Under a dancing star by Laura Wood

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After thoroughly enjoying The Agency for Scandal by Laura Wood,  I decided to find and read some of her other books. Under a dancing star is another recommended book, combining romance and history as well as alluding to Much Ado About Nothing. It is 1930’s England and Bea is stifled by the expectations of her parents and the society that they move in. She is expected make a good marriage and be a dutiful spouse and daughter. However, Bea is fascinated by nature and prefers to study insects and plants. Then her parents decide to send her to Italy to stay with her uncle in the hope that she will settle down. When she arrives, she finds a fascinating new world with a group of young artists living in the villa, and when she is challenged to have a summer romance with handsome Ben, sparks begin to fly.

The novel is divided into five sections, each headed with a quote from Much Ado about Nothing, and the reader is gradually brought into the heady world of bohemian society and watch Bea emerge from the restrictions that have been placed on her in England. She is highly intelligent and the witty repartee between Ben and her is a delight to read. Wood describes her historical background with a light hand but it is sufficient to intrigue with the references to Mussolini, Fascist Italy and the conflict in Spain and make me want to learn more about this period of history. Her descriptions of life in an Italian villa and especially her references to the wonderful places in Florence like the Uffizi and the Natural History Museum will have readers wanting to visit Italy.

Under a dancing star will delight readers who enjoy romance and captivating main characters. It is very entertaining, and many readers like me, may want to continue reading other books by Wood or if looking for romance, try books by Eva Ibbotson like The secret countess (previously published as A countess below stairs).

Themes: Romance, Coming of age, Italy.

Pat Pledger