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Review of 'The Empire' - Michael Ball

Welcome to The Empire theatre 1922. When Jack Treadwell arrives at The Empire, in the middle of a rehearsal, he is instantly mesmerised. But amid the glitz and glamour, he soon learns that the true magic of the theatre lies in its cast of characters - both on stage and behind the scenes. There's stunning starlet Stella Stanmore and Hollywood heartthrob Lancelot Drake; and Ruby Rowntree, who keeps the music playing, while Lady Lillian Lassiter, theatre owner and former showgirl, is determined to take on a bigger role. And then there's cool, competent Grace Hawkins, without whom the show would never go on . . . could she be the leading lady Jack is looking for? When long-held rivalries threaten The Empire's future, tensions rise along with the curtain. There is treachery at the heart of the company and a shocking secret waiting in the wings. Can Jack discover the truth before it's too late, and the theatre he loves goes dark? Musical theatre legend Michael Ball brings his trademark warmth, wit and glamour to this, his debut novel. Enjoy the show!

Michael Ball's debut novel has everything I would expect from him - a theatre, a smattering of posh people mixed in amongst some undiscovered talent with a whole lot of pluck and a dash of romance to smooth things along.

This book didn't disappoint. The Empire Theatre is past its heyday but the occupants are determined to recapture those days. There are various obstacles along the way and an unlikely romance or two as well. I found it quite difficult to remember how the characters were related to begin with, but once I was a few chapters in, I'd got to grips with them. There's also a handy "who's who" at the beginning, which meant I was able to refer back to it when I needed to.

The main characters are likeable and the plot twists are delivered in all the right places - I'd worked out a few of them in advance, but it didn't matter in the least - yes, there was a level of coincidence in the action, but no more than I would expect in books of this genre.

I liked that the sub-plot explored some less frequently covered territory in this genre - a relationship between an older couple and the darker side of theatre life. I assume that this is to be the first in a series and if so, it does its job well. It's a sold opener, the characters are all established and by the end of the book, the future is looking reasonably bright, albeit with a few challenges to be faced.

Click below for an extract of the book.

Michael Ball OBE is a singer, actor, presenter and now author. He's been a star of musical theatre for over three decades, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical twice, he's also won two BRIT awards and been nominated for a Grammy. Michael regularly sells out both his solo tours and his Ball & Boe shows with Alfie Boe and has multiple platinum albums. The Empire is his first novel.

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