Seeing the name of the author you would expect this book to feature ballroom dancing, and you would be correct. This is a story set in the Buckingham Hotel with a huge ballroom, renowned for being the grandest in any hotel in London. Raymond de Guise is the show dancer with a growing reputation for being the most able dancer of his generation. He is well paired with Helene Marchmont, renowned for her beauty and skill, but who hides a secret with huge implications. Nancy Nettleton is still deeply in love with Raymond, and attached to Vivienne Edgerton whose life choices have been questionable. Many other characters throng a hotel with a reputation for glamour and excellence, but it is 1937 and the shadow of war is once more falling on London and Europe as a whole.
The fate of the hotel as a whole rests as it has always done in the hands of another person with a secret, Maynard Charles, who is determined to use any means to keep the hotel in prime position. As society in London and internationally struggles to come to terms with potential disaster, the other side of London life is revealed. This is a splendid book of people and place, of crisis and challenge. It follows on from the successful “One Enchanted Evening”, but it stands alone in terms of a very readable novel. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
The book opens with a glimpse of a fire bursting out into the Grand Ballroom, and fast action being taken by Raymond. This Prologue is followed by the main story of the book which begins in April 1937. The music in the ballroom is led by the famous Archie Adams Orchestra. Vivienne is the stepdaughter of the hotel’s owner, but has spent her considerable resources and privileged position unwisely on alcohol and worse. In this book she tells Nancy that she wants to make a new start, and indeed takes the young woman to discover a new activity. Meanwhile Frank, Nelly’s younger brother arrives at the Buckingham to take up a new job that will involve him in far more than simply working as a Porter. Raymond is away, exploring the possibilities of America and the new dance crazes which will transform his whole view of dancing. While there he has been entrusted with a job that could go to the very heart of the Buckingham’s survival.
This is a smoothly plotted book with much drama and crisis, a lot of which is centred on the choices made by various characters. It is nicely judged in terms of period, and the difference between rich and poor in the very heart of London. There are a few slips of fact beyond the central story, but they in no way affect the attractions of this very enjoyable novel. It is made so dramatic by an excellent feeling for character and the twists and turns of fortune that affect their lives. It is an easy to read tale of the times, and those who are fond of sagas of the period will surely enjoy it greatly.