Author: Clare Kane
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Watchword (digital imprint of Impress Books)
Released: December 2015
Description: It’s 1931 and British diplomat William Graves and his wife, Amelia, are flung headfirst into the enticing, neon-lit streets of Shanghai. As Will helps to maintain the fragile peace between China and Japan, Amelia, alone in a foreign city, seeks solace with a Russian ballet troupe that are more than they seem. Whispers of protest, revolt, even war, buzz through the city as Will is tasked with rooting out Communist propaganda that could push tensions over the edge into war. But the city’s streets hold other intoxicating allures. Will falls into a deep obsession with Feifei, a beautiful silent film star, who is desperate to escape the volatile city and sees Will as her only chance at freedom. As Amelia starts to sense Will’s betrayal and the personal and the political begin to blur, will they lose themselves in the electric shadows of Shanghai?
My thoughts: The plot is fairly straightforward as it's described in the blurb - Will has recently started a job at the British consulate in Shanghai and quickly falls for the silent film actress FeiFei. In the first half of the book, you see that almost no one is as happy as they seem on a first impression and everyone has secrets. I think this could have been made more significant by the author - there were no build ups to the reveals, and while these were 'secrets' some, like FeiFei's unhappy relationship with her much-older husband were predictable and easy to guess.
What I liked most in the story was seeing Shanghai in this time period. I've not read much set in that part of the world and anything set even close to this time period was not seeing the side of the world that Will lives in - wealthy, able to take advantage of anything. That leads me nicely on to the other thing I enjoyed - Amelia becoming friends with a Russian ballet dancer and helping her recruit girls for a Shanghai ballet company. Only the girls they are taking on work as dancers in illicit clubs.
There is corruption, spying, several unhappy marriages and a lot of social climbers. It's definitely an interesting look at Shanghai and what it could be like for people in various social situations in the 1930s.