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January 4, 2022

The Last Dance of the Debutante by Julia Kelly ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

It is starting to be a habit to start the year reading a new book by Julia Kelly. But let me tell you, it is a great way to start the year.  

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Last Dance of the Debutante
January 2022; Gallery Books; 978-1982171636
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); women's fiction

I knew that The Last Dance of the Debutante would be good because of Kelly's great writing and awesome storytelling skills, but I wasn't sure I would enjoy it as much as I did. I absolutely loved last year's book The Last Garden in England (read my review) so I wondered if this new book could live up to expectations. The 1950s is a time period that I've just started reading so would I have trouble with the time period? Then there was the high society nature of The Season and debutants - would I be rolling my eyes? All these questions were swirling in my mind as I turned to the first page.

All I knew about The Season and being presented at court is what I saw in the Downton Abbey episodes of Rose's coming out. After reading this book, I wonder if Cora could have really presented Rose as only previous debutantes could present new debutantes. And right there is the first reason, I love Kelly's books - she devels into the history of the events and provides the little details that make the events feel real.

I loved Lily right from the start. I think I could see a lot of myself in her - the youngest child, a people pleaser, wanting to be the good daughter. Even though she is only 18, she feels more mature. I know a lot of people will see an 18-year-old protagonist and worry this will be too YA. But I can assure you it does not read as a young adult novel. 

There is the glamour of high society life with the endless dinners, drinks, balls, and parties of The Season. There is plenty of girls giggling over boys - the point of The Season is to secure a husband. But there is also some real meat to the plot. 1958 was the last year of being presented at court which in itself signals the changing culture of the time. The English love tradition so to end this long-standing tradition was an acknowledgment of the changing role and perception of women in society.

Do you remember the 2003 movie Mona Lisa Smile starring Julia Roberts? The last third of the book reminded me a little of that movie. In both the movie and this book, the girls are trying to navigate the expanse between the traditional pasts and the future. It is a difficult place to be and takes courage to choose a different path.

I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it had been written in first person. It was jarring a few times when I would read "she said" and I had to think oh, that's Lily speaking. The story is completely from Lily's POV so I'm not sure why it's in third person. But it is really a small thing and didn't ruin the enjoyment of the characters and their story. 

If you want to start your reading year with a solid novel, then get this book.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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