With the final of Strictly Come Dancing only just on our screens, no need to despair that a dose of glamour and a foxtrot is not around. Here is the second offering from one of this year’s finalists – the great song and dance man that is Anton Du Beke.
His first outing with a novel was One Enchanted Evening (which I hadn’t read) but this one moves on with some of the main characters he’d told us about who inhabit the glittering world around the Ballroom of the Buckingham Hotel in Mayfair, London.
Raymond de Guise (surely Anton in disguise!) is the handsome hero who is sent to America on a mission to try and cosy up to American businessman John Hastings Junior about investment for the struggling hotel. Raymond is also caught up with the world of Hollywood, giving us a chance to visit the possibilities of dance with Fred and Ginger (of course). There are quite a few characters, but most are drawn well, although a few stereotypes do emerge – not least the link to the IRA. But the novel is set in 1937 and the world is in turmoil building, of course, to WWII. London and the rich were not immune from mixing with those who only a few years later Churchill and the troops would be fighting ‘on the beaches and in the skies’.
I liked the rich young lady Vivienne Edgerton, seemingly recovering from addiction, who with her friend Nancy (chambermaid and love interest for Raymond) heads out into the dark alleys of Whitechapel to help with the homeless at the Daughters of Salvation hostel. Mary Burdett is in charge there and she could do with more of a part in the plot I felt.
It’s definitely one for fans of Downton/Upstairs Downstairs and perhaps a criticism is there is less dancing than twists and turns in the plot! But we do see the jitterbug arriving across the Atlantic!
Great fun as a personal read and I’d be tempted to go back and read his first novel too to get the full picture. “Worlds within worlds. Secrets within secrets” is a line from the text and sums up the whole concept. A hotel has many people coming and going so Du Beke can easily make this a series of more tales. It’s a very reasonable, entertaining and somewhat pulls you back to the glamour of the time and the importance of music and the escape of dance that so can entrance anyone observing – a bit like the effect of Du Beke himself! Book clubs will love it too I’m guessing.
Philipa Coughlan 4/4
Moonlight Over Mayfair by Anton Du Beke
Zaffre 9781785767838 hbk Oct 2019