At first, I’ll admit, it was difficult to get to grips with ‘Last Dance With Valentino’: it seemed a bit clunky, moving between time frames quite obscurely. However, this all changed after the first three chapters, when the novel gathered its pace, and I’m so very glad I stuck with it, because Daisy Waugh has written a truly enchanting book.
The fictitious account of Jenny Doyle, a.k.a. Lola Nightingale, is sprinkled with factual accounts to substantiate the plot, as well as allowing readers to gain a real insight into both Valentino’s rollercoaster life and the gloss-filled world of Hollywood. The tone never slips, as I don’t think there was a moment I didn’t believe this was a novel set in the early twentieth century: Waugh certainly has done her homework! This is put to particularly good effect with the inclusion of the de Saulles incident, which seamlessly links the novel together and allows the tone to be set for the rest of the book. In fact, I found Waugh’s use of history so fascinating that I ended up poking around the internet to find out more about the characters!
The only (very small!) thing that bothered me was the three uses of slightly colourful language, and this isn’t on principle, but just because it added nothing to the situation, and detracted from what was otherwise an artistically built up scenario.
The title says all you need to know about the ending, and the denial of the happily ever after for most of the novel is a poignant touch: the ability to maintain their love despite the prolonged absence always feels real, it never grates or grows tiresome, and this is in part due to the superb construction of the surrounding characters, particularly Perry. As the nearest to a villain in the piece, he builds tension and causes frustration, allowing the reader to feel almost exactly as Jenny/Lola does, allowing us to share her traumatic and wonderful journey through life.
A definite must-read for anyone who loves Titanic-esque love stories: it’s a simply stunning read, and one that I struggled to put down.
(This was a preview copy of ‘Last Dance With Valentino’ sent to me to review for Waterstones, the review can also be found at http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/daisy+waugh/the+last+dance+with+valentino/7955227/)