Dance the Moon Down by R.L. Bartram

Dance the Moon Down by R.L. Bartram
Publisher: Authors On Line
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (301 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In 1910, no one believed there would ever be a war with Germany. Safe in her affluent middle-class life, the rumours held no significance for Victoria either. It was her father’s decision to enroll her at university that began to change all that. There she befriendes the rebellious and outspoken Beryl Whittaker, an emergent suffragette, but it is her love for Gerald Avery, a talented young poet from a neighbouring university that sets the seal on her future. After a clandestine romance, they marry in January 1914, but with the outbreak of the First World War, Gerald volunteeres but within months has gone missing in France. Convinced that he is still alive, Victoria’s initial attempts to discover what has become of him, implicate her in a murderous assault on Lord Kitchener resulting in her being interrogated as a spy, and later tempted to adultery. Now virtually destitute, Victoria is reduced to finding work as a common labourer on a run down farm, where she discovers a world of unimaginable ignorance and poverty. It is only her conviction that Gerald will some day return that sustaines her through the dark days of hardship and privation as her life becomes a battle of faith against adversity.

There’s more than one way to be a hero.

The characterization in this novel is so nuanced that even characters who only participate in a portion of Victoria’s adventure feel just as well-rounded and three-dimensional as the protagonist herself. It was delightful to meet Victoria’s friends, neighbors, and coworkers and gradually explore the depths of their personalities. A few genuinely surprised me when certain facts were revealed or when colorful personality quirks spilled out of otherwise somber conversations.

At times certain characters voice opinions that are more suited to twenty-first century life than they would be for individuals who grew up at the turn of the twentieth century. Of course it is possible to grow up immersed in certain prejudices and assumptions about how society ought to function without continuing to endorse them as an adult, but at times in which I found their progressive stances unrealistic for the the World War I era because such a high percentage of the characters seemed to believe things that would have been extremely radical for their culture. Once I was jarred out of the narrative altogether because what was happening felt so unlikely to have actually occurred.

The plot is full of details about what World War I was like for civilians that I had never heard of before. It also includes references to events and social mores from that decade that I was familiar with but that are not necessarily common knowledge. The author clearly spent a great deal of time researching this time period, and his hard work pays off with a story that reads more like a memoir than a work of fiction. For a short time I actually wondered if it was loosely based on true events!

While Victoria’s experience of the war is utterly fascinating, the author has a tendency to tell readers what is happening to her and her community rather than show it. Earlier chapters tend to do this more often than later ones, but I would have given this book a much higher rating had the scenes that describe what happens to the land and the people who rely on it been written with more subtlety. There is a lot of great material in the plot, it just never quite had the chance to have an emotional impact on this reader because I was so often told how it made those individuals feel instead of being shown their reactions to those scenes.

A list of characters is included just before the first chapter begins. While I found it really useful when trying to recall the identities of people who only show up occasionally, there are a handful of spoilers sprinkled in this list. It is something that can be skipped for readers who strongly prefer not to know what will happen ahead of time. Anyone who chooses to use it can avoid nearly all of the spoilers by ignoring the short descriptions after some of the character’s names.

I couldn’t stop reading Dance the Moon Down until I knew how it ended. This is a great choice for history buffs and fans of romance alike.


  1. Karen H in NC says:

    With my love of Downton Abbey and that particular time period, I am always on the lookout for books set in the early 20th century. Based on your review, I read the excerpts at Amazon for this book. I was struck by the fact that it was the father who wanted Victoria to attend college rather than her mother. That just seemed odd during that time period. I also wondered why, if she was from an affluent, middle-class family, why she fell on such financial hard times. Could her family not help her? I was not impressed by the first few pages. It just didn’t grab me and I probably wouldn’t read the entire book.

  2. It’s really difficult to respond to your questions without giving away spoilers, Karen. They are answered in the book, though.

    What other books from this time period have you enjoyed?

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