Thursday, January 23, 2014

Review: The Dancing Master + GIVEAWAY

The Dancing Master
By Julie Klassen
Bethany House, 2013


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.

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 Julie 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?

My thoughts

To put it quite simply, I have loved every book that I've read by Julie Klassen, and The Dancing Master is no exception. Julie's prose is beautiful and the descriptions of village life are excellent. Her research was surely extensive and the historical quotes at the beginning of each chapter are a great touch.

The Dancing Master might seem a little long to some - and while there's mystery, the action is not fast paced - but I savored every moment spent in its pages. The setting is Devonshire, England in 1816, and the Prologue sets the stage for what's to come with these beautiful words:

"From behind the market hall, an old man hobbled into view. He tossed aside his apron and bowed before the woman. And she in turn curtsied. She gave him a girlish smile, and decades flew from her face."

The "devil's stone" - Shebbear, Devonshire

As a pianist and someone who loves to watch ballroom dancing, I found much enjoyment is the descriptions of various dances. Memories of playing Beethoven's "Minuet in G" quickly came to mind as I read through a scene where the minuet was taught. Julie's writing is such that these stately dances really come alive. And honestly, what could be more romantic than ballroom dancing like that pictured on the cover?

Alec and Julia are quite complex characters and I really liked how most of the narrative is from Alec's point of view. The dancing master is a unique character . . . Dancing was such an important part of society that dance masters were sought after and mixed freely with the elite, knowing all the while that they could never be considered equals and were therefore looked down upon by the very ladies they were teaching. Julia initially comes across as selfish, self-centered and reckless, but as her past is slowly uncovered, we see and welcome a gradual transformation.

The unusual and enthusiastic worship of a group called the Bryanites added much to the story, for dance was the expression of their joy and praise. While watching them in one scene, Alec wondered:  "How long had it been since he had communed with his Creator with half the sincerity and fervor of these people?"

But it is the character of Johnny Desmond who will linger in my thoughts. Mysterious, flawed, talented as a blacksmith and musician both, a man with a surprisingly deep faith - for it is he who points out to Julia that she is a "child of the King." And in their conversation, he states simply:  "I don't know how religious I am, but I know I'd be lost without Christ."

The theme of God's love and grace is woven throughout this story, in a way that blends in simply with the storyline. Readers who like a Regency setting, strong characterization and entertaining story will enjoy The Dancing Master.

5 stars, based on the rating criteria on the sidebar. Definitely recommended!

Julie Klassen

        "To research The Dancing Master, my husband and I went English country dancing several times at the Tapestry Folkdance Center in Minneapolis. We learned a lot and had a great time. I also attended dance classes during the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Annual General Meeting. What fun to dance with other Janeites, many of us in costume! I also read several books written by dancing masters, like A New Most Excellent Dancing Master: the Journal of Joseph Lowe (Joseph Lowe went on to become dancing master for Queen Victoria’s children), as well as visiting web sites like
        "Fictional Buckleigh Manor was inspired by Buckland House, in the village of Buckland Filleigh, Devonshire. Many thanks to Madeline Jane Taylor for her helpful book about the area, Buckland Filleigh, A Continuous Thread."


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 is a three-time Christy Award winner and a 2010 Midwest Book Award winner for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Learn more about Julie and her books by visiting the Litfuse Publicity page and Julie's website.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity and Bethany House for providing a copy of The Dancing Master in exchange for my honest review.


I would love to share my gently-read copy with one of you, so follow these simple steps if you're interested. Post what you've done in the comment section, being sure to leave your e-mail address . . .

Entry - Do you enjoy Regencies, and if so, have you read any of Julie Klassen's other books?

Additional entry - Follow my blog

Additional entry - Subscribe to my blog by e-mail

Additional entry - Share a link to this giveaway on Facebook or in some other way

Winner will be selected by Contest ends at midnight on Friday, January 31.


