Shall We Dance?
To say that Shall We Dance? was a chore to read is putting it mildly. I literally could only read a few pages at a time before I had to put it away. For those who are bothered by reading multiple points of view, stay far, far away from this book. There are six major characters and various minor characters, and the reader gets into everyone’s head, even over the course of a paragraph or two. I felt like my head was spinning trying to keep track of whose POV was whose.
As we learned in My Fair Quiggly, Lansdowne’s preceding historical, Dandy Dan the highwayman is in reality Josiah Elliot. At the beginning of this book, Elliot is peering over a bridge when brother and sister Donovan and Eleanor Feebes decide he must be about to take his own life. They rush over to assist, as Eleanor is mad about Causes and Elliot is perfect for her newest one. A confusing exchange occurs in which Elliot assures them he is not going to commit suicide, then runs away. He rushes back to the residence of his employer, the Earl of Blazingame. Elliot is acting as Blazingame’s valet, although he’s not really a valet. No, he’s gone into Blazingame’s employ so that the earl may help Elliot find his brother Nathaniel, and Nat’s two boys, who have all gone missing. If you’ve got all this, good – for me it was more than a little confusing and annoying.
Although Elliot carries no title, his family is well-connected and wealthy. But with Nat missing, so is valuable information about the family’s history, including possible links to noble blood in the family. We know from the previous book that Elliot is in love with Lady Miranda Wesley, sister to the Duke of Comestock, who is obviously out of his league. However, Miranda doesn’t care that Elliot is a valet, or that he was a highwayman, or that he has fainting spells due to his time in the cavalry during the war. Amazing, and completely unrealistic for the Regency era.
Miranda and Elliot’s struggles to come together might have been interesting had they not been overshadowed by a million other things happening at the same time, including the set-ups for not one but two secondary romances among the myriad of secondary characters. Joining Eleanor and Donovan is their aunt, Lady Newcome, their uncle, Roger, the Earl of Blazingame, the Duke of Comestock, Ariel, Lady Sophia, Lord Marley, Spinner, Jack, the Duke of Berinwick, Nathaniel, and yes, let’s not forget Susan the cow, all vying for space in a mere 352 pages.
Elliot and Blazingame pursue Nat’s disappearance and discover a villain. The villain sets out to kill Elliot and anyone else who gets in the way. Miranda and her brother resolve some family problems. Secondary romances are set up for Blazingame, Eleanor, Donovan, and Lady Sophia. The question of what to do with Susan the cow is answered. And Miranda and Elliot are finally given two whole pages together at the end.
Even at the end of Shall We Dance?, I still had stop and think about who was who and how they fit into the story. Anytime I have to do that, there are entirely too many characters and in this case, too much head-hopping. A long trip on a loopy roller coaster wouldn’t have made my head spin as much as this book did. Give your own head a break and skip this one.