Synopsis from Good Reads:
Leaving London, dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire–but is stunned to discover that dancing is prohibited! He finds an unlikely ally in Miss Julia Midwinter, but her questions about his past are becoming harder to evade. Together, can they bring new life to this quiet village–and heal long-kept-secret scars?
I always look forward to a new Julie Klassen novel. She’s one of those authors that are on my “Automatically Read” list. However, The Dancing Master didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
The story is a little Footloose meets Jane Austen. We know that there is an unofficial law that prohibits dancing, but don’t find out why until about 2/3 of the way through – and it’s wildly overdramatic and a little ridiculous. Then there’s still so much more to get through. The book was long. The book clocks in at 419 pages, which isn’t necessarily that long, but it seemed to be with such a slow pace and very little action. As in all Klassen novels, there are some secrets and scandals and twists. The initial twist I found surprising, but after that I thought everything was fairly obvious and it all was drawn out a little too long.
The story is told in 3rd person POV between Julia – the beautiful, impulsive “poor little rich girl”; Amelia Midwinter – Julia’s strict, severe, No-dancing-allowed mother; and Alec Valcourt – the young Dancing Master who has just moved to the town without knowledge of the no dancing rule. I did not find Julia likable at all. She was selfish and reckless and manipulative. Towards the end of the book she learned the error of her ways and of God’s forgiveness and grace, but I still found her insufferable for most of the book.
I mostly liked Alec. It’s mentioned a couple of times throughout the book that he’s a “dandy” and I found that a little unlikable in our hero character –he all but refuses the opportunity to work at the clay factory because of the manual labor and dirt, despite his bleak prospects for anything else at the time. However, he was kind and sweet and funny. I never quite bought in to why he was so in love with Julia, though – other than the fact that she’s beautiful.
Amelia Valcourt was a character I wished we would’ve gotten more from. I enjoyed the few flashes of her back story and would have liked to have more of that. Like her daughter, she learned the error of her ways towards the ends of the book. There were some likable secondary characters, but they were pretty under-developed for me.
Perhaps my biggest problem with The Dancing Master was it’s unoriginality. My favorite Klassen novel is The Apothecary’s Daughter” and there were several moments that reminded me of that novel. One example is when Alec is teaching Julia some dance moves – similar to when Lilly is teaching Francis the moves to the same dance in The Apothecary’s Daughter.
From The Dancing Master
“Partners must keep a proper distance apart,” he primly intoned. “Bodies must not actually touch.”
“Pity,” she breathed, her face tipped toward his.
Oh yes, she wanted him to kiss her. His heart pounded at the thought.
From The Apothecary’s Daughter
She looked away, focusing on her hand on his arms “Partners must keep a proper distance apart,” she said, parroting the admonition of the Viennese dancing master. “Bodies must not actually touch.”
“Pity,” Francis breathed, his sweet breath warm on her temple, her ear…She knew she had but to look up and he would kiss her. Her heart pounded at the thought.
Overall, The Dancing Master was a little disappointing for me. It still had the mixture of faith, romance, and a bit of mystery that I look for in a Klassen novel, but it fell a little short on all counts. Despite that, I will still be giving Klassen another chance whenever she comes out with her next novel.
Rating (out of 5)
Overall Average: 2.375 stars