A Christmas to Remember by Anton Du Beke: Emotion packed dramas - book review -
Put on your dancing shoes, polish up the sequins, and glide seamlessly into the glitz and glamour of Mayfair’s magnificent Buckingham Hotel as Britain teeters precariously on the edge of war.
Strictly Come Dancing judge and all-round entertainer Anton Du Beke sweeps us off our feet and waltzes us back in time to the upstairs and downstairs dramas of the residents and staff of an exclusive London hotel in the third novel in his dazzling wartime series.
The king of dance – and now king of romance – Du Beke follows up his bestselling novels, One Enchanted Evening and Moonlight Over Mayfair, with a festive-flavoured trip to the music and magic of the Buckingham’s Grand Ballroom where dreams, dancing and disasters are part of everyday life.
And A Christmas to Remember delivers the same heady mix of real social and political history and a story filled with nostalgia, suspense, and intrigue as we are once more plunged into the beating heart of a busy, bustling hotel.
In London in 1938, the threat of war looms ever closer and the Buckingham Hotel’s difficulties continue to grow. Still reeling from the events of last year, including an inferno which laid waste to the hotel’s iconic ballroom, and with guest numbers dropping as foreign tensions mount, the staff will have a battle to keep up the hotel’s glamorous reputation.
But the ballroom has been lovingly restored and the long-serving hotel director, Maynard Charles, is hopeful that it will soon be open again as a place of magic and enchantment where ‘love stories could unfold and guests can pretend for a few hours that the world outside was not going to touch them.’
Meanwhile, life has been a whirlwind for fiercely independent chambermaid Nancy Nettleton who moved to London and the Buckingham Hotel from her home in Lancashire, little suspecting that she would find love with Raymond de Guise, the hotel’s debonair professional dancer.
As the festive season approaches, the exclusive hotel gets busier and busier, with guests arriving from around the world, seeking comfort, relaxation and refuge from Nazi Germany as tensions build across Europe.
Behind the scenes, the staff work tirelessly, ensuring the smooth operation of the hotel, guarding the secrets of their guests, but they have many of their own that they fear will be revealed. And as the band strikes up in the Grand Ballroom to celebrate Nancy and Raymond’s wedding, one thing is certain… this will be a Christmas to remember.
There isn’t a step out of place as Du Beke takes his readers by the hand and whisks them around the ballroom for another liberal helping of golden age dance, secrets, subterfuge, loves, losses and emotion-packed dramas.
As always, the cast of flamboyant characters from all walks of life – not least the delectable Nancy and fleet-footed Raymond – steal the show as the hotel struggles to survive, danger is never far away, and the threat of war grows with every passing day.
There is music, rhythm and some fancy footwork in this fabulous all-singing, all-dancing story but there is also rich period detail, a London backdrop painted with a colourful palette, and Du Beke’s sharp insight into the fears, uncertainties and suspicions of a country facing the prospect of yet another conflict.
And with a promise from the author that we will be returning to the Buckingham for more heart-of-war waltzes, the last dance is still far from over!
(Zaffre, paperback, £8.99)