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The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

About the Book:
Author: Julie Klassen
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: 2014
Find the Review elsewhere:
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Generally speaking, regency fiction – or really, most novels that fall within the historical fiction genre, is something I prefer when the British give us a spectacular new cinematic production. For some crazy reason, I love it when seen through the lens of vivid film but reading about it…? I just haven’t been able to fall into the fan base. For this reason, this is only the second novel I’ve read by the talented Julie Klassen which follows a young dancing instructor Alec Valcourt newly arrived from London to the small village of Beaworthy. Once there, living with his mother and sister under his uncle’s roof, Alec is anxious to set up a new academy only to learn that the estate landowner, Lady Midwinter has forbidden dancing of any kind to be participated in. When he meets Julia Midwinter, the woman’s impetuous daughter, Alec is surprised to find her desirous to go against her mother and learn the art of dance but also a young lady who has no scruples about who she flutters her eyes at. When past secrets begin to emerge, it’s up to Julia and Alec to restore happiness to the village that has tiptoed around Lady Midwinter for one too many years.

Whatever I may conclude about The Dancing Master, it’s inarguable that Klassen is a talented authoress and it’s easy to see why her style is so often compared to the greats. She has a flair for enticing familiarity to Austen and usually also sneaks in hints of mystery which explains the comparisons to the Bronte sisters. Her prose is stylistically gorgeous and descriptive which is what helps make the gorgeous cover design come alive – each of her scenes put us in mind of elegance personified and as such, we’ve no problem feeling as if we’re “living” in regency England through the lives of Alec, Julia and each supporting character we encounter. My reservations about this novel is more personal taste than objection to its content although I will say its "love story" fell flat - the romance is rarely built on which makes the romantic side less plausible. What portrays itself as a romance in a pretty picture of dance is actually a novel about a young man coming to grips with his past and a young woman learning that her past is riddled with secrets – and this is really where the story itself shines.

Klassen expertly weaves this story with red herrings and misdirection. While reading the latter half of the story (when this issue really upped its intrigue), I flip-flopped more than once over what the truth was and until the book was nearly done, never did guess what the “secret” was. It was fantastic how in and out of mystery the author teases her readers and while some of the characters themselves disappointed, Julia’s search for truth did not. While I superbly enjoyed the theme of the novel (dancing), its focus wasn’t as clear-cut as its peers. If you don’t mind the focal point of historical that uses its characters as individuals to tell a story, then The Dancing Master is for you. Within that, priority is spent on Alec – it’s he we get to know best whereas Julia feels more like a figure in the background and of course, we also are privy to Lady Midwinter’s perspective in select passages.

Unless I miss my guess, fans of Julie Klassen will enjoy being swept up in another historical revel, and if that’s your preference, then this elegant book will enchant any reader.

Synopsis: 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 Julie 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. - Goodreads

With thanks to the publisher (Bethany House) and the ladies at Litfuse for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.

Read what others think of the Dancing Master.
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  1. Ah, I love a good book that weaves both romance and mystery.

    1. Me, too, Heather. One of my favorite combinations. :)

  2. I've heard that this one isn't quite as good as some of Julie Klassen's other books. I bought it last week but haven't read it yet. I assume (from your Goodreads) that the other book of hers that you've read is The Girl in the Gatehouse. I've read that one and thought it was pretty good. But my favorites of Klassen's novels by far are The Silent Governess and The Tutor's Daughter (absolutely loved that one!). You should give one of those a try. :)

    1. You assume correctly, Kristin! The other Klassen novel I read was indeed The Girl in the Gatehouse. I was just thinking that I may have preferred it over this novel but it's been too long. As to the two you recommend, thank you! I've heard fabulous things about The Tutor's Daughter so perhaps I'll read that one when I have a bit of time. I love the era in BBC drama, just not always in books. Weird...

      Hope you enjoy The Dancing Master; I think most fans will. :)

  3. One of my favorite parts was definitely all the secrets from Julia's past. They definitely threw me into a loop :)

    1. That plot was masterfully written, Jamie! I was SO impressed; Julie had me flip-flopping over the end result until a certain point when I stuck with my assumption and was right. Wow. Loved that about the novel and of course, all of the beautiful dancing passages. :)

  4. I really like Julie Klassen's books, so I am planning on reading this one.

    Thanks for reviewing it:)

    1. I think you'll enjoy this one then, Ella. The one novel I read by Julie wasn't a favorite for historical but most of my blogging buddies do LOVE her writing so if you're a fan also, I'm sure you will be glad to read this one, too. :)

      Happy reading.

  5. I've read all but one of Klassen's other books and I'm always excited when a new one comes out :) Nice review!!

    1. Wonderful! Hope you enjoy The Dancing Master then, Sara. I loved the dancing passages and of course, the mystery. :)

      Thanks for reading!

  6. I just got this book in the mail and looking forward to reading it. I love Julie's books. It's funny how everyone has a different favorite. : ) Mine was 'The Apothecary's Daughter ' keep me guessing till the end.

    Great review Rissi!

    1. Yay! Hope you enjoy it, Cathy. I know a couple of girls who were anxious for their copy to arrive also so hopefully since you just got yours, theirs has arrived. It IS funny how we all have different favorites. I was just thinking this morning that I liked The Girl in the Gatehouse better than this novel however it's been too long in-between books.

      Love those guessing games in fiction... they're the best. :)

      Thanks for reading, Cathy.

  7. This sounds like a very interesting book, and your review was wonderful, Rissi :) I've had Julie Klassen on my reading list for a while, but have never gotten to any of her books--maybe this will be the year when I can change that! :)

    1. Yay! Do, Hannah. Julie has a fabulous skill and is indeed very talented. I think I preferred The Girl in the Gatehouse overall, however the back-and-forth teasing mystery of this book was brilliant. Plus I loved the intricate information on old-fashioned dancing, so gorgeous. :)

      Thanks for reading.

  8. Yours is the first review I've seen of this book Rissi, but I'm sure soon it will be all over the blogosphere. I already have it on my Kindle and am looking forward to reading it very much, I love Julie Klassen! I think it will be interesting having a male as a main character, while in most Christian fiction written by female authors it's always the heroine who gets the most attention.

    1. ...this book is indeed making the blogosphere rounds, Birdie! Several reviews have popped up on my dashboard over the last few days and I'm looking forward to reading those I've not gotten around to.

      I'm glad you're excited about this novel - I really felt Alec played the prominent role and it was an interesting perspective. So different as you say, from most Christian fiction.



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