The Hidden Dance by Susan Wooldridge

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The Hidden Dance by Susan Wooldridge

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A quietly engaging 1930's romance & mystery.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Allison and Busby
ISBN: 978-0749007416

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It is 1933, and the SS Etoile has just left Southampton harbour en route for New York. On board is Lily Sutton, a timid, disturbed woman whose posh accent seems unsuited to her situation of travelling in steerage. Through a series of flashbacks to various years in Lily's life we learn why she is so frightened and what has brought her to make this secretive journey to New York. As well as learning about her romantic aspirations through the story we also see her stumble into a difficult situation on board ship that lends a crime mystery feel to the latter half of the book.

I was alternately sympathetic towards and then frustrated by the character of Lily. She endures terrible abuse from her husband, and becomes so brow-beaten by him that you instantly feel sorry for her and moved by her suffering. Yet I found myself equally annoyed by her cringing and absolute terror whilst on board the ship as there didn't seem enough reason for her to be so nervous once she had escaped from his clutches. Without spoiling the story, it turns out that actually she did have good reason to be fearful, so if you find Lily annoying as a character too, do stick with her as it's worth reading on!

The more we learn about Lily, the more we want her to be able to find a way to be happy. The entrance of the kind and gentle widower, Johnnie, brings a glimpse of a normal life for her, and I found their tentative steps towards each other to be sweet and charming. You're rooting for them to manage to be together, especially since Johnnie's character is well-drawn and also arouses sympathy because of his war experiences and tragic marriage. The mystery aspect of the story comes quite late into the book with the appearance of an old foe in Lily's life. It's not a challenging mystery as it's fairly obvious who all the good and bad players are, but it did add a spark of excitement to perk things up mid-way through.

I think the publishers will be hoping to sell a lot of copies on the author's reputation as an actress. Susan Wooldridge was in The Jewel in the Crown as well as appearing on stage in various productions, and I wondered how much her fame had helped to get her story published. Although I personally felt that this book is nothing particularly special, it certainly isn't a bad book (although I did groan a couple of times over some clumsy character accents). I felt it had a similar flavour to a Danielle Steel novel I once read on holiday, with its span over many years and a romantic mix of both happiness and heartache. It's an easy, gentle read so would be perfect escapism for when you don't want to think too hard but would like to hide out in 1930's England for a while or travel, in your imagination, on board a vast liner to America.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Another easy to read historical romance to try is The Other Side of Paradise by Margaret Mayhew.

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Buy The Hidden Dance by Susan Wooldridge at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Hidden Dance by Susan Wooldridge at


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