The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen
Something was definitely amiss in Beaworthy, Devon. When Dance Master Alec Valcourt arrives in town with his sister and mother to take refuge with his uncle, he discovers to his dismay that dancing is not allowed in the region. His hopes of earning a living for his family seemed to arrive at a bump in the road. The banishment of dancing was only the first inkling of mysterious events revolving around the Midwinter family of Buckleigh Mansion. But Alec’s mind was not completely on the dancing; it was also on the daughter of the house, the beguiling Julia Midwinter.
Julia has reached the age where she views her life as tedious, boring, and meaningless. Her life seems nothing more than captivity in a plush gilded cage. Her mother’s overbearing watchfulness felt stifling, and she interpreted it as disapproval. Her reckless and flirtatious behavior, however, hides deeply felt pain left by doubts that she would ever be worthy of her mother’s love and the certainty that her father never loved her.
At first, Alec is wary of Julia because she reminds him of events and persons in the past he wants to forget. But like a moth to the flame, he is drawn to her even when her rebellious behavior creates trouble for him with his employer. The ever inquisitive Julia eventually finds some clues to a past history that puzzles her. Her mother is unwilling to discuss anything with her, so little by little Julia seeks out other ways to find answers to her questions. She uncovers some very disturbing tidbits that at first make no sense to her. When facts finally fall into place, her mother, the townspeople and a mysterious blacksmith can no longer keep issues unresolved.
I enjoy reading Regency Romance from time to time. The author Julie Klassen creates a community of people her readers grow to care about. My first impression of the main character, Julia, was of a petulant spoiled daughter raised in a privileged home. But as events unfold, I came to realize she has much more depth to her and her outrageous behavior is just a cover to a more sensitive spirit. Alec and his sister play a part in uncovering her hurts and aiding in resolving her issues. This is very much a character driven plot, while there are plenty of side threads to keep the reader intrigued. How all the seemingly loose threads and unrelated events come together at the end makes this such an enjoyable read.
One of the things I relish most about this book was the historical information and authenticity. I admire the amount of research that goes into creating a book such as this one. And like many of this author’s readers, I am a fan of Jane Austen’s period novels. I like reading about it, but I’m forever grateful I don’t have to live in an era where opportunities for unwed women was so limiting. I also appreciated the inclusion of information about the Bryanites and their style of worship. I had never heard of this group before reading this book.
If you like historical romantic fiction, with a touch of mystery, good character development, a touch of faith and community and family pathos, I recommend this book to you.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”