The First Dance by Catherine Law
Date read: 19th March 2018 – 20th March 2018
Page count: 448
Genre: Historical Fiction
I’m ultimately not 100% sure how to think about this book.
Alexa is an eighteen-year-old girl living in Cornwall with a remarried father, a stepmother who is made out to be a villain but seems more subject to Alexa’s own prejudices and a dark secret in her past. When her best friend proposes to her against her wishes, she runs off to London, and from there, to Venice.
The ‘dark secret’ isn’t one I’ll divulge in worry of possible spoilers, but it was very inventive, and definitely added more to the story. Otherwise, it would have just been a story about a girl who goes to Venice.
One of the main plot points is Alexa running off to become a lady’s companion in London, which I got massive Rebecca vibes from. As a massive fan of that book, it made me enjoy this one a whole lot more because of it.
Of course, I’m a sucker for a historical romance, which was what drew me to this book in the first place. However, in the end, this book was a lot darker than I initially anticipated, but still had elements of happiness, which actually made me enjoy it even more. A little bit of dark never goes amiss in historical fiction.
What I didn’t like was the protagonist. You’ll probably only enjoy this if you don’t mind blatantly prejudiced, snobbish young women, who criticise their stepmothers for not going upstairs to take off their hat before speaking to people. Alexa was just not a nice girl, so I didn’t feel much sympathy for her throughout the story, which detracted from what were supposed to be emotional moments.
The writing was quite simplistic, which made it enjoyable, and easy to read, but not exactly memorable. In years to come, I won’t be coming back to cite The First Dance as a stellar example of historical romance done right, or even a work of great fiction. It’s like a packet of Skittles – tasty, nice to snack on, but not something you’d go back to again and again, like you might do with something more substantial.
Harvey, Alexa’s love interest, was also… Dislikeable. So, I really didn’t enjoy their romance, and I didn’t see why their love for each other was justified. For one thing, he’s quite a few years older, and he seems almost obsessed with her. As well as this, both Harvey and Alexa are actually despicable to a girl that’s also interested in Harvey, and she’s then portrayed as a villain, especially for her part in the ending of the story. Just, no. I’d rather not read two people’s blatant disregard for another person in such a romanticised way.
Overall, I gave this two stars out of five – for good writing, Rebecca vibes and a decent overall plot, but horrible characters and a romance with no foundations.