A Respectable Actress by Dorothy Love

Book description:

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.

My review:

This was a nice book with an interesting premise.  I thought the idea of a murder mystery set in post-Civil War era was an unusual plot, especially one involving a woman as the accused.  Although I was a fan of the plot idea from the beginning, the execution was a little uneven.

The beginning was a little slow for me.  I kept forging ahead, thinking that at some point I would click with the characters.  Eventually it started moving ahead and I became curious about what would happen.  The thing that bothered me were the hints about India’s romantic interest in Philip.  It seemed a little unnecessary and broke up the flow of the writing.  I was relieved when Love stopped hinting about their romantic interest and left it to develop naturally.

Although the writing was a little contrived at the beginning, in my opinion, once the story took off it got much smoother.  There were some surprises and plot twists that are always enjoyable in a novel.  I enjoyed the book at the end and found myself to be a fan of Love’s writing.  This book was truly an example of why it pays to keep reading past a rough beginning.

The aspect of the book that I enjoyed the most was the research that went into it.  Love paints a picture of life post-Cival War in the South that is accurate and detailed.  I loved reading about the real-life people that inspired some of the characters.

Overall, this turned out to be a nice story.  I enjoyed it once the story got underway, even though there were a few bumps in the beginning.  The historical details and plot twists make the whole book worth reading.  I am looking forward to reading another book by Dorothy Love.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review as part of the Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild.  All opinions are my own.

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