Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.
I just got home from a week long trip to the west coast, which gave me plenty of time to read. I think that in total I was on a plane for about 12 hours and in airports for about 10 hours. The time in the airport was mostly spent visiting or enjoying a meal before the next flight, but the time on the plan was dedicated to reading. It was so wonderful to catch up on some books that I have been wanting to read and not being interrupted with "mom!" every ten minutes.
One of the books that I enjoyed on my flights was The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen. This is the first book I have read by Julie Klassen. In her about author, it says that she enjoys all things Jane - Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. After reading her book, and seeing the character development and attention to details for this book set in the early 1800s in England, I am not surprised to learn that.

I must start by saying, on one hand, there is something that just seems to be so romantic about that time in history to me and at the same time, knowing that if you weren't born to the right class, it probably was a rather tough time in history. With that in mind, this book was of course about those that were born to privilege, yet even within those born to privilege there were certainly degrees of privilege none the less and those that were in one group were not necessarily recognized as the right type of person for marriage for the other group. Of course, as everyone knows, sometimes that which is not allowed is appealing simply because it is not allowed.

The Dancing Master opens sharing some of the traditions, and reflection upon some former traditions, in the community of Beaworthy, Devonshire, England. Julia Midwinter is the daughter of the village matriarch. Alec Valcourt has just moved to the community with his mother and sister and is living at his uncle's home. Julia and Alec first meet at church on Sunday morning.

From the back cover:
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.

There is so much of the story that you could spoil by sharing details, so I will suffice to say that the story had me laughing and crying and really connecting with the characters.

I found that The Dancing Master was well written, has a nice pace, has strong, developed characters that you can't help but enjoy and really pulls you in. Early on, you start to discover that some of the characters have interesting, unexpected back stories as you begin to uncover hints about their mysterious pasts. These nuggets keep you wanting to read so that you can learn more about what their history really is and how it has impacted not only them, but those around them. As you continue to read, you find that you are able to start to piece the puzzle together, but just as you think you have figured out the picture, a small piece will lead you to discover that the picture you were envisioning was not complete. The story is filled with drama and insights of character, love, pride, relationships, forgiveness, faith and more.

This is a book that I would certainly recommend that you read, especially if you are a fan of period literature and the works of Jane Austen and her era.

The Dancing Master is a stand alone work, as are the other books by Julia Klassen. I definitely would seek out and read more of her books based on my reading experience of The Dancing Master.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.