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.
Praise for Julie Klassen:
“Whether you’re a fan of Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, or both, you will soon become a fan of Julie Klassen once you read this wonderful book.”–GoodReads
“Well-developed characters, plot twists, and attention to period detail make this a sure bet for fans of Regency novels.”–Library Journal
“Regency/Klassen fans will love the mystery, romance, and drama.”–Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt:
About Julie Klassen
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane–Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.
My Review (as appears on Family Fiction Magazine)
Do not be surprised if Julie Klassen’s The Dancing Master (Bethany House) takes wandering minds from the setting of Beaworthy, England to the small southern US town of Bomont on the unmistakable opening refrain of “Footloose.” However unintentional, Julie Klassen’s newest Regency novel induces nostalgia for an iconic and generation defining dance experience, from the obvious plot conflict to the flirtatious and misguided heroine and impertinent hero. Evidently even Christian Regency fiction is not immune from the degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon. However, the familiarity of the storyline does not leave it lacking in originality.
Young dancing and fencing master Alec Valcourt travels with his dependent mother and sister to the English countryside from London with hopes of establishing himself in the community as an instructor in the finer graces and refinement of dancing. Unbeknownst to him, dancing is unofficially forbidden in Beaworthy as enforced by the intimidation tactics of the presiding Lady Midwinter. Alec’s plans for an academy are swiftly dashed, but not before Lady Midwinter’s impetuous daughter Miss Julia Midwinter defies her mother and convinces him to tutor her. Frivolous with her affections and desperate to escape her confining and restrictive life, Julia seizes the chance for social betterment. Neither realize that in their partnership lays the ability to restore the vigour of the community and heal the hurts of secrets long buried.
The characters-specifically Alec and Julia-are not portrayed as virtuous and consummate products of their refined society; instead they are flawed in past and in personality. Neither lead is particularly enthralling at the onset with Julia initially portrayed as spoiled and entitled, however their journey of grace is touching and they grow increasingly endearing as the facade of “dandy” and “coquette” fade to the wayside. The redemptive theme of this story is the focal point, with romance playing and subdued supporting role.
A multi-perspective narrative from character’s of various stations, with Alec’s voice prevailing as the most assertive-a refreshing rarity in Regency fiction to have such as strong male point of view. The plot slowly builds as secrets are unveiled and characters find their strength in the midst of trials and burdensome histories. The pacing is languid and the story layered, lending itself well to quiet evening of leisurely reading. A cleverly fabricated mystery element is woven in to the story and the resolution is deftly concealed until the end of the story.
Julie Klassen is a master at portraying the many nuances of the Regency era, drawing inspiration from the greats like Austen and Bronte, while still maintaining her distinctive writer’s voice and vision. The reading experience is immersive due to Klassen’s proficient use of contemporary rhetoric and prose accented with elegant descriptions of setting.
Julie Klassen does not fail to draw readers in with this story of gentility and intrigue. A recommended read for fans and Regency aficionados.
Stay tuned for my interview with Julie Klassen!