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Prima Donna Paperback – 29 Dec 2009

3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 418 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (CA) (29 Dec. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307461017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307461018
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.2 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,161,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Riveting...a guilty pleasure that is nearly impossible to stop reading."
--"Seattle Times"

About the Author

Megan Chance is the award-winning author of several adult novels, including Bone River. A former television news photographer with a BA from Western Washington University, Megan lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters. Visit her at:

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Sabine Conrad thought she had it all - the grand Prima Donna of the stage, the darling of New York society as well as the *love* of her controlling manager Gideon Price - until she is involved in a murder that sends her running to the farthest corner of the country, Seattle. Down on her luck, and going by the name Marguerite Olson she takes employment with a saloon keeper that eventually grows into a business partnership as well as a *relationship* of sorts. The story is told in alternating viewpoints, the later storyline in Seattle is first person narrative of Sabine and her past history as a young opera star is told via excerpts from Sabina's diary. Eventually Sabine/Marguerite's past comes back to haunt her and she must chose between her new life or the old one that comes calling once again - can she resist the lure of the stage and the public's adoration?

*Yawn*. Despite not being a great fan of opera, I actually had great hopes for this one, especially with the setting being my own home town - Seattle. Unfortunately as some other reviewers have noted none of the characters were terribly likeable and in fact most times were downright distasteful as was much of the language they used as well as their sexual relationships (does everyone like it rough and ready?). Sabina was bordering on TSTL over Gideon and his machinations (oh come with the suspecting the maids of stealing her jewels), and I also found it hard to believe that no one would have raised an eyebrow at a young girl old traveling around the country with her brother and *manager* without a proper escort.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x927b55b8) out of 5 stars 19 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92fe4bf4) out of 5 stars Very, very good (4.5 stars) 29 Dec. 2009
By Ellis Bell - Published on
Format: Paperback
This novel opens with a murder. In its aftermath, feted soprano Sabine Conrad flees her life in New York in the late 1870s to start a new one in Seattle, as Marguerite Olson, a few years later. She takes a job at a boxhouse, first as a cleaner and later as the theater's joint manager. Her partner, Johnny, dreams of turning the boxhouse into a real theatre, but Marguerite always fears that her past life and actions will come back to haunt her--as indeed it does. The novel is told through diary entries made by Sabine, and also later, when she is Marguerite. Right from the very first sentence of this novel, I was hooked on this book.

I've read three of Megan Chances novels, and they've all been enjoyable, fast-paced reads. Prima Donna, like The Spiritualist: : A Novel and An Inconvenient Wife, is well-researched, and draws you in to the Victorian era like few other novels can. It's an extremely absorbing novel that I never really wanted to put down. Her previous books have a bit more suspense to them, but this is equally enjoyable nonetheless. Without trying to give anything away (and I know I'm being very vague here), what I started out thinking had happened turned out not to be the case--to my surprise and delight. I'm not sure if the author meant for her readers to think what I did, but it was effective nonetheless.

Character development is equally strong, though I thought that out of the main characters, Johnny's is the weakest. For example, we never know much about his backstory, and, given his personality, his actions towards the end of the novel are not really believable. Still, the best character in this book is Marguerite/Sabine, who fairly leaps off the page--first as a naive, slightly breathy teenager, and then later as a world-knowledgeable woman in her twenties. It's clear that Marguerite/ Sabine has grown up over the years. Equally strong was her complicated relationship with Gideon Price--clearly, not a good influence on Marguerite, but someone who she's attracted to nonetheless. With the exception of the flaw I mentioned above, I really, really enjoyed this book. Read The Spiritualist and An Inconvenient Wife if you haven't already, as well as this one; you won't be disappointed.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92fe4c54) out of 5 stars Not Hitting My "Favorite Heroines" List 29 Dec. 2009
By Tara Chevrestt - Published on
Format: Paperback
This story is told from two different view points. One viewpoint is twenty seven year old Sabine who is living in Seattle and working in a saloon hiring prostitutes and constantly looking over her shoulder in fear that her past will catch up with her. The other viewpoint is seventeen year old Sabine's journal and it talks about the opera and her lovers and the all the scandal and family problems. The journal also slowly leads readers step by step towards understanding why and how Seattle Sabine is in the situation she is in.

I did not care for the journal of young Sabine. Thru her words readers visit the scandalous and heated backstages of 1800s opera, but it is literally a soap opera about the opera. Everybody is sleeping with everybody else and on top of being incredibly selfish, spoiled, and wanton, Sabine is also unbelievably naive. Her lover, Gideon takes women left and right and she cannot figure him out? Her jewelry also keeps disappearing. Hello, Sabine? Anybody home in that brain? Something else I found bothersome was that anytime Sabine and Gideon have words, they must sum it up with rough sex.

Seattle Sabine is not much better. Tho she lacks the fame, money, and pretty dresses, she still offers her body to get what she wants and thinks only of herself. Tho hiding from her past and those that are searching for her, her vanity and love of her own voice may be her downfall. She begins a show business venture with her current lover and it is only a matter of time before her past catches up to her and she has a decision to make.

I was all prepared to give this four stars due to the amazing historical details and the fact that I truly felt I was on the rainy streets of 1878 Seattle, but just when I thought Sabine was finally redeeming herself, I lost what little respect I had for her around page 334. The ending left me feeling empty. I feel Sabine went back to square one and well... what was the point of all this then?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92c2e750) out of 5 stars Why is the queen of historical feminism going all caveman?(2.5 stars) 29 Oct. 2011
By Lilly Flora - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ever since my introduction to Megan Chance within the pages of "An Inconvenient Wife" I've been hooked on her style. The way she writes is so clean and mysterious at the same time- and so filled with emotion. Weather its that of a bound society wife yearning to break free, a lower class girl unexpectedly raised high by her marriage and then suspected of murdering the same man, the hysteria of the Salem witch trials or in this book-the desperate yearning of young, talented Sabin Conrad for fame and music, and her older self's' desperate desire to hide as far as the railroad can take her-and never, ever sing again.

Instead Sabin takes on the name of Marguerite Olson and, almost unrecognizable with a deforming scar across her face, works as a bar maid in a sleazy tavern in Seattle. But the lure of the stage is strong and soon even the little platform the taverns owner, Johnny, has built, has her lusting after music. She can't sing of course-she's far too recognizable- but the "severing girls" who will keep company with men for a price can be trained to sing and play-badly. And at this point Johnny, a rough, harsh man who loves Marguerite, decides he wants to go bigger and bolder.

We watch Sabine's life unravel both in the past and in the present as a lust for music and fame (in the past) and a fear of being found but a craving for the stage (in the present) prove to be her undoing. Her little tavern stage and the jewelry she sold to cross the country she sold from New York after a violent incident that left the scar across her face leave a clear path for her old manager, one time lover, and tyrant, Gideon Price to follow. And once they meet again the one sided story we've been told so far by Sabin opens up into a three dimensional tale where there is no clear bad guy and everyone may have done something wrong....

Like most of Chance's novels this book basically boils down to perception versus reality. This had worked for her before: the Salem witch trials-no better place for exploring such a thing. Female hysteria, bring it on. An innocent women being charged with murder because she wasn't rich before her marriage-all the kinds of things where perception plays an equal or larger role than reality.

But here we have, through Sabine's diaries of her days on the stage from the tender age of 16 acess to her inner most thoughts, desires and fears. Her increasing unease and unhappiness with Gideon as her manager; The element of fear when she's around him-and a feeling of degradation at things she feels he makes her do. Lets be frank, there's no doubt that Sabin will debase, beg, and whore her way to the top is she needs too-but Gideon is always in the wings, And just as Sabin in truly coming to terms with her new life as Marguerite there's a big event which is kind of a "here he comes to save the day moment" only it's really only it's "oh you silly dear. I didn't make you do those things. You just need a strong guiding hand like all women."

Also the writing was pretty bad. The dairy entries were the most entertaining part of the novel and they were stiff and so coated with selfishness I wanted to gag. And in the present life is bleak-and Marguerite so depressed and withdrawn that getting through her sections was like wading through molasses.

The Queen of historical feminism goes all caveman on us? I was confused-and sad. Everyone loves a love triumphs in the end story but this was more than that. I gotta say, I'm not too interested right now in reading Chance's new Novel, "City of Ash."

Two and a half stars.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92c2e90c) out of 5 stars What a disappointment!!! 23 Feb. 2010
By Topolino - Published on
Format: Paperback
I was looking forward to reading this book. I had enjoyed The Illusionist very much and liked An Inconvenient Wife, though not as much as The Illusionist. I wrote it off to the fact that it was an earlier novel and Megan Chance was getting better as time wore on. SHe's not the deepest writer, but certainly entertaining and I had saved this book for a trip, to read on the plane. I kept hoping it would get better, that it would get a plot or a reason for being, no such luck. THe lead character is awful, very unlikeable, but I got the impression the author actually liked her. Her lover is even worse! The only two likable characters are left hanging with quick and not very satisfying resolution. This is really an awful story, poorly written and not at all enjoyable. Lets hope Chance's next book is more like The Illusionist and that Bella Donna (who's not bella at all) is just a blip in her career.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92fe7138) out of 5 stars Very Unlikeable Lead Character... 8 Jan. 2010
By Mercedes J. - Published on
Format: Paperback
I've read two of Ms. Chance's previous novels, 'An Inconvenient Wife', which is one of my favorite books EVER, and 'The Spiritualist', which was just 'Eh'. It was a very strange book. I've had 'Prima Donna' on my wishlist forever it seems, impatiently waiting for it to be released. I had high hopes for it...until the synopsis was released. I am NOT a fan of Opera, or theatre, but I do love period novels, so figured I'd still give it a go.

Right off the bat I didn't like Marguerite/Sabine very much, and my dislike for her only intensified throughout the novel. The book alternates between her in Seattle under an assumed name, and her journal entries starting from when she was sixteen. I really began to dread the journal entries. Sabine was an incredibly spoiled brat who was unable to make her own decisions, then would blame everyone else around her when things didn't go her way. Her manager/lover Gideon wasn't much better. They were so destructive together that I would become very angry while reading this...not how I like my books to make me feel.

Older, Seattle Sabine (Marguerite), was not much better. Any time she wanted something, or didn't get her way, she morphed into a flaming whore. Really! Even as a teenager, in the journal entries, everything was about sex. Her and Gideon would fight (which was pretty much all the time), and they would end up having violent sex...she needed money or the notice of society, so she'd sleep with a wealthy man twice her age, then complaine about how she felt cheap...ahhh, she WAS!! And she KEPT doing it...that's what drove me crazy!

By the end of the book, I was almost exhausted from reading page after page of Marguerite lying to her Seattle friends and lovers. Of her back-and-fourth of 'What an I gonna do?' Where am I gonna go'? Senseless lie upon lie that she doled out to her boss/lover Johnny, and how she would sometimes lie to her only friend Charlotte for seemingly no reason. UGH!! Anyway, in the end, I didn't HATE the book...I mean, I did finish it. It'll keep you reading just to find out what happened, and why Sabine ran away from her life, and who she murdered...however be prepared. Sabine is a most unlikeable character, and I'd be SHOCKED if you didn't find yourself wanting to hurl the book across the room at least once.
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