book reviews · NetGalley · Revell Reads

A Midnight Dance by Joanna Davidson Politano

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book. These are my honest thoughts.

This was my most-anticipated book of 2021. I’m not sure yet what I think about it.

In one way, I feel very misled by a couple of things. The back blurb and meet-cute both indicated a certain romance was going to take place, but the story took a weird turn on that front. While I grew to enjoy certain aspects of the romantic thread and rather adored the finale, it wasn’t anything like what I’d been led to believe it would be.

In another way, this story grew on me and wrapped me in a vintage era that felt very much like home. The atmosphere in this book helped the story slowly sift past my defenses at the aforementioned deception. The words chosen created such vivid imagery that I found myself immersed in a different time and place and wanted to stay in the fantastical ballet-and-circus world the author created.

I struggled to understand why Mr. Dorian had such a sullied reputation. While he was known as a flirtatious playboy who could have any of the female dancers he wanted, the character I got to know on the page wasn’t anything close to that sort. Why did he have such a terrible reputation? That thread did not make any sense to me at all, because what I saw was a kind, generous, compassionate gentleman. His personality was in direct contrast with his reputation, and the two never melded for me. It was very clear throughout that he cared greatly about wanting to keep the leading lady’s reputation intact, further instilling his gentlemanly qualities.

The circus bits were fascinating. It wasn’t really full-blown circus stuff, but that made it even more special. It was like stepping into the behind-the-scenes, day-to-day aspects of the circus, and I loved that. To glimpse what it might have been like to be an intrinsic part of the circus was mesmerizing and utterly fantastic. I would love to see a circus story or two by this author’s hand. Pretty please, Mrs. Politano???

The red shoes got lost for half the book. They were stolen pretty early on, but after a brief worry and rummage, the leading lady simply went on about her everyday life. So why were those shoes so important to her again? She apparently forgot they were one of her last ties to her dead mother. I wanted to feel urgency in discovering who had stolen them and why. I wanted there to be a heart-pounding search and investigation into the matter and a yearning to have them returned. Instead, the leading lady randomly stumbled onto the shoes at one point, which was very anticlimactic and not something she’d actively pursued. She’d quite forgotten about that memento of her mom’s that she’d cherished in the opening scenes.

The cover is exquisite and sets a beautiful tone for this story. There’s something romantic and atmospheric and utterly amazing about the color scheme and saturation, the wistful, reminiscent pose of the ballerina, and the lyrical typeface of the title that really called to me when I originally saw it. Those things still drew me in every time I picked up this book to read a little more in the time I found between work obligations and family time.

Because of the abovementioned issues that bothered or confused me, it took me about three weeks to read a book that I thought I’d guzzle in three days. However, now that I know the ins and outs of the story and which aspects I didn’t understand on my first read, I have a feeling this story will continue to grow on me through another two or three reads. It’s one I really want to love, so I’ll be giving it another chance. The final several chapters did bump my rating up from three to four stars, because some things came to satisfactory ends and the climax of the ballet swept me away so that I kept flipping pages as quickly as I could.

The big secret that I didn’t even realize until late that Ella was keeping close didn’t make sense to me. It seemed to come out of nowhere. Even when it was “revealed,” she didn’t come out and say what the secret was, so I’m still not sure I fully understand what had happened and if it had indeed happened to Ella or not. Maybe I’ll understand that part better next time.

This book definitely had some mesmerizing qualities. It was lyrical and vintage and exquisite at times. I will likely read it again in coming years, and I believe a lot of readers will adore it.

Content: pub, drunkenness, gambling on a woman’s virtue, swearing by “heaven’s name” and “all that is holy,” tobacco, prostitutes mentioned, statues of Greek mythology, alcohol


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