Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

Welcome to the next stop on Litfuse's blog tour for Julie Klassen's The Dancing Master!  Be sure to check out the other stops in the tour, as well as enter to win a Kindle HDX.  More information and links are below the review.

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. 

In recent months I’ve previewed and recommended novels set in the Regency period, and I reviewed a title with a devotee of the period as the main character, but it’s been a while since I’ve actually had a chance to read a book set in this era myself. And as 2014 gets under way, it’s so great to be back! Only this time the story is not centered within Jane Austen’s England, but within the 19th century England that author Julie Klassen has envisioned.

As mentioned in the book summary above, The Dancing Master is centered on the dance and classical fencing instructor Alec Valcourt, as well as the lovely heiress Julia Midwinter. Much like Catherine De Bourgh in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Julia’s wealthy mother Amelia wields much power in their town of Beaworthy, and exerts that power in such a way that the townspeople are no longer permitted to dance or contradict Amelia’s moral values in any way. This proves to be problematic for the young Mr. Valcourt, as he is new to town, and in dire need of employment to support his mother and sister. Both Alec’s and Amelia’s pasts are sometimes shrouded in mystery, and more than one character goes through significant reforms over the course of the story. In several respects, The Dancing Master is much like a mixture of Austen, Dickens, with a bit of the movie Footloose thrown in.

Julie Klassen is known for her work in Christian Historical Romance. Following her years working in publishing, she has gone on to become a full time writer, winning multiple awards for works such as The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Maid of Fairbourne Hall. I don’t find this surprising, as Klassen’s writing is quite accessible, with a bit of Christian faith thrown in as well. I didn’t find her style to be overly revolutionary, but it was enjoyable, and even sometimes quite educational. She had me digging into my dictionary for the definitions of such words as “caper” and “tattoo”. Who knew the latter term doesn’t always involve indelible ink?! Her understanding of the time period was quite evident in the era-specific language she used, as well as the descriptions of the local customs and traditions.

Like her writing, Klassen’s characters are well formed, clearly drawn and not overly difficult to understand. Several go through radical transformations, and occasionally there are unexpected revelations and mysteries revealed in their lives. Many seemed to be stereotypical characters that we would see in other Christian novels or family-friendly movies, so I found them to be a bit predictable, but they were entertaining nonetheless. Their temperaments, as varied as they could be, were realistic, giving The Dancing Master a cast of characters who were understandable and relatable.

As The Dancing Master may be categorized as Christian Fiction, the language and subject matter are kept very clean. There are no four-letter words, details of violence are kept to a minimum, and sexual matters are not gratuitous in any way. The characters are flawed, with some dealing with some pretty serious sins and errors in their lives, but Klassen handles those issues in a very family-friendly manner. I was able to relax and just enjoy the story, unconcerned that the narrative would descend into material that I would feel inclined to evade as I read.

The Dancing Master is a pleasant tale, going beyond a simple boy-meets-girl story. It is filled with messages relating to honesty, moral values, prodigal family members, forgiveness and reconciliation. The nature of the art of dance in the life of the Body of Christ is of course clearly addressed, much as it was in Footloose. The Christian faith of several of the characters is certainly an important part of their lives, but that aspect does not dominate every page. Fans of the Regency period would enjoy the novel, but it would also make a good fit for those who enjoy clean, thoughtful romances mixed with a bit of family mystery. Julie Klassen has done fine work here, and while the story doesn’t necessarily conclude with the suggestion of a sequel, I could easily see her delving into the world of Beaworthy, England again. Should that happen, I look forward to reading that follow-up as well. The Dancing Master is a delightful story, and one that I can easily recommend.

Best-selling author Julie Klassen will be hosting a Kindle Fire HDX giveaway and a live webcast event (1/23) to celebrate the release of her latest novel, The Dancing Master. Enter and RSVP today!

One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 23rd.
Winner will be announced at the "All Things Jane (from Austen to Eyre)" Live Webcast Event on January 23rd. Connect with Julie for an evening of book chat, trivia, laughter, and more! Julie will also be taking questions from the audience and giving away books, Jane Austen DVDs, fun "Jane" merchandise, and gift certificates throughout the evening.

So grab your copy of The Dancing Master and join Julie and friends on the evening of January 23rd for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by signing up for a reminder. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 23rd!


For more information about The Dancing Master and the full blog tour listing, visit Litfuse today!

A copy of The Dancing Master was provided by Litfuse for review purposes only.

Kindle Edition
More by Klassen


  1. Nice review! I just started this book yesterday and am about 60 pages into it. Enjoying it so far, though it didn't hook me as quickly as some of Klassen's other novels have. :-)

    1. Thanks Rosanne! I think the story really gets clicking when the family-mystery-intrigue portion gets going. I've never read an other Klassen, so I can't really compare. I did snag her Girl in the Gatehouse on Kindle for free a while back. I'll have to check that one out, of course.

  2. I love the idea that the characters aren't nobility and it sounds like there's a bit of mystery. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Putting it on my list.



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