Set in Jazz Age Manhattan, Valentine pays homage in her second novel (after Mechanique) to “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” a Brothers Grimm story. The book’s imagery has a cinematic sweep, but the narrative itself is less dazzling. Jo Hamilton, called the General by her 11 younger sisters, does her best to shield them from their wealthy, distant father. Disappointed that his wife did not give him any sons, he houses the girls on the top floors of their mansion, away from their mother, to be raised by nannies and each other. Jo begins to sneak her sisters out to speakeasies around town where “the Princesses,” as they are eventually dubbed, anonymously dance the night away. Jo is hardened by the responsibility of keeping the girls safe during their outings and protecting them from their father, who would marry them off to cold and uncaring men like himself, and she stops dancing after meeting a man she thinks she could love. The narrative unfolds from her perspective, and though Jo’s matter-of-fact attitude doesn’t get in the way of Valentine’s lush period detail, it unfortunately keeps the reader at an emotional distance for too much of the novel. Agent: Joe Monti, Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency. (June)
Reviewed on: 03/03/2014 Release date: 06/03/2014 Genre: Fiction
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