Bill Hayes; Susan Seaforth Hayes
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Decadent Publishing
Release Date
March 2012
Historical Novel with Romantic Elements

Brilliant and sassy Elizabeth Trumpet fantasizes starring on the London stage, but to become an actress in 1803 is tantamount to losing her virginity in the most debasing way.

After watching her mother die and her father lose his mind, the courageous sixteen-year-old must find a way to save her family. She scores her first acting job as a fencer—the deadly skill she learned from her brother training for the military. Blessed with talent and a rare singing voice, Lizzie pursues her career, learning from theatrical characters high and low.

When reckless actor Jonathan Faversham sets eyes on Miss Trumpet, he knows he's found the partner of his life. But Faversham carries ruinous baggage from a dark past. Entangled in lust and ambition, Lizzie gives him her heart and they reach the heights together. Until Lizzie gets more applause than he…

From the magnificence of Regency palaces and the Theatre Royal Covent Garden to the sun-baked pyramids of Egypt and the arms of a real-life Samson, Lizzie is never far from trouble. As her brother rides to glory with Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars, great events threaten her survival. Danger lurks behind stage curtains, when a madman sets fire to take her life and she lifts a sword in revenge.

Will this once innocent girl, with her rise to stardom, be remembered for her art? Or for her shame?

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Jun 06, 2012   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
170 people found the following review helpful
Enormous in its scope and meticulous in its historic detail, this book is a sweeping tour through the theatrical world of eighteenth-century London and the epic story of one of its most courageous actresses.

The daughter of acclaimed actor William Trumpet, Elizabeth dreams of one day joining her father on London's grandest stages. Though her parents' marriage is a strained and complicated one, when her mother is taken suddenly ill and dies, William's reason breaks under the grief, and Elizabeth and her brother George are left with no one but their elderly Aunt Peg and a mountain of debts. Desperate to ensure that George can continue his military education, Elizabeth takes any stage work she can, at the risk of her own reputation. Though the work is less than dignified and the pay menial, her first taste of life on the stage is intoxicating, and Lizzie meets a man who will become her lifelong friend, Giovanni Balzoni, a hydraulic expert whose generous spirit is as large as his six-foot-seven frame.

From Sadler Wells' inauspicious footlights, Lizzie's rise to fame begins in earnest. Through hardship, setback and personal tragedies, her drive and faith sustain her, and keep her from those who want to use or exploit her. But when she sets eyes on Jonathan Faversham, Lizzie is convinced she has found her perfect partner for her.

Faversham is a powerhouse, having worked his way from obscurity to play the great villains of the age. He is also a personal tornado, breaking from his mentor and defiantly setting up his own troupe—with Lizzie as his leading lady. It is Faversham who gives Lizzie her real training and ensures her fame; however, he is also a vain, conflicted man who demands much—if not more—than his young wife is able to give. Driven from her husband, Lizzie takes on the world, from Napoleon's shabby palace at Elba to the grandeur of the pyramids to the promise of the New World, living a life as daring and dramatic as any part she could ever dream of playing.

There aren't too many characters whose life could command such a grand stage as this, but fortunately, Lizzie is definitely that heroine. Talent and courage she has in abundance, but I really appreciated the fact she has humanity and shortcomings, as well. She is a complete and complex character and I could revel in her successes because I had sympathized with her mistakes and failures.

Though her true love is always the stage, the men in Lizzie's life were each fascinating in their own ways. Belzoni (one of the many real historic figures to appear in this book) is charming and reliable, but a genius in his own right and a remarkable influence throughout the course of the story. Faversham is a marvelously conflicted villain, both on stage and off, and commands attention even at his lowest moments. Here again we have a character whose good and bad sides are given proper attention, making it possible to empathize with him even in some his most dastardly actions against Elizabeth.

More than anything else, however, I was blown away by the amount of historic detail woven throughout this book. In their introduction, the authors discuss the worldwide tour and painstaking research that brought this story to life, and it all shows. The descriptions are immersive and the world of the story complete in every detail. Though it did slow down the plot, especially in the book's first half, I haven't felt so comfortable in the world of a book in some time, no matter how many time the scene changed or years passed.

This story is very Dickensian, not only in terms of its vibrant characters and settings, but also in its scope and presentation. Scenes with secondary characters are interspersed throughout Elizabeth's story, along with letters from various characters and bits of songs and dialogue from plays. It makes for a plot as dense as it is broad, with a considerable cast of secondary characters as varied as Joseph Grimaldi (the first modern clown) to Lord Byron himself. Though this was not a quick read, it was an enjoyable one, and once the action picked up along with Elizabeth's rise to fame, I was hooked. I wasn't too surprised to realize that the authors were the same Susan Seaforth Hayes and Bill Hayes of Days of Our Lives fame, as this book is clearly the work of dramatic professionals, and I can only hope they keep up the good work!
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