India Hartley, a famous and beautiful actress, is now alone after her father’s death and embarks upon a tour of theaters across the South. Her first stop is Savannah’s Southern Palace. On the eve of the second night’s performance, something goes horribly wrong. Her co-star, Arthur Sterling, is shot dead on stage in front of a packed house, and India is arrested and accused of the crime.
A benefactor hires Philip Sinclair, the best—and handsomest—lawyer in Savannah to defend India. A widower, Philip is struggling to reinvent his worn-out plantation on St. Simons Island. He needs to increase his income from his law practice in order to restore Indigo Point, and hardly anything will bring him more new clients than successfully defending a famous actress on a murder charge.
Because India can’t go anywhere in town without being mobbed, Philip persuades the judge handling her case to let him take her to Indigo Point until her trial date. India is charmed by the beauty of the Georgia lowcountry and is increasingly drawn to Philip. But a locked room that appears to be a shrine to Philip’s dead wife and the unsolved disappearance of a former slave girl raise troubling questions. Piecing together clues in an abandoned boat and a burned-out chapel, India discovers a trail of dark secrets that lead back to Philip, secrets that ultimately may hold the key to her freedom. If only he will believe her.
This wonderful Southern/Gothic mystery will intrigue and captivate readers from the very first sentence – “Gunfire exploded to the right of the stage, a burst of sound that temporarily deafened her.” And just like that, we’re in the middle of the action and stunned by the unexpected turn of events. Almost before we know it, India has been whisked away for her protection to St. Simon’s Island by a mysterious and handsome lawyer who says he’s been paid to represent her. We aren’t with her long at Indigo Point before we realize that this “safe haven” may not be all that safe after all.
With more questions around every corner – questions that pile up on top of the increasing tension surrounding India’s upcoming trial – readers will find themselves completely engrossed by this Eyre-esque tale. Just about the time I thought I had it figured out, Dorothy Love threw me another curve by way of a masterful plot twist (or five) and I was back at square one. Not that I’m complaining, mind you 🙂
The romantic element to the book didn’t necessarily “wow” me – it was sweetly done if a little contrived but I was too caught up in the mystery to pay it too much mind. It simply stayed in the background most of the time – neither detracting from nor adding to the plot – and that was fine.
Because the main character is a popular stage actress, readers of Dorothy Love’s latest book get a bit of a peek into historic theater practices. I particularly found fascinating the insights into the ingredients of greasepaint pigments and the origin of a term we use so often nowadays – stealing the limelight. Do you know why that phrase began to be used? Or what “limelight” even is? I didn’t – but I do now 🙂
Thomas Nelson Publishers have traditionally published Christian fiction, but I would classify A Respectable Actress more as “clean” than “Christian”. That needn’t be a mark against Thomas Nelson or A Respectable Actress. Not everything has to have a blatant spiritual element to it – sometimes, it’s enough to know you are reading a well-written & riveting story without having to dodge frequent outbursts of profanity or hide your eyes from scantily clad shenanigans.
Bottom Line: A Respectable Actress is a respectable gothic mystery set in antebellum Savannah and the outlying islands. Dorothy Love has captured with exquisite tension the plight of one young woman whose world is upended with a single script change. From the stage – where nothing is as it seems – to a remote island – where no one is as they seem – readers will be caught up in the suspense and intrigue. Recommended for fans of Jane Eyre, Tamera Alexander, and Jane Nickerson.
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)
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I have two (2) paperback copies of A Respectable Actress to give away – one each to two lucky winners! (US only) To enter, simply leave a comment on this post answering the question below. For extra entries, follow my blog (readingismysuperpower) and/or share this giveaway on social media (facebook/twitter/Pinterest/etc). **Make sure you let me know in another comment what you did to qualify for extra entries!** (You can follow my blog by entering your email address in the box in the top left of this page or by clicking “follow” with your wordpress or twitter accounts.) Winner will be chosen by Random.org on Saturday November 7th after 10pm EST and notified by email. If I don’t hear from you within a week, a new winner will be chosen. Good luck and thanks for reading!!
Giveaway Entry Question:
What is your favorite stage play or musical?