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The Last Debutantes

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Georgie Blalock's The Last Debutantes is an engaging work of historical fiction that takes readers into the heart of English society on the brink of WWI in 1939. Readers are introduced to the last class of ladies who make their debut into society before life as they knew it changes forever. 

I am always fascinated by stories of the ostensibly wealthy, especially when that sense of comfort and opulence is at its most fragile. 

Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for sharing this book with me. All thoughts are my own.
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"Fans of The Kennedy Debutante and Last Year in Havana will love Georgie Blalock’s new novel of a world on the cusp of change...set on the eve of World War II in the glittering world of English society and one of the last debutante seasons.

They danced the night away, knowing their world was about to change forever. They were the debutantes of 1939, laughing on the outside, but knowing tragedy - and a war - was just around the corner.

When Valerie de Vere Cole, the niece of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, makes her deep curtsey to the King and Queen of England, she knows she’s part of a world about to end. The daughter of a debt-ridden father and a neglectful mother, Valerie sees firsthand that war is imminent.

Nevertheless, Valerie reinvents herself as a carefree and glittering young society woman, befriending other debutantes from England’s aristocracy as well as the vivacious Eunice Kennedy, daughter of the U.S. Ambassador. Despite her social success, the world’s troubles and Valerie’s fear of loss and loneliness prove impossible to ignore.

How will she navigate her new life when everything in her past has taught her that happiness and stability are as fragile as peace in our time? For the moment she will forget her cares in too much champagne and waltzes. Because very soon, Valerie knows that she must find the inner strength to stand strong and carry on through the challenges of life and love and war."

Being an English debutante is kind of weird with all the pomp and circumstance, hence I'm kind of obsessed.
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Valerie, the niece of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin, is spending the Season with her prominent relatives who are sponsoring her debut into Society.  As Valerie makes friends and catches the eyes of eligible bachelors, she works to move beyond the secrets of her past.  Rumors of her father's poverty and her stepmother's dalliances threaten her reputation as her uncle deals with the stresses of impending war with Germany.  

I enjoyed the perspective of pre-WWII London.  A certain desperation laced High Society as they tried to keep things normal even as political disagreements and fear of an impending war cast a shadow over the Season.  I also appreciated that while Valerie was being judged harshly by some Societal ladies, she was advised that she had to learn to move past what others are saying because everyone had something they would rather not have discussed.  

I found Valerie to be a little too naive in light of the deep dark secrets she was desperate to hide from Society.  I thought the depths of poverty and the awful French school she was placed in should have made her a little more world-wise and harder.  I would have also liked to see some more of the story line of the developing friendship between Valerie and one of her uncle's typing girls, Marian.  I was, however, fascinated by the characters of Neville and Anne Chamberlin and, throughout the story, paused to research and read more about the couple.  

I found this to be a "lighter" historical fiction story; there were more descriptions of beautiful gowns and architecture than historical events, but it was fun to read.  It would be an entirely appropriate book to recommend to middle school age students who were interested in the time period and lifestyle of the time period.
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Absolutley fantastic!! I wasn't sure what I was expecting with this one, but I very much so enjoyed this novel about British high society on the brink of entering WWII.
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Sometimes, we need a story to reel us in, not by the suspense or action, but just because we find ourselves invested in the characters' lives and want to see them find their joy. That is what happened with The Last Debutantes. 

Although the story is set in 1939, when tensions were beginning to rise, and politically there were whispers of what was yet to come with the war, the storyline and characters themselves were about so much more than just that. It's in the background, and you can sense it, and knowing what we do about history, you almost feel saddened to know much of what we and the characters are enjoying will soon come to an abrupt and harsh end. However, as I said, we're not focused on the political changes so much. We're focused instead on Valerie de Vere Cole's first season, her introduction as a debutante, and the glamourous life she is thrust into thanks to her aunt and uncle taking charge of her. We witness Valerie's struggles to fit in while also trying to stay in the shadows of the rumor mills. She has a past and secrets she wants to keep hidden. We get to see how much Valerie fights to become something more than what is expected of her. 

I loved the settings, the bits of actual historical figures, and what's more, I loved the storyline itself. It was a lovely, enjoyable read, and I'd recommend it to any friend looking for something of that nature.

