Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
TYPE OF NOVEL: Historical Romance, Regency Romance
SETTING: 1815, Beaworthy, Devonshire, England
MAIN CHARACTERS: Julia Midwinter (wealthy and beautiful heiress), Alec Valcourt (a fencing and dancing master from London), Lady Amelia Midwinter (Julia’s strict mother who dislikes dancing), John Desmond (a mysterious man who seems to have had quite a scandalous past in Beaworthy)
For the last twenty years the citizens of Beaworthy have not engaged in dancing, assemblies, or balls. Due to a scandal, duel, and death of her brother, Lady Amelia has forbidden the pastime and the good people of Beaworthy have abided by her wishes. However, when Alec Valcourt, a dancing and fencing master from London, arrives on the scene, he begins to question this ban on dancing…
WHAT I LOVED:
- Unravelling Everyone’s Past: As always with Julie Klassen’s novels there is an air of mystery, intrigue, and undivulged secrets. Oh, how I loved being in the dark and trying to figure everything out on my own! In this novel, it seemed as if everyone had a secret in their past, and Julie Klassen revealed them at quite a deliciously slow pace. Why does Lady Amelia dislike dancing so much? Why did Julia’s father treat her with such disdain? Why did Alec and his family have to leave London? Not knowing all was an exquisitely delightful torture!
- Endearing and Admirable Characters: Some characters in this tale definitely found their way into my heart! Ms. Klassen’s characters are well-drawn, complex, and engaging. Alec was an admirable and honorable hero; I enjoyed how he resisted Julia’s flirtations and forwardness. In addition, I think my favorite character in this novel was John Desmond – misunderstood, maligned, and mysterious – I just adored him! (And in my head I kept picturing him as Viggo Mortensen. *sigh*) In addition, the villagers of Beaworthy had me charmed – like Mrs. Tickle with her cakes and pies, loyal Mr. Barlow with his tender heart, and Walter Allen, the truest of friends.
- Historical Tidbits and Depictions: Apothecaries, tutors, dancing masters – Julie Klassen’s novels have taught me a lot about different middle class professions. I took pleasure in learning what the average day of a dancing/fencing master in 1815 would be like, how he would advertise and promote himself, and the various types of classes and lessons he might offer. How I wish we still lived in a time of country dances, assemblies, and dancing masters!
WHAT I AM FEELING AMBIVALENT ABOUT:
- Julia Midwinter, a.k.a. The Heroine: I most certainly don’t mind a flawed heroine – I like it when characters have lessons to learn or obstacles to overcome. Julia is reckless, inappropriate flirtatious, and has a propensity of thinking a little too much of herself. But the fact that she never felt love or kindness from her father and receives only rules and restrictions from her mother engaged my compassion and helped me understand her desperate need for attention and male admiration. I was pleased to see Julia grow into a more admirable person, but with her earlier vanity and coquetry, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Isabella Thorpe from Northanger Abbey!
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- Not Enough Resolution: For me, the story ended a little unsatisfying. There was a little too much summarization and tying up loose ends in the epilogue and not enough events and conversations happening on the page. I am glad to know the fate of these characters and to see a glimpse of their futures, but I feel shortchanged at not being there to hear the declarations and see the developments myself.
What a delight it is to read another novel by Julie Klassen! I loved learning more
about the Regency Era and the lives of middle class workers as well as the landed gentry. While not my favorite novel by Ms. Klassen (current favorite: The Silent Governess), I still greatly enjoyed my sojourn to Beaworthy and unravelling all the secrets and scandals of the past there!