18404427Set in San Francisco pre-World War II, China Dolls follows the trials and triumphs of three Asian-American women coming of age in a tumultuous time. Around the time of the World’s Fair opening on Treasure Island, aspiring dancers Grace and Ruby meet Helen outside of a tryout for the Forbidden City nightclub. Grace, a girl of Chinese descent from Plain City, Ohio, has recently run away from home and knows little of her cultural identity. Helen comes from a prominent yet strict Chinese family that resides comfortably in San Francisco. Ruby is of Japanese descent but masquerades as Chinese—and only her two closest friends know her true identity.

In exchange for Helen buying the girls some food and finding them a place to live, they teach her to dance so that she, too, can audition for nightclub roles. The trio become fast friends, and share everything—or almost, everything. Each girl has her own deep, dark secret that she guards fiercely, even from those closest to her.

As the girls try and make a name for themselves they endure highs and lows together—juggling love, career and family, all while struggling to maintain a life in a country dangling dangerously on the edge of war. Of course, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changes everything for America, and Ruby, Grace and Helen are not exempt. China Dolls explores the lengths one will go to in order to realize her dreams…and what (or who) will she have to sacrifice along the way?

If you are a devout historical fiction lover, you will swallow China Dolls in just a few bites. Even those who prefer a lighter summer read, however, will love the story line of this book. The characters are well-developed and the scenarios wholly realistic for the time. Lisa See fans will absolutely not be disappointed!

Arielle Sidrane is the Associate Editor of Spa Week Daily.