Thank you to NetGalley as well as William Morrow and Custom House for this advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Read if you: Are a fan of historical fiction about upper-class society (nothing wrong with that; I enjoy it as well!). 

Readers who read historical fiction for escapism will appreciate this; it's a fun whirlwind of parties and society-doings before everything went to hell in World War II. 

Librarians/booksellers: Readers wno enjoy WWII historical fiction will want to read this pre-WWII story. 

Many thanks to William Morrow/Custom House and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Apparently, I am one of the very few that did not like certain aspects of or appreciate this novel as much as I should have.  I have been on a historical fiction/non-fiction kick now for some time, and I was thrilled to be chosen to read this book. This novel blended all of my likes into one-or, so I thought.

 It was interesting to learn what it was like to 'come out' during the few months left before England became embroiled in WWII.  But what I found to be tedious was the beating of the dead horse, Valerie de Vere Cole, the niece of Prime Minister Neville's (yes, she really was his niece) past life. And what some of the women ( at least one of her friends included) treated her when the truth came out. Some repetition is understandable to give you a slow build-up. However, in this book the repetition was distracting and seemed to be just page filler.

To the worst extent possible, this novel showed just how privileged these people were and how they didn't appreciate it; they just took it all for granted and whined, whined, whined.

This was not a horrible book and maybe someday I will re-read it. It just wasn't my cup of tea!

*ARC supplied by the publisher, the author, and NetGalley.
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I really enjoyed this book and how it immersed me in history. I love when a book connects me with history in a new way.
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I enjoyed the perspective of Chamberlain's niece, of life pre-WWII, the love stories and court gossip.  BUT, the story felt really drawn out.  Perhaps the fault lies in the reader (me!) and my distracted frame of mind.  But the book dragged on a little too long for me, and I actually made it 60% through and did not finish.
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This novel takes place in England, 1939 on the brink of the second world war.  Valerie de Vere Cole is Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's niece, his wife Anne is the one introducing Valerie into society.  Though Valerie has the right lineage, family with all the right connections, the right bloodline if you will, her father, Anne's brother was a society outcast and joke whose smeared reputation follows Valerie into her debutante season. 
   Valerie sets out to overcome her father's reputation and secure her rightful place in society.  Her challenges are interwoven with details about the debutantes, the balls, luncheons, and other society functions that make up the "season", along with what behaviors are acceptable and expected of these young women.  All of this was very finely researched and I found it all highly entertaining as well as informative.  I love reading about this chapter in our history and it thrills me when I discover yet another perspective to see it through.  This one was totally different than any I have read previously and I have read tons of books on this subject.  
   The young people throw themselves into the spirit of the season, trying to wring every ounce of carefree fun from it that they can for they are well aware of the dark cloud of war that is hanging over their heads.  Knowing their world as they know it could come crashing down at any moment they try to make every moment count. 
   I really liked this story, the book read fast for me, but, and I know, there is always a but!  I found myself getting really annoyed at Valerie quite often.  I mean here is this young woman who, yes she had a hard life before coming to live with her aunt and uncle, I understand that, but it just seems to me that she obsessed excessively about it.  It was constantly what if they find out about France?  What if they find out I was starving in France, or I was in a convent school not a boarding school. and it went on and on in this same vein in every chapter of the book.  Ok, her life was hard, she was worried if certain people found out certain things they would use it against her, but she didn't have to lament the same litany over and over.  To me this just made her come across to the reader as a person that was even more shallow than the ones she was busy worrying about.  That is the only thing that detracted from this book for me.  Overall the storyline is good, I loved reading about all the "stuffed-shirts" and their uppity ways, it kind of brought a bit of light-heartedness to a heavy subject.  
   Because of Valerie annoying me so often I can only give this novel 4 stars instead of 5, but I do recommend this one, it is worth the read.  A very entertaining, quick read for historical fiction lovers. 
   I would like to thank Net Galley and William Morrow and Custom House publishers for the free ARC of this novel, I am leaving a honest review voluntarily.
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I love historical fiction and have so many to read on my shelf, but as soon as I saw this one, I knew it had to move up my list. It's a time period I'm only passingly familiar with so I was excited to read this one! The pacing isn't super fast, but the story really sucks you in so I barely noticed the pacing.
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The Last Debutantes by Georgie Blalock, was greatly written and keep my wanting more. Great book. I love the cover.
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To be honest, I didn't LOVE this book. I was so intrigued by the premise, as it takes place in London 1939, which marked what was essentially the last debutante season before the war. Society can sense it coming, and the reader can, too: it was just universally understood the world was about to change for the worse. 

