I wasn’t sure what to expect from ‘Under a Dancing Star’ by Laura Wood. I’ve had it on my bookshelves for at least two years, and yet hadn’t read it! But wow, I was delighted by the read. It was summery and light and yet hinting at darker undertones. Yes. This was the perfect summer read.
In grey, 1930s England, Bea has grown up kicking against the conventions of the time, all the while knowing that she will one day have to marry someone her parents choose – someone rich enough to keep the family estate alive. But she longs for so much more – for adventure, excitement, travel, and maybe even romance.
When she gets the chance to spend the summer in Italy with her bohemian uncle and his fiancée, a whole world is opened up to Bea – a world that includes Ben, a cocky young artist who just happens to be infuriatingly handsome too. Sparks fly between the quick-witted pair until one night, under the stars, a challenge is set: can Bea and Ben put aside their teasing and have the perfect summer romance?
With their new friends gleefully setting the rules for their fling, Bea and Ben can agree on one thing at least: they absolutely, positively will not, cannot fall in love…
A long, hot summer of kisses and mischief unfolds – but storm clouds are gathering across Europe, and home is calling. Every summer has to end – but for Bea, this might be just the beginning.
This was a delightful and funny read, perfect for reading whilst sitting on the beach in the sun or perhaps on a hammock in the shade on a hot day (we can but dream).
It wasn’t hard to be swept up into the dynamics of the characters, and I would say the plot is character led rather than plot led, or that’s how I felt. There weren’t any wow moments, but I felt entirely comfortable reading it, thirsty for more interactions between Bea and Ben, and laughing out loud at their antics.
Because it is set in the early 1930s, and in Italy, there were darker undertones throughout of the hints of fascism, what with Mussolini in power, and Hitler’s power rising. It’s a foretelling of doom in that respect, especially as it had quite a lot of varied characters who would be affected by this fascism. It wasn’t thrown right in your face, but there were hints throughout, as well as unlikeable characters who were in support of this appalling outlook.
The main theme of the book was a summer romance, a coming-of-age and embracing your own power theme surrounding it. Bea is 17 and has so far lived a fairly sheltered life. Her character and interests are frowned upon by her family, and this book is about her rising to her full potential, of following her dreams. It is lovely in that respect, watching her grow and try new things. She’s a lovely strong character, witty and outspoken at times – certainly for the times as well. I think I liked her the most out of all the characters, which is just as well, as the book is written from her perspective!
I quite liked Ben, but I wasn’t enamoured by him as Bea was, and maybe that’s why I felt some of the romantic scenes fell flat on occasion. I enjoyed their arguments and antics, and smiled when they began their summer romance, but perhaps I was like Bea – seeing the romance rather like an experiment, instead of feeling the full force of the obvious passion.
Overall it was an enjoyable book, and I thoroughly recommend it if you’re looking for an easy-to-read book for the summer. This ticks all those boxes.
I won’t spoil the end, but I think it ended well. This is a standalone novel, so while I know there won’t be more, I like to think of more stories between Ben and Bea.
I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.
Kate @ Kandid Chronicles x