  1. Hi Carole! Thanks for your comment on my review at Austenprose. Your website is lovely and I very much enjoyed reading your Dancing Master review. You did a wonderful job! I'd like to enter the contest for a copy of the Dancing Master. Selfish of me I know, but all I received from the publisher was the kindle copy and I've been hoping to get a physical copy. There's nothing like the feel of feel book pages! To answer your question, I do love Regency fiction, and was only recently introduced to Julie Klassen. I can't believe I hadn't found her before! I loved The Tutor's Daughter, and hope to finally read The Girl in the Gatehouse (which I've been saving). I'm also subscribing to your blog and following via email. My email is:
    ~Katie P.

  2. Katie, you are so kind and I appreciate it! This book wasn't as well received as her others, and least with some reviewers, but I loved the slower pace, characters, etc. I much prefer what I call relationship drama to suspense anyway. But would you believe that I have yet to read Jane Austen?! I grew up loving Georgette Heyer, but hope to work in one of Austen's books this year. You'll have to advise on where to start!

    I'm glad I discovered Austenprose because you're a great review writer, Katie. I'll put you down for three entries. Thank you for checking out my blog.

  3. Carole, I agree! I loved the slow drama and the character building. For me it was the same with The Tutor's Daughter--at the beginning I didn't particularly like the characters, but by the end I fell in love with them. Julie Klassen does a wonderful job writing characters that grow as her book goes on.
    I love Georgette Heyer! That's so exciting that you love her as well. The first I read was Bath Tangle, and have been slowly hoarding (I mean, collecting), them. What's your favorite?
    My favorite of Jane Austen's novels is Emma, but some people don't like the heroine. She's a little bit like Julia Midwinter--starts out selfish, but by the end of the novel grows as a person.
    Thanks again for your sweet comments! :)
    ~Katie P.

  4. I do like regencies & Julie Klassen's books are among my favorites! I have read all of her books except "The Dancing Master". I'm really looking forward to read that one! :)
    I follow your blog via email & I shared this giveaway on Pinterest --

    Aerykah ~

  5. Aerykah, it's good to see you here! I remember you from Goodreads, where I've been too busy with reviews to take part in group or buddy reads lately. You are entered and I wish you the best! I love the way you did a "best of" and "worst of" list on your blog, by the way.

    Katie, I'll send you an e-mail tomorrow. Too much to say here!

  6. Lovely review, Carole! I always look forward to your in-depth and thoughtful reviews, and this is no exception. I for one am thrilled to read anything by Julie, and have in fact read all of her previous books. I do love Regencies in general.

    I can't wait to get to this one, and am very appreciative of the opportunity to win a copy of The Dancing Master.

    I follow your blog via GFC and subscribe via email.

    Thank you!

  7. I've read and enjoyed all of Julie's books! Can't wait to read this one, her newest.

    I follow via GFC.

    I subscribe via e-mail


  8. I've read all of Julie Klassen's books and especially loved The Tutor's Daughter. (I love Georgette Heyer also---These Old Shades especially). I just subscribed to your blog via email and I pinned this to my board:
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    Lis K
    garfsgirl [at] hotmail [dot] com

  9. Yes, I love Regencies! I have read only one if Julie's. Maid of Fairbourne Hall. Great book!

    I follow via GFC

    And via email

    Shared via twitter

    Campbellamyd at gmail dot com

  10. Oops-I just realized that I forgot to leave my email, sorry Carole!


  11. Beth, Patty, Lis and Amy, thanks for stopping by. I've got you entered. And Beth, I have your e-mail from a previous time.

  12. This is a wonderful review of The Dancing Master, more in-depth than some I've read. I do enjoy reading Regency Romances sometimes. I've read Julie's book The Tutor's Daughter and liked it very much. I have several of her other books waiting for me on my Kindle.
    I follow your blog and subscribed to receive it by e-mail. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of The Dancing Master.


