FTC Advisory: Penguin/Berkley provided me with a copy of Dancing at The Chance. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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