Moonlight Over Mayfair by Anton Du Beke: A story filled with nostalgia, suspense, and intrigue - book review -
Moonlight Over Mayfair
By Pam Norfolk
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 star and all-round entertainer Anton Du Beke returns to sweep us off our feet and waltz us back in time to the upstairs and downstairs dramas of the residents and staff of an exclusive London hotel in the febrile, tension-packed year of 1937.
The king of dance – and now newly-crowned king of romance – Du Beke follows up his bestselling debut novel, One Enchanted Evening, with a second trip to the music and magic of the Buckingham’s Grand Ballroom where dreams, dancing and dilemmas are part of everyday life.
And Moonlight Over Mayfair 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 the spring of 1937, with the new King George VI in place after the shock of his brother’s abdication, tensions are rising in London and across Europe. Shaken by the Great Depression and with talk of another war coming, the plush Buckingham Hotel is trying to regain some stability and much-needed investment to keep it afloat.
Upstairs, Vivienne Edgerton, 18-year-old stepdaughter of the hotel board’s wealthy director, has a permanent suite at the Buckingham but is desperate to do something worthwhile with her time and her stepfather’s money. After gaining a dubious reputation for frivolity and debauchery, she wants to do good for others, but it could land her in even more trouble.
Downstairs, chambermaid Nancy Nettleton from Lancashire is finally starting to feel more settled at the Buckingham, and hopes her younger brother Frank will soon be joining her and calling London home, too. But she misses the man she loves, principal demonstration dancer Raymond de Guise, who is absent from the Grand Ballroom and seeking fame and fortune in Hollywood.
When Raymond returns to the Buckingham accompanied by a New York financier who may – or may not – be willing to invest in the hotel, Nancy is thrilled to have her loved one back but the staff and guests soon discover that in a hotel full of secrets, and whispered dancefloor conversations, there’s always someone listening…
Du Beke doesn’t put a foot wrong as he takes his readers by the hand and whisks them round the ballroom for another liberal helping of golden age dance, secrets, shocking betrayals, below stairs dramas and high society shenanigans.
As always, the cast of flamboyant characters from all walks of life – not least the delectable Nancy and the debonair 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 again soon, the last dance is still far from over!
(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)