Dolly Pleasance C.W. Lovatt

This review first appeared on Rosie Amber Reviews January 7, 2022. You can purchase Dolly Pleasance here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Step out of the wings and strike a pose with C.W. Lovatt’s indominable Delores “Dolly” Pleasance, a 19th century actress born to take the London stage by storm in this spin-off of Lovatt’s long-running Charlie Smithers Adventures series. Don’t let the words “spin-off” put you off, while Smithers plays an integral, emotional part to her tale, Dolly’s story is all her own and boy what a story it is.

Sold to the theater by her failed-actor father when she was just a child, Dolly grows up wild backstage, just waiting to take her first steps into the spotlights, and when she finally does, the entire world glows. Follow her career across the decades as Dolly (Did you know Delores is Spanish for sad?) rises, falls, and rises again from the lowliest of stage-scrubbers, to a woman of artistry, and is recognized as such.

Lovingly researched, Lovatt has a true talent for weaving real people and events organically into Dolly’s life. Dolly’s frequent interactions with, and references to, the playwrights of her day and their work is sure to be fun for anyone with a passing knowledge of Victorian literature.

A play is only as good as its players, and Dolly Pleasance is no exception, the titular Dolly is a delight, but she is surrounded by an exceptional supporting cast. Standout is her consummate supporting lady, Fanny Bonham, Dolly’s longtime friend and lover. Fanny, however, is not alone in supporting our heroine as there’s also the gruff Ben Webster, the incorrigibly French Madame Celeste, and the stalwart Peter Collins, among many others. Entrances and exits abound across the course of Dolly’s life, and keeping track of her massive, evolving circle of friends and fans is a full-time job.

All is not spotlights and roses though, there is peril stalking Dolly in the murky London streets, and when a gypsy’s premonition comes true there’s really only question to ask: will Dolly rise above, or be dragged down by those who would destroy her?

Written with wit and warmth, and a firm historical grasp on some of the darker aspects of being among the most vulnerable in 19th century England, Dolly Pleasance is sure to delight fans of the theater, fans of history, and fans of powerful leading ladies all at once.

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