This novel opens with a murder. In its aftermath, feted soprano Sabine Conrad flees her life in New York in the late 1870s to start a new one in Seattle, as Marguerite Olson, a few years later. She takes a job at a boxhouse, first as a cleaner and later as the theater’s joint manager. Her partner, Johnny, dreams of turning the boxhouse into a real theatre, but Marguerite always fears that her past life and actions will come back to haunt her—as indeed it does. The novel is told through diary entries made by Sabine, and also later, when she is Marguerite. Right from the very first sentence of this novel, I was hooked on this book.
I’ve read three of Megan Chances novels, and they’ve all been enjoyable, fast-paced reads. Prima Donna, like The Spiritualist and An Inconvenient Wife, is well-researched, and draws you in to the Victorian era like few other novels can. It’s an extremely absorbing novel that I never really wanted to put down. Her previous books have a bit more suspense to them, but this is equally enjoyable nonetheless. Without trying to give anything away (and I know I’m being very vague here), what I started out thinking had happened turned out not to be the case—to my surprise and delight. I’m not sure if the author meant for her readers to think what I did, but it was effective nonetheless.
Character development is equally strong, though I thought that out of the main characters, Johnny’s is the weakest. For example, we never know much about his backstory, and, given his personality, his actions towards the end of the novel are not really believable. Still, the best character in this book is Marguerite/Sabine, who fairly leaps off the page—first as a naive, slightly breathy teenager, and then later as a world-knowledgeable woman in her twenties. It’s clear that Marguerite/ Sabine has grown up over the years. Equally strong was her complicated relationship with Gideon Price—clearly, not a good influence on Marguerite, but someone who she’s attracted to nonetheless. With the exception of the flaw I mentioned above, I really, really enjoyed this book. Read The Spiritualist and An Inconvenient Wife if you haven’t already, as well as this one; you won’t be disappointed.