Book Review: The Last Dance by Fiona McIntosh

The Last Dance…

Book Description:

Would you risk everything for love?

Stella Myles is suddenly impoverished through a family crisis and becomes forced to make ends meet by selling herself as a dance partner in a Piccadilly ballroom. Here she meets the enigmatic Montgomery, who orchestrates a job for her as governess for the wealthy Ainsworth family in Sussex. But nothing is as straightforward as it first seems.

In entering the mansion of Harp’s End, Stella encounters a family with more secrets than most. She struggles to fit in above or below stairs – although nothing proves so challenging as restraining the illicit love that ignites between herself and the mysterious Douglas Ainsworth.

When Douglas announces that they are all to voyage aboard a cruise ship bound for Morocco, tensions reach new heights and finally bubble over. Stella finds herself caught up in a family at war and in a world on the edge of another. She is now the keeper of an incendiary document smuggled out of Berlin, one which must reach London at all costs.

From the rolling green hills of the Kentish Weald to the colourful alleys and bazaars of Morocco, this is a thrilling story of intrigue and danger – and a passion to risk dying for.

 

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My Thoughts:

“From the rolling green hills of the Kentish Weald to the colourful alleys and bazaars of Morocco, this is a heart-stopping novel of romance, intrigue and danger…”

These are the words that sum up The Last Dance on its back cover, and I have to say, they are pretty much spot on. I’ve had this novel for quite some time now, a couple of years at least, but that’s not so unusual for me and not at all indicative of my expectations. I just have a lot of novels to get through, so many get lost in the pile, so to speak.

The Last Dance is a fine novel, containing all of the ingredients required to make up a satisfying and engaging read. It has a glamour about it that puts me in mind of an English period drama combined with Casablanca. To me, the romance between Stella Myles and Rafe Ainsworth is of a grand and sweeping nature, doomed from the outset, yet still holding you in its thrall, from start to finish, quiet hopes for a different outcome whispering in the wings.

If I have any criticism of this novel, it’s that I felt it finished too quickly. Events culminated rather rapidly towards the end of the novel and then it was all over, with a time jump of five years for the last chapter. I felt the absence of those missing years and wished we had been treated to more. I was also dissatisfied with the direction taken for Grace Ainsworth. I felt her sweetness was sacrificed for the sake of her sister, Georgina’s redemption, but I think my feelings on this are tied up with my longing for more from those missing years.

Character wise, this was a novel populated by a variety of sorts, all created to perfection. Beatrice Ainsworth, with her disdain and polished indifference; Georgina Ainsworth, the very definition of a spoilt, self-centered horror; Grace Ainsworth, a sweet and intelligent child bent on pleasing those around her, yet caught in a family unable to appreciate her. Stella herself was a worthy heroine, her passion, honesty, intelligence, quick wit, and ever present consciousness, was never tiring. I liked her immensely. Rafe, on the other hand, was like a kaleidoscope, and I still feel by the end of the novel that we never truly got to know him. He was quite the intricate character, so many sides to his personality, all crafted with a particular purpose. He was an expert in manipulation, yet I still liked him. I believe his love for Stella was true, even when so much else about him wasn’t.

All in all, I think this was an excellent historical novel with an engaging story about interesting characters. What more could you ask for?

The Last Dance is book 3 in my 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

 

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