Love in Three-Quarter Time by Dina Sleiman explores the world of 1817 Virginia. In her historical notes, Dina describes heroine Constance as "Scarlett O'Hara meets Jane Austen" and the novel as a fusion of Southern plantation, frontier, Native American, and Regency cultures. Another facet of Dina's writing is that, having served as a dance choreographer and director for sixteen years, she beautifully incorporates the theme of dance, especially as an expression of worship.
When the belle of the ball falls into genteel poverty, the fiery Constance Cavendish must teach the dances she once loved in order to help her family survive. The opportunity of a lifetime might await her in the frontier town of Charlottesville, but the position will require her to instruct the sisters of the plantation owner who jilted her when she needed him most. As Robert Montgomery and Constance make discoveries about one another, their renewed faith in God helps them to face their past and the guilt that threatens to destroy them.
Love in Three-Quarter Time is a fairly light romantic novel. It is well-researched and brings in historical aspects such as the home of President Thomas Jefferson in Monticello, his daughter Patsy Randolph, and the American introduction of a popular European "scandalous" dance known as the waltz.
The theme of abolition plays a major role in this story, as both Robert and Constance work toward this cause. Robert expresses his desire to his neighbor, Terrence: "With corn in the summer and wheat in the winter, I estimate I can produce double the crops with half the labor. If it works, perhaps others will attempt it and let their slaves go free."
Another interesting character is Lorimer, a circuit-riding, buckskin-clad preacher who plays an important part in Constance's faith journey. One of my favorite scenes is when she attends Lorimer's Bible meeting with the servants. "Rich voices surrounding her sang with such depth of emotion, their praises rising to the heavens and meeting God's ears . . . How could they sing of joy when they lived in such bondage? Yet the expressions of rapture on their upturned faces spoke of a deep and abiding joy, the likes of which Constance had never experienced." They joyfully sang a chorus which I loved to sing when I was growing up:
Give me joy in my heart, keep me singing Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning Sing hosanna to the King of kings!
The main negative for me is that at times the narrative failed to hold my interest and I was tempted to skip over some sections. The writing just didn't have that special spark that makes a great book flow and causes you want to read every word. It was still a solid novel, however, and I expect Dina's ability as a writer will only improve. There were enough likeable secondary characters for a sequel to be developed.
I recommend Love in Three-Quarter Time to those who enjoy romantic historical fiction with Christian themes.
Love in Three-Quarter Time is the launch title for the new Zondervan First imprint. For more information on Dina Sleiman and her books, visit her website at http://awesomeinspirationals.blogspot.com/
This book was provided by Zondervan through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
My review for: Love in Three-Quarter Time By Dina L. Sleiman
I was swept away by this book. Love in Three-Quarter Time is a well written book that makes you want to dance. I, personally, do not dance. I only have awkward square dancing in my past. Reading about Constance and her family was like a breath of fresh air during this crazy holiday season. I truly enjoyed each scene with Constance and Robert Montgomery. They had me smiling and at times, laughing out loud. This story truly shows the importance of forgiveness. Hurt can cause hearts to harden; it is so important to let God in, so that He can help us to forgive and to move on. Dina did an excellent job balancing the various emotions throughout her story. I highly recommend this book. It will leave you wanting more......definitely has plenty of characters that could be featured in future books.
Dina Sleiman whisks readers to old Virginia, when Thomas Jefferson resided at Monticello and Charlottesville was considered a frontier town. Sleiman refers to the novel as "Scarlett O'Hara meets Jane Austen" in her historical notes. There are definitely elements of both throughout the plot. "Love in Three Quarter Time" is easier and lighter reading than an Austen novel, but the dance scenes and early 1800s setting are elements dear to Austen enthusiasts. Constance Cavendish has the spunk and fortitude of the infamous Scarlett O'Hara, and likewise fights for her family's well-being.
