Authors Showcase: Dance for a Dead Princess by Deborah Hawkins
January 25, 2015
The Book: Dance for a Dead Princess
The Author: Deborah Hawkins
The Story: The people Nicholas Carey has loved are all ghosts: his mother, the world-famous concert pianist; his wife, Deborah, the most beautiful woman in England; and Diana, Princess of Wales, his most trusted friend and confident. How many nights has he spent talking to Diana about his marriage, about her marriage, about his guilt over Deborah, and about the impossibility of being in love? Too many to count. He aches to tell Diana how empty his life has become without her and without Deborah, but he can do nothing to bring them back. Yet he can expose Diana’s killer. Taylor Collins, a Wall Street lawyer, has the tape Diana made naming her assassin, and he is determined to get it.
Taylor does not want to spend Christmas at Burnham Abbey overseeing the sale of the Carey’s ancestral home to her client, an American school for girls. Nicholas Carey, the Eighteenth Duke of Burnham, holder of a five-hundred-year-old title, is a spoiled selfish international financier; and Taylor would far rather be in New York, pursuing her high-powered legal career and hoping her fiancé, who left her at the alter months earlier, will return.
But night after night, Taylor hears Nicholas at the piano playing the haunting pavane for all the lost princesses in his life because his broken heart will not let him sleep. By day, she reads the tragic love story of Thomas, the First Duke, knight and liegeman to Henry VIII, who founded the Carey family but who never recovered from the loss of his beloved wife.
Just as Taylor realizes Thomas’s unmeasurable capacity to love is hidden beneath Nicholas’s shallow public facade, Lucy, Nicholas’s mysterious ward, turns up dead. Taylor’s heart is stretched to its limits as she searches for the truth about Nicholas and comes face to face with Diana’s assassins.
About Deborah Hawkins:
Deborah grew up in the South, wrote her first novel at the of age thirteen, and has been writing ever since. In graduate school, she studied Irish Literature and came to believe all Irishmen and Southerners are born storytellers.
In addition to writing, she loves music and plays the clarinet. Now that her children are grown, she devotes her time to law, music, writing, and her two Golden Retrievers, Melody and Rhythm.
Deborah taught college English and worked as a technical editor before going to law school. She worked for several large East Cost firms before coming to California in the mid-1980’s where she developed a solo practice as an appellate attorney while raising her three children as a single parent. She is admitted to the bar in two states and the District of Columbia, is a certified appellate specialist, and has a Master of Laws in addition to a Masters in English. She believes that even a legal case always begins with a story.
Review by Vigals:
Deborah Hawkins’s novel Dance for a Dead Princess – the gloomier English translation of Maurice Ravel’s achingly beautiful “Pavane pour une Infante Défunte” – is actually three stories rolled into one. The core story is an on-again-off-again romance that takes place mostly in England, of which the author’s cultural knowledge adds depth and richness for American readers who might lack such personal familiarity.
The interplay between the two main characters has a refreshing real-life hue; for while most American books, movies and TV shows portray high-powered lawyers and British royalty in admiring and even fawning tones, the protagonists of this novel have been living lives of relative mundanity. It’s difficult to turn characters who might have appeared on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous into Everyperson, but Ms. Hawkins manages it well, drawing the reader into their lives sympathetically without a sense of artifice.
The second story is an account of one of the main characters’ friendship with Princess Diana – yes, *the* Princess Di, but in a semi-fictionalized yet fully recognizable context that brings her back to life and then revolves around her tragic death within the novel’s main storyline. Adding a eponymous persona as the Princess’s girlhood best friend was an intriguing touch. And the third story is a did-they-or-didn’t-they 16th century romance played out in parchment and faded quill pen, that finds a way to tug on the heartstrings while making one wonder what it might have been like to dine with Shakespeare.
Ms. Hawkins blends these tales together crisply and concisely, though with plenty of attention to detail. Yet readability should not be confused with superficiality, since in this novel, little is as the reader might initially see it. That could be viewed as a twisty plot, but to me it seemed more like everyday life – we can’t always believe what we think we see, whether because we’re seeing it through our own imperfect senses, or because first appearances can be so deceiving. A fine storyteller is adept at weaving the strengths and frailties of human nature into a tapestry of linguistic imagination, and Ms. Hawkins is no exception.