October 05, 2011

The Ballroom on Magnolia Street by Sharon Owens

This is perhaps my least favorite of Sharon Owen's work. The Ballroom on Magnolia Street starts off very slow, in fact, the first half of the book I consider largely useless. Luckily, I stuck through and was rewarded with a decent second half of the book.

Unlike her other works a great portion of this novel actually doesn't involve the ballroom. While the characters are sometimes there or mention it, it isn't the main focus like the Tea Room or Pub were in her other novels.

At the beginning we're introduced to Johnny "Hollywood" Hogan, the owner of the ballroom. He has a penchant for Blue Suede shoes and Marion, another character's (Declan) mother. He's famous for having stopped a crime years before in the ballroom and also for being the only survivor of a bombing in the neighborhood where the ballroom is when he was born.

The most prominent characters are sisters Kate and Shirley. In the first half of the novel I couldn't stand either of them. They were both very superficial and written to be quite annoying. While Shirley improves midways through the novel, it isn't until almost the end when Kate redeems herself. Both of the sisters are in a perpetual hunt for love (or in Kate's case) a good time. Shirley, especially has a thing for Declan.

After the first half of the book is done the story really gets going. Shirley gets involved with Declan finally (even though in one paragraph of the first book he liked Kate, which is never explained away). Kate starts dating a mechanic out of jealousy of her sister's relationship. These relationships shape out the second half of the book and evolve into a double wedding that causes numerous sorts of grief.

Also featured is a kidnapping that seemed somewhat out of place and a transference of the ownership of the ballroom, which is quickly and conveniently reversed at the end of the novel. Like her other novels, the last chapter consists of different paragraphs explaining what happens to each of the characters, even the lowliest of side characters.

Her writing is still cheery in this book and it wouldn't be a bad read with a bubble bath and a glass of wine (the wine is very important for getting through the first half). It just didn't seem to have the charm that her other novels did and I didn't connect to the characters as much.

The Ballroom on Magnolia Street
Published in 2004
356 pages

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