Sleiman introduces readers to a younger Constance (a.k.a. Gingersnap) Cavendish in the prologue. She is full of fire and passion for life, and used to having her own way. When tragedy strikes, and the Cavendish's gilded world crumbles, Constance is forced to confront some of life's harsh realities. The first chapter begins five years later, and Constance has shed her nickname and mellowed her personality. As the story progresses, Constance's fire is rekindled, but she begins burning for her faith and the survival of her friends and family rather than solely her own desires. I enjoyed Constance's personal growth, and I am glad that the flirtatious Gingersnap only appeared in the prologue. I'm not sure I could have tolerated her the entire novel, especially with three potential beaus waiting in the wings.
While love and romance are prominent themes, the abolitionist cause also plays a prominent role. I appreciated the depth and heart that Sleiman's incorporation of the abolitionist movement provided. Robbie and Constance's decisions to go against the ingrained beliefs of Southern culture and friend and free slaves is heartwarming. There are many historical references in the plot, including cameo appearances by Thomas Jefferson and his daughter and a visit to Monticello.
"Love in Three-Quarter Time" is told from several different perspectives, with hints that we may meet the characters again in future novels. While Constance's and Robbie's story ties up in this novel, one wonders what will become of Contance's sisters and her two other admirers - Mr. Franklin and Lorimer. Hopefully Sleiman will delve into their lives in her next book.
I received a complimentary e-copy of this novel from NetGalley, courtesy of Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The Prologue opens in Prince George County, Virginia, in 1812, with Constance ‘Gingersnap’ Cavendish and handsome Robert Montgomery sharing a dance at a ball, where he almost proposes. Then the Cavendish slaves revolt, and everything changes. The action then moves to Richmond, Virginia, in 1817, where the Cavendish women are struggling to survive after the loss of their plantation and the death of Constance’s father during the revolt. And Constance blames Robert for not helping.
Constance has been earning money teaching dancing, and an opportunity arises for her to travel north to teach twin girls to dance properly in advance of their coming out. But when she arrives, she finds that it is Robert’s family, and her role brings her into close contact with him, but he shows no interest in rekindling their relationship. It soon becomes apparent that there is more than just a misunderstanding keeping them apart, because Robert has a secret. But Constance is also hiding a secret--it is her fault the slaves revolted, her father was killed and their plantation lost.
As the story progresses, Constance in particular is challenged regarding her faith. She is forced to think about some fairly major issues, from the consequences of poor choices, the concept of salvation by grace not works, and the doctrine of free will. I thought the author handled these scenes well. I was also impressed by the historical setting—there are many books set in this time period (the Regency) in England, but few in the US, yet it was obviously a time when there was already a significant undercurrent of dissatisfaction about the wrongs of slavery.
I did find that the editing did not meet Zondervan's usual high standard (or perhaps the quality of the manuscript is more at fault). In the first scene alone we have Gingersnap and Robert having first met three then two months ago. Martha is reading at the widow’s cabin, then she is with Constance in the Indian village. There are point of view slips and too many viewpoint characters (I thought the viewpoint and subplot around Mr Franklin particularly unnecessary).
And I wasn't convinced by the Yorkshire accent. I don't know what a Yorkshire accent sounded like in 1812, but the 'thee' and 'thou' made Constance sound more Quaker than Yorkshire. When I visited Yorkshire, I found the working class accent almost unintelligible but the middle and upper class accents were similar to the rest of England. Even when Yorkshire-born Grammy spoke, she sounded more like a character from modern ‘Coronation Street’ than one from the Bronte’s Yorkshire. So this didn’t quite work for me.
Overall, while Love in Three-Quarter Time was a sound novel with some excellent Christian thinking set in a fascinating time in US history, I though the writing was missing that special something that makes a good story into a great book.
Thanks to Zondervan First and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
This is one of the most beautiful stories I have read this year. Dina Sleiman has done an absolutely marvelous job of taking us back in time to Richmond, Virginia 1817 and introducing us to a beautiful young girl, Constance “Gingersnap” Cavendish. Gingersnap is so full of life and joy and energy that she lights up the world with her passion for life and for dance.
