Desert Isle Keeper
All the Beautiful Girls
Are you looking for an historical novel featuring a hard-working, single-minded heroine? Do you adore books that revolve around a tight-knit group of female friends? Are you always eager to lose yourself in the glitz and glamour that can only be found in Las Vegas? If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions, you absolutely must read All the Beautiful Girls, the latest novel from author Elizabeth J. Church. It captivated me from the very first page, and I can’t wait for others to pick it up, read it, and fall in love with it just as I did.
When Lily Decker is only eight years old, her life is turned completely up-side-down when her parents and sister are killed in a tragic automobile accident. Lily is sent to live with her aunt and uncle, where she is made to feel like an enormous imposition. Her aunt is distant and unwilling to expend the energy needed to comfort and connect with the grieving Lily, while her uncle takes an unhealthy interest in her body.
It is only through dance that Lily finds any semblance of peace. As she grows into an extraordinarily beautiful young woman, she becomes an incredibly skilled dancer. Her instructors urge her to leave small-town life behind her and head to Las Vegas where she’s bound to make it big, and as soon as she turns eighteen, that’s exactly what Lily does. She changes her name to Ruby Wilde and heads for Vegas where she hopes to get a job as a troupe dancer.
Once she arrives in Las Vegas, it becomes obvious that she lacks the finesse necessary to achieve her dream, and what her dance teachers saw as incomparable talent, the talent scouts see as just run-of-the-mill. At first, Ruby is discouraged, but she knows she can’t go back home and so she auditions for a job as a show-girl. Her stunning good looks and sensual grace make her a natural for such a position, and it doesn’t take long before Ruby’s star is on the rise.
The novel traces Ruby’s rise to stardom, placing particular emphasis on her relationships with her fellow dancers. So many books portray women as extremely catty, cut-throat individuals who sell each other out in a second if it will get them what they want, so I was beyond pleased that Ms. Church chose not to take that tack here. Instead, Ruby’s friendships with her co-workers are warm and supportive. It’s not that the women never disagree with one another, but there’s an unwavering love and affection at the root of all their interactions that I just couldn’t get enough of.
Ms. Church tackles some serious issues such as domestic violence and drug addiction in the novel, but she’s not at all heavy-handed in her approach. Instead, she allows her characters to make mistakes that they are forced to learn from, and what they learn has a very authentic feel. I never felt as if the author were trying too hard to make a particular point.
Some portions of the novel, especially those dealing with an abusive relationship Ruby gets involved in, were very difficult to read. Ms. Church doesn’t go into great detail when describing the abuse Ruby suffers, but her writing has a very visceral feel that was sometimes challenging for me. I felt as though I were living through these experiences alongside Ruby, and I was moved to tears on several occasions.
The author does a wonderful job of bringing the city of Las Vegas to life. I’m no expert on the city, but her lush descriptions made me feel like I was actually there. I was particularly taken with her descriptions of the various dance halls. I know absolutely nothing about dance, but I was still able to be completely sucked into the story.
All the Beautiful Girls is a delightful and poignant novel I’ll be recommending to everyone I know. It’s the kind of book that remains with the reader long after the final page is turned, and while the feelings it evokes might not always be warm and fuzzy, the story is captivating enough to make up for any discomfort the reader might experience. I wish there were more books like this out there.