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 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.

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 lies the ability to
restore the vigour of the community and heal the hurts of secrets long buried.

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 endeared 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.

multi-perspective narrative from character’s of various stations, with Alec’s voice prevailing as the most assertive, it is a refreshing
rarity in Regency fiction to have such a 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 a quiet evening of leisurely reading. A
cleverly fabricated mystery element is woven into the story and the resolution
is deftly concealed until the end of the story.

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.

Klassen does not fail to draw readers in with this story of gentility and
intrigue–a recommended read for fans and Regency aficionados.

Lydia Mazzei is a Canadian high
school teacher by day and a blogger by night. She has been a
lifestyle blogger since 2007 and began her book blog The Overweight
in 2009 to share her favorite past-time with fellow book
addicts. As the name of her book blog indicates, Lydia has a voracious appetite
for books that has resulted in bookshelves so heavy, they just might crash
through the floor supports. Lydia also serves on the Advisory Board of the
Inspy Awards.

Check out more great articles