Dancing at the Chance
By
Grade : B-

Uniqueness is a highly valued trait amongst some romance readers. With so many historicals taking place in the same 10 year span of history in the same parts of England among the same social class, it is a breath of fresh air when I come across a good story in a different era and setting. In Dancing At the Chance, that would be New York, 1907, in the world of theater.

Pepper MacClair grew up at the Chance Theater. After her mother brought her over to New York from Scotland when she was a child, they lived together in the vaudeville world of turn of the century New York City. Now her mother has died, the Chance is floundering, and Pepper is a chorus dancer with a contentious relationship with her stage manager. “Flickers” are taking a bite out of vaudeville, and the situation for everyone at the Chance is changing. Pepper has hope, though, because the theater owner’s son Robert is returning. She and Robert had a romance three years ago, which ended when he suddenly left for university.

Robert, however, has different plans than Pepper. He doesn’t plan to propose; he plans to make her his mistress. And he doesn’t plan on fixing up the theater and revamping the shows; he plans to do whatever it takes to make a profit, even if it means getting rid of the theater, regardless of the dozens of people who depend on it. Meanwhile, a stagehand named Gregory Creighton has long loved Pepper, but she sees him only as a friend.

I loved the setting and time period of this book. It’s different than many other books I’ve read, and the theater world in the early 20th century was a great backdrop for the story. The theme of change pervaded the book. All of the characters were at something of a crossroads, and the social changes of 1907 New York served as an interesting parallel.

The romance, I felt, left a bit more to be desired. Now, it was not bad; it was actually very sweet. But I thought that Pepper’s affections changed too quickly. There was little transition between Robert and Gregory, and Gregory deserved more than a quick switch. Yes, there was some build-up, but I just didn’t feel there was enough. Gregory’s affections were lovely. He’s a dark character, something that also could have used a bit more exploration, but his love was sincere and deeply felt.

Pepper is eager, creative, and occasionally a bit naïve. As someone who tends to ask permission rather than forgiveness, I cringed at some of her attempts to save the Chance. Still, she was likable, and managed to avoid the TSTL moniker while still being innocently naïve.

There was a lovely cast of side characters who populated the theater, particularly Em, an older performer who became famous as “Uptown Joe,” dressing up as a man. She was a lesbian, before most people knew that word, and provided a lovely maternal figure for Pepper. In fact, she had been Pepper’s mother’s lover when she was alive, and Em was a wonderful symbol of the budding progressive era. Many groups would have rejected her, but here she was queen, and I loved her no-nonsense wisdom and straightforward ability to have fun.

Dancing At the Chance had a few flaws, but in the grand scheme of the novel they were fairly minor. It was a lovely story, subtle in its sensuality and its darkness, but still allowed the reader glimpses into the unspoken seedier parts of the characters' lives. This is DeAnna Cameron’s second novel, and I have high hopes for her writing more unique and enjoyable novels in the future.

Reviewed by Jane Granville
Grade : B-

Sensuality: Subtle

Review Date : June 1, 2012

Publication Date: 2012/04

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Jane Granville

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