Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review of The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

I am not typically a Regency reader. This book was a new adventure for me... and one that I enjoyed. Even though it was the cover that convinced me to open the book. It was the fantastic story world and time-specific prose that kept me there!

The Dancing Master  -     By: Julie Klassen
Finding himself the man of the family, and with no other options, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But Alec is stunned to learn the village is controlled by a wealthy widow who has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.
Alec finds an unlikely ally in Miss Julia Midwinter, the widow's daughter. While initially wary of Julia's reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul -- and a hidden sorrow of her own. Julia Midwinter is instantly intrigued by the handsome dancing master -- a man of whom her mother would never approve. She cannot fathom why he would leave London -- or why he evades questions about his past. Together, can Alec and Julia bring new life to this quiet village -- and to one woman's hardened heart?

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen reads a lot like a Jane Austen novel. The writing and style give you a feel from the past beginning from the first words. I struggled a little getting into that flow, as it is not my typical style of reading. However, once I did catch on to the prose I enjoyed it very much. It truly gives the feeling of an escape.

Although I found the book long and at times slow to answer my burning questions, it kept me moving and reading at a steady pace. (There were a few late nights.) The plot was intriguing, but at the beginning of the book I had my doubts if it would hold my interest at the pace it was taking. (So, if you are starting the book - hang in there ... don't put it away quite yet.) Once the intrigue of the staunch Matriarch's past caught me, I was hooked. The sweet and satisfying romance of the story was evident but took a side seat to the drama of the story. Very well done.

The characters were rich and enjoyable for me. Typically I do not like a large cast, but this one felt right. The many villagers and local families added so much to the story. I especially enjoyed the two Dancing Masters in the story. I found Julia Midwinter a little pesky to like at times - almost like a younger sibling. However Klassen did a great job of showing Julia's character arc. She grew on me.

Overall, I would have to say that Julie Klassen has done a great job. She presented a thorough, and rich story of endearing but flawing characters amidst a stunning backdrop of the drastic class structure of England in the 1800s. This is a real winner! 

I recommend this book - especially if you are already a fan of Regency novels.

Discussion questions are available at the back of the book as well. Julie also has an excerpt of the novel on her website - books page.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

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