After the Last Dance by Sarra Manning

I must admit to being attracted to this book by its rather beautiful cover as well as the fact that it is partly set in World War 2. I am always drawn to novels set in wartime, being quite fascinated by how the people at home were affected during that terrible time. This is the first of Sarra Manning’s novels I have read, and has recently been announced as one of the nominees in the Epic Romantic Novel category of the Rona Romantic Novel of the Year Awards. It faces stiff competition as it’s up against novels by Iona Grey and Adele Parks among others.

We meet the two main female characters, Rose and Jane, in the prologue as they both arrive as young women at King’s Cross Station years apart. Rose has come to London in September 1943 to escape her mundane life in Durham and Jane has come to London 60 years later to escape. Just what she is trying to escape from is not clear at this point but it is obvious she has had a very rough time and is terrified. Fast forward to the present day: Jane has just left her fiancé at the altar and, on a drunken whim, marries Leo in a Las Vegas wedding chapel. Leo just happens to be Rose’s great nephew and so the connection between the women is made.

Sarra Manning has woven together the stories of both women beautifully. Rose in the present day is a wealthy, affluent women with no hint of how she has become the woman she is today. I was completely immersed in her story and her experiences at Rainbow Corner, a club for American servicemen stationed here during the war. Rainbow Corner did exist and famously never closed its doors until the day it closed for good. The fear and excitement, hope and despair of the era was captured perfectly as well as Rose’s emotions as she falls for handsome airman Danny. Rose was a wonderful character and I felt I lived through her experiences with her.

Jane was also a fascinating character. After meeting the terrified girl of the prologue, we see her again as a woman with quite a back story who has reinvented herself and re-written her history. Rose and Jane are thrown together by circumstance and begin to get to know each other and both recognise they harbour secrets. There were many touching moments between the two women as they come to know each other but there were plenty times when the feistiness of both women resulted in disagreements!

I enjoyed every page of this book, though especially the narrative set in WW2 as I mentioned above. This book has clearly been well researched and the attention to detail was such that I could almost picture myself with Rose and her friends in their flat or at Rainbow Corner. A fabulous read and I can understand why it has been nominated as both epic and romantic in the RONA awards. I look forward to seeing how the book gets on when the awards are announced in early March.

My thanks to publishers, Sphere,  for allowing me to read a review copy via Netgalley. After the Last Dance is available now as an e-book and will be published in paperback on 10th March 2016. You can order a copy here: After the Last Dance You can find out more about Rainbow Corner by clicking here.

From the back of the book

Two women. Two love affairs. One unforgettable story.

Kings Cross station, 1943. Rose arrives in London hoping to swap the drudgery of wartime for romance, glamour and jiving with GIs at Rainbow Corner, the famous dance hall in Piccadilly Circus. As the bombs fall, Rose loses her heart to a pilot but will lose so much more before the war has done its worst.

Las Vegas, present day. A beautiful woman in a wedding dress walks into a seedy bar and asks the first man she sees to marry her. When Leo slips the ring onto Jane’s finger, he has no idea that his new wife will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

So when Jane meets Rose, now a formidable older lady, there’s no love lost between them. But with time running out, can Rose and Jane come together to make peace with the tragic secrets that have always haunted their lives?

After the Last Dance is an extraordinary story of two women, separated by time but connected by fate, that will make you believe in the redemptive power of unexpected love.

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