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.
I will admit that when I read what this book was about, I was very skeptical. The hero is a dancing master? Where is the pride in that exactly? But, I love Julie Klassen so I knew I had to read it anyway. This book exceeded my expectations. To be sure, it took me a minute to get invested, but once I was, I didn’t want to put the book down.
Alec is not your typical hero. He is a Beta in every sense of the word. He’s more interested in fashion, he loves to dance (obviously), you won’t see him getting his hands dirty, and he works in a kind of service profession. But, he’s still a man. He’s still doing everything he can to take care of his family and put food on the table. And I promise, that it won’t take long before you’re rooting for his complete success.
Julia is almost Alec’s exact opposite. She is impulsive, flirtatious, quick-tempered and demanding. She’s a bruising horse-rider (Alec can barely sit a horse). She tries to make things happen (Alec’s definitely more passive). She loves confrontation (Alec not so much). When I first met Julia, I almost threw my hands up in the air. She is everything I usually cannot stand in a heroine. And yet, I was so much in her corner. Somehow Klassen wrote Julia in such a way that I liked her, and well before the book ended (and so I’ve learned, a great author can take any personality and make you like them!)
This novel also had a great little mystery that slowly unraveled one layer at a time. Everything was not as I thought it was, and I thought it all came together nicely.
Romantically, I enjoyed watching Julia and Alec together. There was that nice tension and yet, class differences that only regency novels can aptly portray. It was the best kind of romance. The one where the couple must learn what it is to be friends first.
Spiritually, we learn a lot about grace and forgiveness which I think is portrayed well.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Let me say, if you’re a new reader, you may find this novel to be slower than most, but as a Jane Austen/Georgette Heyer fan, that slowness is exactly what makes the novel great.
Romantic Scale: 8.7
**I received this novel from Bethany House. My opinion was not affected in any way.**