The Velvet Box
by Tracy Grandlinger

"Mrs. Croft entered her employer’s study with great trepidation and solemnly placed two letters on his desk, speaking in a most grave voice."

Sophie Gordon’s young life has been difficult. She blames herself for her mother’s death from diphtheria which Sophie had first. Her actor father, Nicholas, leaves her with his sister and brother-in-law, unable to cope with single fatherhood. Nine years later, however, Nicholas reaches out to Sophie to make amends and rebuild his family, renting a house and desiring to raise the teenage Sophie to adulthood. Nicholas introduces Sophie to the theater, where she flourishes thanks to the tutelage of the company’s actors and the affectionate generosity of its manager, Richard Neville. Even though Sophie achieves her dreams, her life is still fraught with the dramas of nineteenth-century English life—from balls and suitors to birthrights and nationalism. Despite it all, Sophie falls in love with her handsome co-star Ian, but there is something about Ian that causes Nicholas plenty of cause for alarm.

In a story primarily set either in the Gordon household or Neville’s theater, this novel reads almost as if it were ready to be performed on stage by the characters in the book. Those characters, like actors themselves, powerfully drive the narrative and invest the reader early on in their difficulties and triumphs. Sophie’s brash teenage bullheadedness can be jarring at times, but only because of how honest it is, while the kindness and teasing she experiences from her father and aunt, her fellow actors, and the men who are magnetically drawn to her create a full array of perspectives that give this story so much weight. You don’t have to appreciate the theatre or be a history buff to follow the very human and honest journey of both Nicholas and Sophie. If you have a love of good characters and strong, well-paced writing, you’ll feel at home with this story of romance and family bonds.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home