All I know about ballet is from childhood when Mikhail Baryshnikov was on tv with those too tight tights and I was grossed out. So my ballet knowledge is limited, but I know a fantastic story when I read one and Lola Keeley’s debut novel qualifies.
Anna Gales is the new ballerina at the Metropolitan Performing Arts Center in New York. She comes from Iowa to train with her idol, the greatest ballerina of them all, Victoria Ford. Anna’s initial meeting with Victoria makes her feel her hero worship may be misguided. But it doesn’t take long for Victoria to see that Anna has that something special that makes a star. Victoria’s job is on the line and the best chance she has to save it is to make Anna the star of her season.
Victoria begins training Anna and the two become closer. Anna must deal with the jealousy of other dancers and Victoria’s former flame. But along the way, hero worship turns to something more and Victoria’s icy exterior is thawed by the girl next door Anna.
Victoria Ford is a wonderful character. A former ballerina whose career was cut short due to injury, who still feels pain everyday. Ballet is in her soul and she can never give it up. Her icy exterior is how she keeps people at a distance. She has mini flings but doesn’t open her heart up to anyone, until her heart makes the decision for her.
Victoria sees a kindred spirit in Anna, a much younger, but just as dedicated ballerina. She can’t help but gravitate to Anna, not just for her talent, but for her inherent goodness. Anna is just the sweetest. She has had a trauma in her life that could have broken her but made her all the more determined to fulfill her dream of being a ballerina. While Anna has a heart of gold she has a steely determination that Victoria admires.
Anna’s feelings for Victoria move from hero worship to disdain back to hero worship and finally to love. Lola Keeley takes her time to develop these characters and their relationship so I am fully invested. This is such a beautifully written book that I know I will reread many times. Victoria and Anna have captured my heart and I couldn’t recommend this book more.
Standout Moments: The curl of Victoria’s lip is cruel, and it’s clear that Anna is already beneath her contempt. This is intended as a final embarrassment, to make sure the only memory anyone may retain of Anna Gale is of stupidity. It’s every gym class that the new foster kid was laughed out of, every party she showed up to only to realize the invite has been a prank designed to make her the entertainment.
Victoria leans back against the leather of the seat and closes her eyes. As soon as she does, the first steps start to materialize, the scuff of leather against a wooden floor already forming beats only she can hear.
There’s something about this Anna, something Victoria hasn’t felt stirring in her gut for well over a decade. There’s something in the way the girl moves that makes Victoria’s own limbs stir once more, like a low voltage running just under her skin. There might never be another Victoria Ford, and she wouldn’t want there to be. She just might settle for unearthing the next best thing.