Book Review: The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

The Dancing MasterThe Dancing Master by Julie Klassen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Alec Valcourt, famed dancing master of London, arrives in the little berg of Beaworthy after his father's death, he never anticipated that he would be moving to the only town in England that had an unspoken rule against dancing. This is the height of the Regency era, and Alec's sole expertise is as a dancing and fencing master. His mother and sister fall under his care and Alec needs his livelihood in order to provide for them. He cannot always rely upon his uncle to care for them. Enters the entrancing Julia Midwinter, daughter to Lady Midwinter, the woman who has cast a ban on dancing upon Beaworthy. Alec not only must struggle to find work, but now he is bewitched by a woman far advanced in social status. If only the inhabitants of Beaworthy would open their doors to his tutelage, but first Alec must uncover the reasoning behind the ban, a mystery that Julia also wishes to uncover. Together, the two work together to bring dancing back to Beaworthy.

Julie Klassen made two mistakes with The Dancing Master. First, she made her hero an absolute fop who is afraid to get even the barest hint of dirt upon his person. Second, she developed a heroine who is neither gracious, compassionate, or sympathetic. The rest of the characters in her book are charming. I adore Lady Amelia, the empirical mistress Midwinter. She is misunderstood and afraid, and because I liked her so much, I found Julia's taunts against her mother to be irksome at best, and downright mean at worst. Lady Amelia is a marvelous character, and I halfway wish the book had focused on her instead of the 19-year-old infant, Julia Midwinter. Then there are the Allens: James, Walter, and Patience, who are all delightful in their own ways. Mrs. Tipple who runs the bakery in town, Mr. Barlow who is Lady Amelia's head clerk, and especially Alec's own family, his sweet mother dressed all in black and his darling sister, Aurora. But especially, I adored John Desmond. He is the type of character I love most in historic literature, slightly older than the typical hero, a little weathered and aged, but of the highest integrity. He was brilliant.

I have never tried any of Ms. Klassen's other works. And from what I hear from fellow reviewers, The Dancing Master is their least favorite of her books. So, I will not judge her writing based solely on this one novel. The 2 stars is solely based upon the hero and the heroine. There is nothing likeable about Julia, at least not for me. She is selfish, vain, and careless, and I would not associate with her in real life. Alec is also vain, thinking himself of greater importance than men who perform menial labor. He's arrogant, and he claims to be a Christian. No, I could not see it, and even Julia's "salvation experience" felt forced. Julia is bitter because of perceived wrongs, but she's really just spoiled. In a way, she and Alec deserve each other.

I have no complaints on Ms. Klassen's writing style. She is quite good, and were it not for the lead characters I would have given The Dancing Master 4 stars, and happily. I can only hope that her next book rectifies the character flaws of this one.

- I received a free copy of The Dancing Master from Bethany House Publishers via Netgalley for an honest review, which I have given.

For the rest of my reviews, see my page HERE.

Comments

  1. I wasn't overly fond of this one either, Carissa. It was just too hard to get through.

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    1. It's not that I hated the entire thing. Just the lead characters. It's happened to me twice now where a book could have been fantastic except for the leads. Of course, like any reader, I have my own expectations about how characters should behave. Other reviewers really like it, and I do like her style, so I'll track down one of her other novels to read eventually.

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  2. Yours is not the first dissapointed/negative review I've seen of The Dancing Master, Carissa. It's a pity, because I really do love Julie Klassen's works and Regency novels.

    I would recommend Lady of Milkweed Manor, Julie's first book and my favourite.

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    1. Ahhhh, thanks for the recommendation! I'll add that to my to-reads list on Goodreads. I think this one was probably just a fluke that it didn't work properly. Not all the elements came together in a likeable manner, although, some reviewers have loved it. I just could never like those leads! It's bad when you love the secondary characters more! ;)

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  3. So, based on one of your comments here, I have a question for you, oh fellow ISFJ :-) Do you have a need to feel like you could be friends with a character to like them? That's how it works for me -- in fact, I never love a book, movie, or show that doesn't have characters I want to be friends with. So just wondering :-)

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    1. Hmm, I would say yes, I have to feel that the characters of a book are my friends. The reason I really liked Dear Mr. Knightley was because I loved Sam, the heroine. I could see myself making friends with her, supporting her in her goals. With The Dancing Master, I shuddered every time Julia took advantage of her best friend, Patience, which was a lot of the time. She was always overriding Patience's good sense and bullying her into doing what she wanted to do. It literally horrified me how everyone in the book liked Julia at all when she was obviously spoiled rotten. There was little, or no substance to her character. Imagine reading a book almost entirely about Lydia Bennet! That's rather how it felt, only worse, because she was conniving on top of her already Lydia-like behavior.

      Ooh, I have a question for you too, totally unrelated though! Are you familiar with Anthony Andrews? He's a British actor from primarily the 80s. I'm thinking of doing a mini Valentine's Month blog fest with him as the theme. He's got such lovely movies like The Scarlet Pimpernel and Ivanhoe to his credit! I was just curious if you're familiar with him at all. :)

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    2. Intriguing! I wonder if this is related to being ISFJ, or just something we both have in common?

      Anyway, as it so happens, I bought AA's Scarlet Pimpernel late last year with the plan of watching it with my mom while she was here for Christmas because she really loves Jane Seymour and neither of us have seen it, and I keep reading such glowing reviews. We managed to watch the first half hour or so the first night she was here, and she seemed to find it silly and not very compelling, and we never watched more of it. So it's sitting on my to-watch pile still. And if you do a movie fest on your blog this month that revolves around him, it will give me a good reason to start it over and watch it properly.

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