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.
The plot of The Dancing Master reads suspiciously like a 19th century Footloose. A young man from a big city arrives in a small community and moves into his uncle’s home. He then learns that a significant person of influence has banned all forms of dancing within the town’s boundaries. The young man is determined to dance, however, and the rebellious daughter of the aforementioned influential person is a willing dance partner. Oh yes, she’s also the love interest.
This is where the similarities end. Alec is no high school student, but an expert dance instructor who has been forced to leave London due to scandal. When Lady Amelia learns of his profession she hires him as an estate clerk so that he supposedly won’t have time to encourage the villagers to break her rules. When she learns of his family’s scandal she fires him, which means he now has the time to set up business as a dance instructor. Her neighbors are his first clients.
A novel about scandal should not be boring, but that’s exactly what I thought about the first half of this book. It dragged. It was cumbersome. “So-and-so did this, and then they did that.” The plot was slow to move forward. I felt some scenes and characters were perhaps unnecessary. The information about the “Bryanites,” a Methodist sect, was interesting but did little to enhance the plot. It was difficult to connect to either Alec or Julia. It is only when secrets begin to be revealed and the puzzle pieces start to fall into place that The Dancing Master gets interesting. Julia gets a wake-up call about her upbringing and no longer acts the spoiled child. Lady Amelia becomes more of a sympathetic character and it is she who goes through the biggest change. Rarely do I find that older people are the main characters in romantic fiction, but I believe the storyline might have been improved if Amelia and another person (left nameless to prevent spoilers) had been the main pairing instead of Alec and Julia.
Thank you to Bethany House for my free electronic copy of The Dancing Master, which I downloaded from NetGalley. No review was required.
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: 07 January 2014
Page Count: 432
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