One Enchanted Evening
Anton du Beke is a professional ballroom dancer, well known for his appearances on BBC’s “Strictly Come Dancing”, so he is well placed to pen this story set around the Grand Ballroom of the luxurious Buckingham Hotel in London’s Mayfair in 1936.
The management intends the hotel to be an oasis of old-fashioned glamour and charm in a world where political tensions are rising: civil war has broken out in Spain, in Germany the Nazis consolidate their grip on power, and fascist Blackshirt thugs roam the streets of London (and hob-nob with the aristocracy). Raymond de Guise and Hélène Marchmont head the team of demonstration dancers and are one of the Buckingham’s star turns – but behind the lobby doors many people have dangerous secrets, not least Raymond and Hélène. Into this world steps new chambermaid, Nancy Nettleton from Lancashire, who will not let her polio-limp encumber her.
This story is great fun, very atmospheric and full of both glitz and sleaze as the action moves from high society in the West End, via seedy Soho nightclubs to the streets of Whitechapel. The glamorous world of the hotel is perfectly recreated – as is the sheer hard graft of those behind the scenes who make it all happen. In Raymond de Guise, we have a dashing, flawed, hero and in Nancy, a spirited heroine who is prepared to challenge expectation. My only quibbles would be that a couple of plot developments seem a little far-fetched, and that there is rather a lot of “head-hopping” in some scenes as we are moved quickly from one character’s viewpoint to another.
The conclusion suggests that there will be further visits to the Buckingham Hotel, and I, for one, would be pleased to check in again (even though some of the clientele were less than desirable!).