I have never heard of Judith Lennox until I was sent this book, and would have probably continued to be unaware of her – this is despite some absolutely cracking reviews of her previous titles on the cover of One Last Dance, and her back catalogue doesn’t fall below a 3.8/5 on goodreads-which believe me is staggering for a romance/saga writer.
I cannot tell you how happy it has made me that I’ve found her. This writer needs more press.
One Last Dance was so utterly blissful to read, it was so comforting and warm and familiar, whilst also being new and different. Like brand new pyjamas you already feel snuggly in, even though you haven’t even washed them yet and they haven’t acquired your smell. They are yours, but they aren’t at the same time. That sense of hope that everything is, yes it actually is, going to be OK. Because books like this one are still getting published, and still getting press, and hopefully still getting read. If you’ve ever loved a romance novel please, PLEASE, read this book, it is just gorgeous.
Starting, as every slightly historical romance book published in the next five years will be, in the turbulence of the First World War, One Last Dance (dreadful, instantly forgettable title, and yet wonderful for that-this won’t do a Morton and spawn a long line of The Things of Thingy books with flowery gates on the front) follows the Reddaway family of Rosindell in Devon over the next fifty years, capturing the roaring twenties, the horror of the Blitz, the swinging sixties and everything inbetween with great aplomb, and mercifully without feeling crammed.
Focusing primarily on the love triangle between Devlin Reddaway and sisters Esme and Camilla, and the fall-out this series of relationships has on the rest of their family, this book brings the Barbara Taylor Bradford touch to Modern Women’s Writing. It’s been marketed from Downton fans; I’d have gone full A Woman of Substance/Lace route and get the blockbuster lovers involved. I also read The Light Years this summer, and whilst technically this is no companion to Elizabeth Jane Howard (bits dragged, other bits skimmed too quickly, a few deuses were ex the machina) the overall feel of the novel is the same.
Simply, movingly told, it all just seems so effortless. This is clearly a woman who knows her craft, and uses her tools well. Family life in all it’s suffocating agony is brought out, with real pathos and sympathy to human suffering. Characters are, for the most part, developed and real people, with some beautifully horrid baddies that have their own journeys that slide along nicely. The family saga element works well, it all works well, its a lovely lovely story. One of those where you don’t really want to leave them all at the end.
It is extremely easy to read, won’t be winning any awards, and reminds you of those Danielle Steele/Catherine Cookson three part dramas on ITV3 on Sunday afternoons. But I bloody LOVE three part dramas on a Sunday afternoon, and I know a LOT of women who ALSO love three part dramas on a Sunday afternoon. This book made me want to read purely for the pleasure of letting my mind wander for a while. I’m in the middle of a Margaret Atwood-a-thon in prep for seeing her at Ilkley Lit Fest next week (eeeeeeee) so I needed something to relax to and I am ever so grateful for being allowed to discover Judith Lennox. Be assured, I shall be finding everything else she’s ever read. But I heartily recommend this one. Autumn is here, get your comfy sweater out, treat yourself to this in paperback and a new bookmark from your local museum or art gallery and get settled on the sofa with some Tunnocks Tea Cakes and a big cup of coffee and enjoy. And then come and have a cry with me at the end.