I am delighted to share my review today for The Empire by Michael Ball… yes that Michael Ball! This is a fabulous debut novel that I adored and I was so lucky to have got a spot on the Blog Tour for this book.
My huge thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my spot on the Tour and for arranging my e-copy from the publisher, Zaffre Books, via NetGalley.
Welcome to The Empire Theatre
1922. When Jack Treadwell arrives at The Empire, in the middle of a rehearsal, he is instantly mesmerised. But amid the glitz and glamour, he soon learns that the true magic of the theatre lies in its cast of characters – both on stage and behind the scenes.
There’s stunning starlet Stella Stanmore and Hollywood heartthrob Lancelot Drake; and Ruby Rowntree, who keeps the music playing, while Lady Lillian Lassiter, theatre owner and former showgirl, is determined to take on a bigger role. And then there’s cool, competent Grace Hawkins, without whom the show would never go on . . . could she be the leading lady Jack is looking for?
When long-held rivalries threaten The Empire’s future, tensions rise along with the curtain. There is treachery at the heart of the company and a shocking secret waiting in the wings. Can Jack discover the truth before it’s too late, and the theatre he loves goes dark?
Musical theatre legend Michael Ball brings his trademark warmth, wit and glamour to this, his debut novel.
Enjoy the show!
I really didn’t know what to expect when I first saw this book, and I only glanced at the synopsis to know it was one I wanted to read. The author has trod the boards of theatres around the world and so it makes sense that his first book would be set in a theatre.
The Empire is a theatre that has pretty much been left to its own devices. It is owned by the Lassiters, but neither really seems to take a huge amount of interest. The day-to-day running is done by Grace, a young woman with a passion for theatre. Not officially in charge, but knows that she needs to organise things to keep it running. The behind-the-scenes crew go about doing what they need to. When Jack is told to go and see Mrs Lassiter for a job it is Grace who he sees. Mrs Lassiter is in the US still in the morning over the death of her husband. As there seems to be no one really paying attention to the Empire, it seems that another businessman sees an opportunity to take advantage.
The author brings his passion for theatre, musicals and variety to every page of this wonderful novel. There are stories within stories and some real mysteries that are wonderfully woven into this tale of family disagreement, rivalry and blackmail. Underneath all of this though is the dogged determination of those who do not want to go down without a fight. It is their stubbornness and belief that gives magic to this story. They add glamour and glitz if you like.
While this is a story about grief and getting on with your life it is also about accepting mistakes from your past. There are a few juicy little secrets that the author has snuck into this story and it is one that had me hooked from the very first pages.
As well as the story of The Empire, this is also a story about certain characters as well. It is the everyday lives and working relationships of those who work in the theatre. They are a family and they have close bonds and therefore loyalties. This is something that I adored, as the author took me through the mazes behind the scenes, to the offices, the foyers, the dressing rooms and the stage.
The story has a bit of everything in it, so it is a romance, a mystery, it has loss and regret and hope for the future. Set between the wars in the 1920s this has the glamour and glitz of the music hall and variety shows. This is where the author really did work his magic so well. There were several times when I got goosebumps reading this book. Whether it be the cast getting a scene right, someone singing and dancing at an unexpected moment or when the cue for the show is called. The emotions and feelings that this book oozed were spo0t on for me.
This is a fabulous story and one that I really adored. It has the razzmatazz and the glamour, it also has the shady and the undesirable, but all the way through this story the feeling of “the show must go on” is one that resonated with me. No matter what the pitfalls there is always something to work toward, whether it is in the belief of others around you or accepting that you are capable of being successful, there is always a glimmer of the possible.
This a fabulous debut novel from someone who knows the industry, the history, the backstage and centre stage of theatres. A time when Jazz was making its way across the Atlantic and the roaring 20s was making itself heard. It is an addictive story and one I would absolutely recommend.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Ball OBE is a singer, actor, presenter and now author. He’s been a star of musical theatre for over three decades, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical twice, he’s also won two BRIT awards and been nominated for a Grammy. Michael regularly sells out both his solo tours and his Ball & Boe shows with Alfie Boe and has multiple platinum albums. The Empire is his first novel.
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