Constance is living the life of luxury as the daughter of a Plantation owner; life is wonderful for her, her two younger sisters and their mother. But things they do not know about are being done in secret that will soon be brought to light.
It seems like the stars are shining on Gingersnap tonight of all nights, she is going to secretly meet with Robert “Robbie” Montgomery and hopefully they will talk of marriage. But life can be so unfair, before the night is over her life will never be the same.
It’s hard to believe five years have passed since the horrible night all their slaves disappeared and her father passed away. Five long years to suffer from the whispers and stares of people that blame their family for things her father did. Constance has matured a lot in these years, she is no longer the free spirited lively girl she was that night when she lost her father, her standing in society and the love of her life. But Constance is now ready to take on the world and help her family restore their lives.
Constance has a gift of dance so why not share that with others? After overhearing that a Mrs. Beaumont in Charlottesville is looking for a dance instructor for her twin daughters, Constance takes off to see what will happen, maybe this will be the change her family needs. Will life once again be kind to Constance?
It didn’t take Constance long to persuade Mrs. Beaumont that she was the right teacher for her daughters. It seems maybe things are going to work out perfectly until Mrs. Beaumont introduces her son to Constance and it’s none other than Robbie Montgomery. How will she survive this? Is this the second chance they need to work things out or are there things in their past that neither one will be able to overcome? Will Constance ever be happy again so she can dance with abandon like she used to do?
Dina has written a beautiful story that takes us through things in Constance’s life that will have you giggling in delight or on the verge of tears for a young girl that has far too many hurts in her life. And how she longs for a love like no other and how she finds that love in a God that once again restores the joy in her life that has been missing. This is a book that you will not want to see end, as there is one twist after another to keep you hanging on until the very end. There is a lot of surprises you won’t see coming, this is not only an entertaining book but one that you will remember for quite a long time after you have put it away. I hope that we will meet this family again since there are two younger Cavendish sisters. Hint! Hint! Dina!!!
Love in Three Quarter Time had me laughing and tearing up, and at many times simultaneously.
Constance “Gingersnap” Cavendish has been in love with Robbie Montgomery since she first saw him at his plantation in Virginia. At one time she thought he loved her too. After all, they were practically engaged.
Then, after her father swindles half the country and dies with a shadow over his name, no one of good society will have anything to do with the Cavendish family, especially not Robbie Montgomery. Now the Cavendish women, and Constance as the eldest sister, must work for a living.
This doesn’t bother Constance. She’s proud to work. She’ll do whatever it takes to cleanse her family name of her father’s former sins.
When a need for a dance instructor comes up, Constance is easily convinced to put her ‘Belle of the ball’ talents to good use. She finagles a way to become the instructor to the young ladies of the Beaumont family, only to discover that this Mrs. Beaumont used to be Mrs. Montgomery, Robbie’s mother.
Constance goes off to the Beaumonts with a pray on her lips that she will not run into the man who broke her heart. But Robbie discovers Constance in the bosom of his family, teaching his sisters how to dance, and all with a fake English accent. He’d been right all along to not trust anyone from the Cavendish family. In his mind, Constance is just as much a swindler as her father had been.
Through this passionate, lighthearted, laughter-filled, romance with a strong spiritual thread, the characters learn to dance the shockingly risqué waltz newly arrived from Europe. Set against the backdrop of the relatively young United States, we watch Constance and Robbie fighting at odds over the same desires.
Secretly, they are both abolitionists and want more than anything to free the slaves that worked their parents’ land.
Filled with characters that strut or dance off the page, I was entertained for several days with the likes of a buckskin-wearing preacher, called Lorimer, a host of Canvendish sisters, Patience and Felictiy, and the Virginia countryside filled with a mosaic of African/Americans, First Nation Indians, and an assortment of immigrants from Europe. This is the melting pot of the United States with all its fine, expansive, and inclusive, culture. And all based on the founding structure of the Christian faith.
If you enjoyed Lasting Impressions by Tamera Alexander, Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist, or Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland by Roseanna White you will love Love in Three Quarter Time by Dina Sleiman.