For Valerie de Vere Cole, the stakes are higher than most, as this is her coming out season. She has a lot to prove, for while she comes from a good family, her late father did the most to change its reputation in society and was widely considered a degenerate joke. Her aunt, Anne Chamberlain, who is not only her late father's sister but the wife of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, sponsors Valerie for this season. Valerie needs all the help she can get, for she doesn't feel as though she truly fits into this world with the same degree of seamlessness as her contemporaries. With a reputation to prove in the midst of impending war, the atmosphere was an interesting juxtaposition between the intensity of pre-war London and the glittery, glitzy, glamorous life that defined the debutante season and society.

I guess my main "issue" was that I wanted to learn more than I did, and I wanted to connect more thoroughly to the characters than I did. However, this was a good historical fiction novel that I think readers of the genre will certainly enjoy.
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I had a hard time getting into this book, it just felt superficial to me. The characters didn't quite reach me and I couldn't get past the first few chapters. I tried, but I just wasn't hooked.
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I was not a fan of the beginning and will not continue reading.

Thank you so much for allowing me to read and review your titles.
I do appreciate it and continue to review books that I get the chance to read.
Thanks again!
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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for gifting me an Advanced Reading Copy.

The novel is rich in historical details.

Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.
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All families have secrets, no matter how rich or titled they are. Valerie de Vere Cole, niece of Neville Chamberlain, learns this during her "season" in london as the "Debutante from No,. 10" Being the prime minister's niece doesn't erase her impoverished childhood in France, suffering at the hands of her notorious father and stepmother, with a mother who never wanted her. Valerie is determined to rise above her past, but society keeps reminding her of her beginnings. World War II is looming on the horizon, and Valerie comes to learn about true friendship and what really matters in life.
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This book is historical fiction about the time right before World War II, but actually it was more about the social mores and manners of pre WWII England.  I don't know if the character of Valerie is real or not, but as she learns the way to navigate the British gentry, so does the reader.  Even though she does eventually understand the rules of the debutante season, that doesn't mean she actually follows them, which gives the book a very interesting character that can be cheered for.  One criticism of the book is that the ending comes very quickly--I felt like I wanted to know more about Valerie's story--an epilogue would have been nice...
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If WWII, glitz and glam and historical fiction is your jam, then I suggest you check this book out! Set in England 1939, we follow Valerie de Vere Cole’s, niece of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, debutante season and debut.

Valerie, feeling like an outsider in London’s high society, befriends other debutantes from England’s upper crust including Eunice Kennedy, daughter of the U.S. Ambassador. From here, we follow Valerie’s debut season where she navigates, friendships, love, and family relationships all while WWII is looming where their lives will be changed forever. 

I loved this read. As somebody who enjoys reading books set around the time WWII was happening, it was interesting seeing the story told from the perspective of the PM’s niece behind the doors of Number 10 and how we could imagine the tone and conversations being had throughout London’s elite. Having characters who were real figures during this time also added an additional element to the story as I enjoyed looking up their true stories after reading. 
This was a slow burn for sure while characters were being developed, but since this is a historical fiction novel, I was not expecting there to be many twists and turns throughout the book.
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Set in London 1939, The Last Debutantes focuses on Valerie de Vere Cole’s debutante season and debut.  The world is on the verge of war, WWII was just around the corner.  For Valerie, the niece of the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, she feels as if she is an outsider ...with the humiliation of her father an outcast from high society as a jokester and having spent 5 years in a convent she was not among the London elite.  Yet she strives to overcome the scandals of her past, making friends and stepping into the present.  This is a good book to curl up with and enjoy.  The research is spot on as we enter a world that was soon to erupt and change.  My thanks to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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