3 STARS I admit, I'm pretty difficult to please when it comes to romance novels. The crying in the rain, the longing looks and the screaming declarations of love gives me a bit of hives. This is a historical, new adult romance story set in a cabaret in New Orleans involving it's star singer, her rich French suitor, Freddie and the stagehand/artist she's in love with, Beau. The blurb promises "Romance. Velvet. Sequins. Murder." Okay, I didn't hate it. I did love Moulin Rouge outside the frenetic production numbers, so this book did deliver on some levels. I liked how the narration was very matter-of-fact and the historical aspects didn't alienate me at all. There were no paragraphs' length describing what each of the characters are wearing or the minutiae of Hale's dance steps. The dialogue was okay, a little theatrical for my taste but not offensive. It was quite refreshing to see some subtlety in the unfurling of the story. There were a lot of scenes that could've been exploited for the purpose of drama but was rendered with a tempered hand giving it a whispered impact. The secondary characters were pretty solid. I loved Roland. He was a far more complex hero than Beau and Freddie combined and easily stole my attention from Hale. Gavin was a good conflicted 'boss' and Guy was an effective villain. He seriously creeped the bejesus out of me. But the aspects where it fell short were magnified because I felt letdown by the heroine.The story is told from Hale's POV, a 17-year old cabaret singer who has taken it upon herself to care for Teeny, an orphan who has no talent and is at risk to be sent at the back rooms of the club where a different kind of entertainment is provided the patrons. This is the core relationship of the book. All of Hale's choices and motives are founded on this basic need to care for this child she found in the back alley. Why?I HAVE NO IDEA.I understand that this is going to be a series and this may be explained better in the succeeding books but I felt this was too integral to the overall plot of this book to be held out. The basis of Hale and Teeny's relationship, and thus all the crap they have to put up with, was paper thin. This book expects me to believe that Hale will take Teeny under her protection just because. There was one scene where Roland calls Hale out on this, saying Teeny is not a puppy that she has to dedicate herself to and Hale just dismissed his concerns with a "You wouldn't understand."Well I want to understand, Hale.That's just the tip of the annoying iceberg that was Hale. It's not enough that she's deceiving Freddie without much remorse, she was also mean to Beau. The way she belittled and insulted his abilities begs the question how could they have possibly fallen in love with each other. They're like a divorce waiting to happen. Then she went Katniss over Teeny, volunteering herself to take Teeny's place in some sordid business with Guy with plans to outsmart him. Except when the plan didn't fall through she had to whine about it. To Roland of all people he was raped by Guy when he was younger. Good grief, woman! I did notice that there's a pattern of Hale making inexplicable choices followed by Roland calling her out on her sh*t. I don't get it, am I supposed to understand Hale better because the author is aware of what she's doing and thus... it's okay?This is my first historical, New Adult romance and despite my many gripes about this book, I do think I'm going to stick around this genre. Seeing as this is going to be a series I also have hopes for the characters to improve as the story moves on. I'm probably going to follow the story if only to see the spotlight shift away from Hale and to either Freddie, Beau or yes, Roland.I closed my eyes and dropped my shaking head. "I can't do it anymore. I don't feel anything. I just want to die."Is it Christmas yet? Because, sweet baby Jesus, if she goes on like this, THAT needs to happen.Review Copy provided by the publishers thru NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.