  13. I have read some of Julie's books from the library I would love to win this one.

    sonflower277 at gmail dot com

  14. Hi Carole! Wonderful review. I just love Julie's books. I do enjoy how she builds her characters. To me, it gives the reader a chance to fully understand each character and of course come to love them. A lot of authors just dive in on page one, but don't give as much background as I like. I also like how she builds relationships in her books.
    Thank you for sharing.
    I follow your blog and your newsletter and GFC.

  15. Pam, I appreciate your comments on my review more than you'll ever know, because writing is hard for me.

    Great to see you here, Katrina, and I couldn't agree more with your thoughts about Julie's writing.

  16. Hi Carol! I love your review! Truthfully, I wasn't overly interested when I first heard about the book, but now, after reading your opinion, I would really like to read it. It sounds very good.
    I've only read one of Julie's books, "The Girl in the Gatehouse" and I enjoyed it.
    I have followed you by email and will share the link for the giveaway on Facebook, in a few minutes.
    bookluver1492 [at] gmail[com]

  17. Great review! I have read ALL of Julie's books and have absolutely LOVED each of them! This one is high on the TBR list! :) Thanks for the giveaway!


  18. I love Julie!! I have read her books and love them..this is definitely next to be read for sure! I love the Apothecary's Daughter. thanks for the chance to win this one - I'm dying to read it.
    I follow on GFC,and follow by email with truckredford(at)gmail(Dot)com

  19. I love anything and everything about the Regency era and I'm a huge Jane Austen fan. I have read two books of Julie's 'The Maid of Fairbourne Hall' and 'The Girl in the Gatehouse.' I cannot wait to read this next one!

  20. Thanks for the lovely, thoughtful review, Carole. I've enjoyed reading all the comments.

  21. Hey Carole, I have read several of Julie's books and love them. I also follow your blog, receive your e-mails, and I've shared your link with others (but not Facebook since I'm not on there). Thanks for this opportunity.

    Numerology can

  22. Hi Carole,

    I have read several of Julie Klassen's books. The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Apothecary's Daughter, A Passion Most name just a few. I absolutely love all the books that I've read by her. I thoroughly enjoy Regency fiction. Thank you for your reviews.
    Carol Dyer

  23. I have read all of Julie Klassen's books except The Dancing Master. I do like Regency fiction! Steph

  24. What a lovely review !

    I myself like the strong impact on dancing here - as somebody who is a bit afraid in this department and feel it´s time to enjoy the moves and my body moving in dancing !
    Would love to read the book.
    I'm also subscribing to your blog and following via email. My email is: janka(dot)halcinova(at)gmail(dot)com

  25. And I follow the blog as well ! :) (Sorry, too quick fingers :))

  26. I'm keeping up with all the entries. Thanks to all of you for following, subscribing, and/or sharing. All of this increases my blog traffic, which allows me more access to great books to review and occasionally give away.

  27. I have read only one if Julie's. Maid of Fairbourne Hall. Loved it. Looking forward to reading this one. Thanks for the opportunity to chance winning it.

  28. I love Regency fiction and have read all of Julie Klassen's books, BUT The Dancing Master. Sarah Ladd is one of my favorite new authors who writes like Julie. Heiress of Winterwood is wonderful.
    Thanks for the chance to win.
    Many Blessings,

  29. I love Julie's books and thanks for the chance of winning one!

    Jean K
    West Palm Beach,, FL

  30. I just love reading Regencies Books but I am sorry to say I have never read any of Julie's book and would love to chance finally read one of her books, I always thought that they look and sound awesome!!! Thanks for giving away one of your books Julie!!! This book looks like the time period I like and I think it would a awesome book to read~~!!!
    Sarah Richmond

  31. Beth, congratulations on winning a copy of Julie Klassen's book!

    Out of 47 entries, the number 8 came out on top, with Beth's name. Thanks to all of you for being interested in Julie's book. I'll be hosting 2, maybe 3, more giveaways this month, so please come back and check them out.