Aussie Book Review: Luna Tango (Dance Card #1) by Alli Sinclair
Format: ARC courtesy of Harlequin Australia
Publication Date: August 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia
Extent: 325 pages
From the Cover
"Tango, like love, is complicated.
Journalist Dani McKenna delves into the world of tango to expose the decades of lies and deception that threaten three generations of her family. She’s desperate to understand the reason her mother abandoned her twenty years ago to become a world-class tango dancer, why her grandma lives in fear of all things tango, and how the brutal murder of a tango music legend in 1950s Buenos Aires now affects her family.
Dani meets the enigmatic Carlos Escudero, a revered tango dancer and man of intense passion, who helps her unravel tango’s sordid history. Despite Dani’s lack of rhythm, they create their own dance of the souls until the differences in their cultures causes a deep rift. As she seeks to reconnect with Carlos and rebuild her family, tango – the dance of passion – becomes a complicated dance of betrayal.”
Summary and Thoughts
The first thing about this novel that caught my attention was its striking cover. The second, that its backstory is based on one of the most passionate Latin dances around - the Argentine Tango.
With a present day timeline entwined within a historical one, which takes place in 1950’s Buenos Aires, Alli Sinclair gives us Dani and Louisa.
From the wide open spaces of Australia and the populous city of New York where she has lived for the last three years and, against the wishes of her grandmother, Dani McKenna, our present day heroine, finds herself on the narrow cobbled streets of Buenos Aires, trying to save her career by writing an article on the Tango. While she anticipates that the article will give her flailing career the lift it needs, she hopes her trip will also afford her the opportunity to delve a bit deeper and shed some light on the reasons why her mother abandoned her when she was five years old. She’s got just one problem though – she needs to interview Carlos Escudero, the revered Tango dancer, but their first meeting doesn’t go at all as planned.
Injured in a motorbike accident and having suffered injuries that ruined his dancing career, Carlos hates the media with a passion and shies away from all kinds of publicity – even the ones who say they have no interest in his personal story, but when she presents herself, asking for an interview, she is not expecting the cold reception he gives her.
Not to be thwarted by his obvious dislike of journalists (or is it just her), and their incessant attempts at breaking the story behind the accident and the break-up with his fiancé, Dani persists, causing him to finally have a change of heart – on condition that he has control over what she writes and that she learns to dance the Tango – for every step learnt, he will answer one question.
Finally given access to the world of the sultry Tango, the dance, with its impassioned portrayal of seduction and despair, soon casts its timeless spell over Dani, as she tries to uncover the secrets buried deep within her family history and begins to break all of her own rules. However, it is a photograph in Carlos’ possession that will have her questioning everything she has ever known about her family. Who is La Gringa Magnifica?
In the parallel timeline, it is 1953 and we are introduced to Louisa Gilchrist who had endured life in war-torn Britain where she lost her parents in the London Blitz at the age of thirteen. At seventeen, Louisa found herself in the slums of Buenos Aires, determined to find her only living relatives. Just like Eva Peron, Louisa arrived in Argentina penniless, having to work her way up in the world – until she, like Eva, met someone who could offer her a better life. For Eva it was Juan Peron. For Louisa, it was the esteemed composer, Eduardo Canziani, who plucked her out of poverty.
Louisa becomes Eduardo’s muse and, whilst they share a platonic relationship, it is still no easy feat, especially when she realises that she has fallen in love with his protégé, Roberto. Keeping it a secret from Eduardo proves to be quite difficult and the lovers are finally forced to find a way to be together forever. When Eduardo is murdered in cold-blood on the streets of Buenos Aires, Louisa, fearful of the consequences, is encouraged to take flight. However, it seems as though their relationship is doomed when Roberto doesn’t arrive at their designated meeting place, forcing Louisa to go to extremes to find the man she loves. Will she ever find him?
Seguing between present and past, we come to know Louisa, Eduardo, Dani and Carlos as they are swept into the dance's embrace, journeying to uncover the secrets, betrayals, loves and losses of lives torn in two by Tango.
Did you know that Argentina is known as “the Paris of South America”? Well, I didn’t, but I am so grateful for this “thing” I have when I am reading novels with a background that really interests me - my own research. In the case of Luna Tango, I scoured the web for hours looking at amazing pictures and reading about this country I know so little about. I soon realised, after also doing some digging on Alli Sinclair, that it’s no wonder she has the ability to intertwine the rich history of Argentina into the lives of her characters, along with the sultry atmosphere and nature of the Argentine Tango - because she has lived there.
As there is so much contained within this story and, in order to prevent this review from becoming overly lengthy, I have been placed in a position where I will not be able to wax lyrical about everything I loved. Instead, I'm going to have to just concentrate on a few facets of what really struck me about Alli's writing - and believe me, these are just a few.
Firstly, her love of history and culture definitively shine through the narrative as her descriptions drip with the history of both Argentina and its Tango, enhancing it and giving us an engrossing and informatively well-balanced story that captures the strength of her characters as well as the intensity of the city and the dance itself. As it echoes its tango-bar days, we come to learn that the Argentine Tango is a lifestyle with its own rules, politics, codes and plenty of drama!
Secondly, the details often associated with Latin America – over-polluted streets, hazy smoke-filled dance halls and the endless pulsating rhythm of dancing and music, the heady aroma of gardenias and the tantalizing smell of buttery pastries, to the mentions of Argentina’s beloved Eva Peron and the presidential building of Casa Rosada, the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (who continue to march in mourning of their children who “disappeared” during the Dirty War), the infamous Calle Florida and the pedestrian mall of Mendoza’s Avenida Sarmiento with its bustling sidewalk cafes, to smaller details such as an “ornate gate” and a “delicate brass handle” – are brought to life with vivid precision, lending authenticity to the entire novel.
Let me also just say that this is one of those novels where you can judge a book by its cover because it is so striking and evocative of everything contained within, from the baroque architecture to the passionate embrace of a Tango dance. And, fear not if you have neither visited the country nor ever danced the Tango, because Alli’s writing is so assured that I guarantee you will be able to experience the exoticism of the place and the passion of the art form directly from your armchair. In fact, you might even find yourself taking a Tango lesson or two!
Despite the fact that the novel is published by Harlequin (who are well-known for their romances), Luna Tango’s romance is, whilst at times a bit heated, somewhat understated, as it is rather the mysteries and discoveries surrounding La Gringa Magnifica and the cold case of Eduardo Canziani taking place in the midst of this vibrant city, that will have readers turning its pages well into the night, trying to solve these puzzles alongside Dani. Don't get me wrong, it is a love story - just one you've never experienced before.
I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a hard copy of this passionately written novel.
And, if my review hasn't convinced you enough, why not have a look below at the gorgeous book trailer that has been produced or read a chapter sampler, courtesy of the publisher, here.
A Little About the Author
Alli Sinclair is Australian born but considers herself a citizen of the world. She spent her early adult years travelling the globe, intent on becoming an Indiana Jones in heels. She scaled mountains in Nepal, Argentina and Peru, rafted the Ganges, and rode a camel in the Sahara.
Argentina and Peru became her home for a few years and when she wasn't working as a mountain or tour guide, Allie could be found in the dance halls dancing the tango, salsa, merengue and samba.
All of these adventures made for fun storytelling and this is when she discovered her love of writing. Her stories combine her passion for exotic destinations, the quirks of human nature and the belief that everyone can dance, even if it's to their own beat.
Luna Tango is Alli’s debut novel and the first in the Dance Card series. Flamenco Fire will release in 2015 and Turning Pointe is due to be released in 2016.
As promised, here is the trailer: