Entwined, by Heather Dixon
This is a fairy tale style fantasy, complete with princesses and dancing and balls and magic. It follows the fairy tale format with the predictable kind of setting and happy ever after ending. In Entwined, Azalea, the eldest of 11 princesses, looks after her sisters after her mother's death and her father's emotional distance. Of all things, the girls love to dance, and when Azalea stumbles upon a magic room built just for dancing, each night they escape their year of mourning to dance away their troubles. But as with all fairy tales, a price must be paid for their magical escape.
Azalea is a likable character, who is strong and protective of her sisters. She has a lot of trouble understanding her father, who is king, and is quick to judge his actions (which she perceives is due to his dislike of the girls) and prone to anger throughout most of their relationship. I found Azalea's character to be very realistic for a 17 year-old, who is caught between leaving childhood behind and understanding the nuances of being an adult.
The bad guy is deliciously evil, and I enjoyed the seductive tone of this character. It's evident early on who the bad guy is, and I would have loved to have a little more suspense in this regard. With such a large ensemble cast, there could have been a few well-placed red herrings.
I loved the sisters and the relationships. These characters are all very well drawn, easy to distinguish with their own personalities and easy to picture. Much comedic relief is drawn through their interactions which was quite amusing. I mean, who can't find a gentleman being pelted by potatoes by a gaggle of young girls funny? I did!
The romance is strictly rated G, which is fine, however, I didn't find the romance convincing. I didn't "feel" the romantic connection, and had to take the author's word for it that the characters were in love.
For me, the first third of the book moved slowly, the 2nd third of the book had a little more action, and the last third of the book was absolutely riveting. While the ending was predictable, I found myself eager to pick the book back up whenever I had to take a break to see how it all ended.
A nice, smooth read overall, with likeable characters. 3.5 out of 5 stars for me.