Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book Review: The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

Book Details
Title: The Dancing Master
Author: Julie Klassen
2014, Bethany House
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

Book Summary
Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past. Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch's daughter. Though he's initially wary of Julia Midwinter's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul--and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master--a man her mother would never approve of--but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec's help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life to her somber village...and to her mother's tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a "good match" in Regency England.

My Review
Once again this is a beautiful novel by Julie Klassen. I have read several books from this author and they are always interesting and well-written. I really enjoy the way her novels feel like they could be part of Jane Austen’s world. I know she is a huge fan of the author’s from that time (Austen, the Bronte sisters, etc) and it shows in her books.

Unfortunately for me, this was not my favorite. Although the story was nice and the characters were well developed like usual, I felt that the storyline itself was a bit contrived. Not that it was predictable, but that the problems worked out a little too perfectly. 

Alec Valcourt was a dancing master in London. He came from a family line of successful dancing masters, but then his father ruins everything and Alec has to move his mother and sister to a small town called Beaworthy to live under his uncle’s roof. Not until after their arrival does he discover that the leading family has borne a tragedy that has caused them to prohibit dancing altogether.

Then there is Julia Midwinter. She is a reckless nineteen-year-old girl who flirts shamelessly with every eligible man who comes around – especially if he might take her away from Beaworthy. She hates the fact that her mother is so stifling and is constantly going against her wishes. She befriends Mr. Valcourt and of course wants to take dancing lessons from him.

The two have a strong mutual attraction and attempt to figure out the truth of what happened so many years ago. Along the way there are many interesting and colorful secondary characters that really make the story come to life – and they are actually some of my favorites. The author does a wonderful job of using little facts and events from history blended in with her stories (make sure to read her explanations at the end of the novel!) 

Can Alec keep the secret of his father and what happened in London while fulfilling his dream of a dancing academy in Beaworthy? Can Julia discover the truth about her own past and that of her mother’s? 

Then there is Lady Amelia Midwinter. She is full of past secrets and hurts. She has lived through heartbreaking family and personal tragedy. Can she forgive and move on? Or will it haunt her and her relationships for the rest of her life?

Told from the POV of Alec Valcourt, Julia Midwinter and Lady Midwinter. This was a promising novel, but it just seemed like everything worked out a little too well for me. Neither Julia or Lady Midwinter were very lovable characters. There was also very little spiritual development of the characters – I almost felt like it was an afterthought in the story and could have been left out altogether without any significant difference in the story.

Overall, a good story. Well written, but just a little too contrived and not very likable main characters.

Disclosure: I received a free e-book copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers for my honest 
review. I did not receive any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

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