Saturday, March 9, 2024

#bookreview of Rhapsody in Black: An Elena del Carral Mystery

Rhapsody in Black: An Elena del Carral Mystery

By: Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra
Publication Date: February 14, 2024
ISBN: 979-8989-985814
Reviewed by: Rebecca Jane Johnson
Review Date: March 7, 2024
Rhapsody in Black is a riveting novella about a wildly successful professional ballerina and choreographer, Elena del Carral, and the sinister plots that try to destroy her. This cozy mystery, set in the renowned Terpsichore Ballet, in the New York City theater district, will enthrall readers, especially those intrigued by challenges, setbacks, and triumphs that professional dancers face every day. This is grown-up Dance Moms with sophisticated, literary flair.
As she has so deftly done in previous novels, award-winning author Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra once again combines suspense and romance. As her fourth work of fiction and the first in the Elena del Carral series, Alonso-Sierra delivers a moving page-turner with plenty of ballet movements to please ballet enthusiasts. Interestingly, the author wrote this book as a tribute to her mother—Elena del Cueto—the famous Cuban prima ballerina who sacrificed her career to save her children from an oppressive regime. A fine tribute it is!
In the novella, Elena del Carral receives an invitation to solo at a gala directed by a long-time friend of hers, and the founder of the Terpsichore Ballet, Derek Michaels. Five years have passed since Elena left Terpsichore to break free from a toxic relationship and to establish herself as a serious dancer and choreographer now based in Monaco. Now that she is known and loved all over Europe, returning to New York City fills her with a mixture of euphoria and dread. Unfortunately, soon after Elena returns to NYC, said toxic ex-lover (Justin) appears. Things turn tragic. After a grueling rehearsal, Elena discovers Justin knocked out with a head wound, and she quickly finds herself confronted by suspicious detectives and enraged fellow prima ballerinas. What is more, amidst a chaotic investigation and exhausting rehearsals, Elena finds herself being seduced by, and possibly falling for, Jake Forrester, the dance company’s beguiling insurance underwriter.
Eventually, Elena and Jake enjoy a date; however, the actual date is not described in the main plot narrative. Instead of bringing the reader on the date in real-time, the author chooses to have Elena recount the events of the special evening in her head the next day. After all the nice build-up of romantic tension, it was disappointing that she got too drunk to recall much of the details of the date. The reader cannot tell how she is really feeling about Jake other than she appreciates how he conveniently shows up exactly when she needs help or when she is bending over to unlace her shoes. Yes, the book has some comic relief.
The story develops in more detail as Elena grows more frustrated with Derek Michaels and his sidekick, Broderick. The two wield their power as directors and try to complicate matters involving the rights the ballet company has to the late, great genius RenĂ© Fauchier’s choreography. While they appreciate her talent for the gala, it is also clear they want to undermine Elena’s career development and take away her power. In a climactic moment, Derek shares vital news about the legal snags surrounding Fauchier’s estate and legacy. Once again, readers only get this information through Elena’s friend, Francesca, who recounts the monumental moment as gossip, rather than the reader getting to witness the story develop in the primary narrative as part of the main plot unfolding. This minor flaw aside, the author does an admirable job of making the reader suspect a variety of characters behind the vandalism and assaults, making it fun to wonder who is the criminal behind the repeated acts of violence and even attempted murder. Before dress rehearsal for the gala, Elena walks into her dressing room to find the message, “YOU’RE NEXT!” in lipstick on her mirror. She bursts into anger and starts blaming Carolina, a long-time rival, and Martina, an 18-year-old up-and-coming ballerina. The drama between youthful and aging ballerinas is real!
Rhapsody in Black is filled with scenes that show high-level performers in the throes of histrionics over all things petty and serious. There is significant history between Elena’s mother and the co-founder of the Terpsichore company and famous choreographer, RenĂ© Fouchier. When the dance company learns Elena’s role in some new developments in the company, all hell breaks loose. Who will be the next victim, and who is, or who are the offenders? Will Elena clear her name in the ballet world, or will she be taken down? The well-orchestrated mystery comes to a startling conclusion, leaving the reader emotionally provoked yet ready to read the next book in this series. Bravo!
Quill says: Rhapsody in Black is an enticing cozy mystery that exposes the jealousy, rage, and sadness hovering beneath the elegance and perfection in the world of professional ballet.
To learn more about Rhapsody in Black: An Elena del Carral Mystery, please visit the author’s website at:

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