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Monday, January 12, 2015

Monica Eldridge: Dancing in the Rain

By Kelly Bridgewater

From Amazon
Back Cover Copy:

After the unfortunate death of her father, Bella Westbrook leaves home against her will to support her mother and crippled sister. Bella soon finds herself awestruck with the magnificence of Biltmore Estate, a castle nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Darby Pierson, a forestry scholar at Biltmore Forest School, learns that his position as class president may be in jeopardy because of his limp. Once he discovers Bella's desire to see the handicapped recover, he meets her faithfully on the terrace for therapy.

More than just a healing takes place. Bella finds the walls of heart breaking down and Darby's uneven gait is now smooth, but the rain has just begun. Darby's dream becomes reality when he is offered a position as a forester in Pennsylvania.

Is their love for one another strong enough to withstand the storm they face? Will they dance in the rain in the midst of their storm?

My Thoughts:

Who wouldn’t be interested in a book that takes place in the elaborate Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina? The estate is gorgeous and massive. I could not wait to dive into a historical romance that took place in the coveted Blue Ridge Mountains while roaming this beautiful home. This is a first book by debut author, Monica Eldridge. After reading the book, the story left something to be desired.

The writing and research that went into the story sometimes left me scratching my head. The writing is tight, powerful, and grammatically sound with a great balance between dialogue, internal monologues, and prose. But the pace is too quick for my taste because some scenes should have taken more time to explore and develop. For example, Bella’s mother was drunk and not moving nor cleaning her house in one chapter, then a couple of chapters later, she was cooking and cleaning and attending church. Eldridge does not show how this transition happened. I would have liked to see Bella torn between leaving her sister with her mother in such an awful state and feeling bad about returning to her job. But Bella never gave her sister and her mother another thought until she encounters them again. Plus, the interactions between the staff and the Vanderbilts were too casual for me. I do not believe that Mrs. Vanderbilt would be sharing her inter-most thoughts with the servant’s matrons, Ms. King.

As for the setting, the story takes place in the elaborate Biltmore Estate, but the only description we have is of the massive stairwell and the chandelier before Bella is taken to her room. The readers are not anchored in the story. I did not feel like I was actually in such an elegant house.   

One of the major issues I have is the characters’ development. One of Eldridge’s strengths is achieving deep point of view by allowing the readers to understand the characters’ internal struggles, thoughts, and emotions. But the characters externally were not developed enough. I wanted to learn more about what makes Bella and Darby tick. It was vague and left unsaid. Bella has a wall around her heart because her father died, but the moment she runs into Darby in a post office, she can not stop thinking about him. Bella allowed the “walls” around her heart to fall instantly. The characters left me begging for more information to empathize with their journeys and struggles. 

The conflict and romantic tension should have been taken to a deeper level. The only real tension is between Sophia and Bella, and for the longest time, the readers did not even know why. When the readers find out why, the reasoning is unrealistic and unbelievable. On the other hand, the romance between Bella and Darby is too rushed for the genre. Neither the characters nor the plot advanced and grew.  The romance and tension left a bad taste in my mouth, begging for a moment of rain to parch my thirst. 

Dancing in the Rain is a historical novel with spiritual elements woven into the plot and no questionable content, which makes the story readable for any age group. This story is not original and completely predictable. I knew Darby and Bella would end up together. Their romance is rushed with no real trauma. Every one loved Darby and Bella so there was no real fear they would not end up together. This story is easy for me to put down. The development of the characters and the plot left something to be desired.

Overall, Monica Eldridge’s Dancing in the Rain needs more attention to the development of her character’s journey’s while conflicting with the outward dilemmas that take place in the lackluster plot. While Eldridge does a great job at allowing her readers to feel the character’s plight, the storyline needs to be more complex with better description to anchor the readers. 

I received a complimentary copy of Dancing in the Rain and the opinions stated are my own.


My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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