Darleen is a twelve-year-old girl living in the early 1900s. Silent films are her family's business, and she stars in her own show: The Dangers of Darleen. Despite her age, she dangles off of cliffs, jumps from train car to train car, and flies off in mysterious hot air balloons.
Although Darleen can pull off stunts with ease, is unafraid to be featured in theaters everywhere, and shows the world what a strong character she is, her heart lies with her father in their small farm house next to their family-owned film studio, Matchless. Her mother disappeared from her life when Darleen was younger, breaking the hearts of her daughter and husband. Darleen's mother was a tightrope performer, until she settled down with Darleen's father. But before the family had a long time together, Darleen's mother was gone due to inflamed lungs. Aunt Shirley and Uncles Charlie and Dan run the studio. Her father works in the laboratory developing the film.
Everything is going well, except their film studio needs more attention to rise above their competition. Aunt Shirley comes up with an idea to boost publicity. It's this: Darleen will get "kidnapped" at the grand opening of the brand new theater. Only, things don't go exactly as planned and Darleen ends up escaping a building, catching a snake, and finding out the dark secrets of someone she thought was a good person. She does this all with an orphan called Victorine, who is now her new friend. In the end, they thwart the villains, save the studio, and learn the truth about Darleen's strange dreams.
This charming historical fiction novel both educated about the world of early silent film and thrilled readers with the fast-paced adventure. Darleen thought she was only pretending to be Daring, but in the end, her unique skills saved everyone. I liked how there was a never-ending series of plot twists and discoveries that led to the eventual solution to the mystery. Although the ways of the 1900s were a bit different than now, Anne Nesbet still found strategies to make the story relatable and understandable. I would recommend this book to grades 4-8.