The First Dance by Catherine Law

A review of the historical romantic fiction novel The First Dance by Catherine Law.

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It is in Porthdeen, a small idyllic village on the Cornish coast, that we meet Alexa. The young daughter of landowners has breath-taking scenery right on her doorstep and an envy-inducing bond to a gorgeous neighbour, yet isn’t satisfied with the hand she’s been dealt and finds her life a little dull. She longs for excitement and adventure, and above all else, a deeper understanding of her family history and of what broke it apart. When the opportunity to leave for a job in London arises, Alexa jumps at the chance, but is the life she’s been craving more fulfilling than the possibilities of the one she’s leaving behind? Does the grass merely look greener on the other side of the fence?

Don’t be fooled by the romantic allure of the elegant cover—The First Dance has stomach churning, eye watering moments that hit with a punch. Through a very close third-person narrative a whirlwind of emotions and experiences are explored via Alexa throughout different stages of her vibrant journey.

Her memory had been stretched by time and distance until it became see-through and unsubstantial, impossible for her to grasp.

I was barely through the first dozen pages when I was struck by the intricate and beautiful rhythm of each and almost every sentence, which managed to remain remarkably subtle and organic, never becoming flowery or overpowering. And in the few moments where paragraphs lacked this established graceful pace, they were stark and uncomfortable and absolutely suited to the negative scenes they described. The words chosen are faultless and the flow of them exquisite, as though stunningly formed strings of pearls have been crafted to the pages, capturing every moment with a unique quirk of perfection.

She wanted to sit down on the kerb and cry, but instead kept walking, bumping her way through the busy shoppers, her mind curiously blank, as if cushioning her from the worst, most painful of her thoughts.

I can honestly say that no other book has cut me quite as deeply, touched me so personally, or pulled me in and made me quite as engrossed in what might happen with the next turn of the page (though I did have a moment or two where I took a few days break from reading and even contemplated putting the book in the freezer due to the excruciating anticipation of the events that seemed to be unfolding).

I don’t think I’ve ever finished a book classed as historic fiction before, but I am so glad I read The First Dance. It’s been over a week now since I finished it and yet Alexa’s story is still on my mind, still playing out in different scenarios, different what ifs?—needless to say, this story has hit me deeply.

I experienced this story during a particularly difficult chapter in my own life and found the raw character emotions and reactions to the rougher parts of the story to be so honest and familiar that they were comforting—because it allowed me to realise that others have experienced similar moments too, felt the same spectrum of emotions, and come out the other side stronger for it.

The First Dance is uplifting, devastating and powerful. If you’d like to become engrossed in a story that you can experience rather than merely read, go for The First Dance for its absolutely flawless and breathtakingly gorgeous attention to detail, regardless of your usual preference of genre.

For me, Alexa’s story has a clear message: open your eyes and notice what you already have, appreciate it, make the most of it, explore it, hold it tightly and never let it go. Alexa’s story feels so truly real, it’s hard to take a step back and accept it for what it is: a beautiful, intricate, moving and utterly empowering piece of fiction.

Rebecca Delphine is an aspiring Young Adult author from Thanet.

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