The Dance of Love is Angela Young's second novel. I very much enjoyed her first, Speaking of Love, which delicately handled some difficult subject matter making for a rewarding but challenging read. The Dance of Love is a very different book, a delight from cover to cover, a bringer of pure pleasure. The heroine is as curious and emotional as the narrative is elegant and controlled. This is a truly charming story, beautifully told.
Natalie Edwardes is on the cusp of adulthood. In an era when such things mattered, she is from a wealthy family but her faher's fortune comes from trade. Natalie, like her late mother before her, is impulsive, romantic, and feels the constraints of the era. We meet her out riding with her timid, conservative friend Millie, and the difference between them is immediately apparent. Millie, the daughter of a landowning family, knows what life has in store for her: coming out, balls, a suitable husband and a respectable married life. Millie is cautious and afraid to offend. Natalie would fret at the thought of Millie's prospects but hopes her 'trade' status will give her a little more freedom to choose as she won't be part of the 'coming out' circus. What she does not know is that her adored father has chained her up in a bargain exchanging her future fortune for an unwanted presentation at court and a life already mapped out.
Set in the late nineteenth century to the end of the first world war it could have so easily trod the path of many a similar historical novel but it does not. What I like about The Dance of Love is that it avoids the stereotypes you might expect. Natalie's businessman father is a little socially unsure of himself, but he is a natural gentleman; Natalie is impulsive, but she is not truly shocking in her behaviour and is often contrite when she accidentally causes a stir. Nothing is over-done, and the characters, and especially their family relationships, are believable. This is a book where the cold upper class character might learn a different more caring way, or they might not; the trade characters may be appreciated for their inner worth, or they might not; the impulsive loving heart might be rewarded with a happy marriage or it might not; the kind parent or the loving daughter might do the right thing, or a thoughtless unkind thing, and it still be in character. As in real life, and real relationships, there is no black and white.
A final thought on the setting: the London season, the sinking of the Titanic and WWI have all be so often used that it is a shock to get a slightly different perspective of all three. I was particularly impressed with the section of the book relating to the Titanic and, again, the handling of the emotional fall out.
The Dance of Love reminds me very much of a Georgette Heyer novel in its believable intimacy, and the genuineness of the portrayal of the household and friends, and the carefully shaded, nuanced handling of Natalie's emotional landscape in a living version of the past. In this it is a delicate book, and I can imagine once published will be fast on the way to becoming a 'timeless classic', and that won't be over-hyped. All in all, it is a pleasure, a great treat, to spend time in Natalie's life. I know I will return to this book often.
OFFER: I enjoyed this book so much I'm delighted to do an offer on it for pre-orders: free UK postage and subsidised postage for the rest of the world. It will be published on July 31st and I'll keep the offer open until then.
UK: £8.99 including free postage
Europe: £8.99 + £1.50 shipping, total £10.49
Rest of the World: £8.99 + £3.50, total £12.49
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