Thursday, February 17, 2022

Book Review: The Last Dance of the Debutante by Julia Kelly

Pages: 336
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 4, 2022
Publisher: Gallery
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: The Last Garden in England,
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

My Rating: "When it’s announced that 1958 will be the last year debutantes are to be presented at court, thousands of eager mothers and hopeful daughters flood the palace with letters seeking the year’s most coveted invitation: a chance for their daughters to curtsy to the young Queen Elizabeth and officially come out into society.  In an effort to appease her traditional mother, aspiring university student Lily Nichols agrees to become a debutante and do the Season, a glittering and grueling string of countless balls and cocktail parties. In doing so, she befriends two very different women: the cool and aloof Leana Hartford whose apparent perfection hides a darker side and the ambitious Katherine Norman who dreams of a career once she helps her parents find their place among the elite. But the glorious effervescence of the Season evaporates once Lily learns a devastating secret that threatens to destroy her entire family.  “Woven with heartfelt emotion, this novel is a captivating, unforgettable story of one woman’s journey to find love, truth, and, most importantly, herself” (Kelly Bowen, author of The Paris Apartment) in midcentury Great Britain."

Lily Nichols dreams of attending university. The year is 1958, so a female attending college isn't unheard of, but her mother and grandmother have other plans for her.  Lily will make her debut in London and her group will be the last of the debutantes to be presented at court to the queen.  Lily's mother, Josephine, isn't exactly helping Lily get assimilated as she has her own trauma she hasn't recovered from.  On top of it, Lily feels she must appease her grandmother as she financially supports them after the untimely death of Lily's father and the shame Lily's sister brought to the family. While going to the never-ending balls and parties, Lily befriends Leana Hartford, who is known to be quite a catch within their social circle.  Her mother doesn't approve of their friendship though and is hiding many secrets as to why.  Lily also meets Katherine Norman, and while she is nicer than Leana, her family's new money is frowned upon.  Lily must navigate the social traditions, the family secrets, the endless gossip, and exhausting customs of the upper class all while trying to figure out what she wants most from her life in Julia Kelly's The Last Dance of the Debutante.  

Lily is an endearing character from the start of The Last Dance of the Debutante. I could empathize with her and her desire to go to university.  It seems crazy to think that she wouldn't be able to do that, all because she has familial obligations as a debutante.  Slowly Lily realizes that there's more to being a debutante than she thought, not to mention her family's secrets that her mother is obviously hiding. She doesn't give Lily a decent explanation, so I could feel Lily's frustration.  To top it off, it's hard for Lily to find real friends amongst these snobby women, and it seems her mother and grandmother had a problem with both Leana and Katherine.  How frustrating! To top it off, Lily finds herself attracted to a young man who isn't from her social circle (the horror!).  Thankfully, her friendship with Katherine is a positive one as she encourages her to follow her heart and her dreams.

The family secret plays a big roll in The Last Dance of the Debutante. It is the dark cloud that is hanging over her mother's head and the source of her trauma.  Being back in high society after her mother hid from it for years really forces her to face it head on whether she is ready or not.  Slowly, Lily realizes the truth to her family's secrets and thankfully before it's too late.

While I enjoyed The Light Over London a bit more, The Last Dance of the Debutante was an interesting glimpse into a time that is long gone.  At times, I did get sick of the rich people problems and the topic of the last debutantes didn't feel as fresh as I had hoped; perhaps, because I just read a book on this topic.  Either way, it was a solid, but not earth-shattering historical novel that brought an extinct time to life. 

So, are you a fan of Julia Kelly? Is The Last Dance of the Debutante on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below. 



  1. I love reading about high society and debutantes and things like that because it's so different from my life! Looking forward to this one.

    1. Exactly - it's so foreign! I look forward to your thoughts on it when you get a chance to read it. Thanks for visiting, Angela!


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