Book Review: UNDER A DANCING STAR by Laura Wood

Genre: Historical Romance (retelling)
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: standalone


Book cover for UNDER A DANCING STAR: gold line drawings of dragonflies and butterflies above an estate on rolling hills against a turquoise background

In grey, 1930s England, Bea has grown up kicking against the conventions of the time, all the while knowing that she will one day have to marry someone her parents choose – someone rich enough to keep the family estate alive. But she longs for so much more – for adventure, excitement, travel, and maybe even romance.

When she gets the chance to spend the summer in Italy with her bohemian uncle and his fiancée, a whole world is opened up to Bea – a world that includes Ben, a cocky young artist who just happens to be infuriatingly handsome too. Sparks fly between the quick-witted pair until one night, under the stars, a challenge is set: can Bea and Ben put aside their teasing and have the perfect summer romance?

With their new friends gleefully setting the rules for their fling, Bea and Ben can agree on one thing at least: they absolutely, positively will not, cannot fall in love…

A long, hot summer of kisses and mischief unfolds – but storm clouds are gathering across Europe, and home is calling. Every summer has to end – but for Bea, this might be just the beginning.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I was originally persuaded to buy a copy by a friend partly because of the cover and partly because it’s a prequel to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing – and I am mad for all things Shakespeare. In the way of things, it sat on my shelf for too long, but having devoured her other books, I might have disregarded my October TBR to bump this book up my list.

And this book is incredible – definitely my favourite of her YAs so far. It tells the story of Beatrice and Benedict’s first meeting, with the snappy dialogue of the play as they fall in love during an idyllic summer. It is such a warm, cosy book – before for when you’re feeling down and wishing summer/a normal summer was back. I’m rather tempted to go back to the play because I’m sure I missed a lot of the references!

Like Laura Wood’s other books, UNDER A DANCING STAR was absolutely hysterical. I had to stuff my fist in my mouth at one point to stop myself laughing too hard and potentially waking my housemates. From the disastrous meal at the start to the ritual for thunderstorms, there were lots of incongruous events that characters just threw themselves into with wild abandon.

I usually find “witty banter” in YA a little frustrating, but Ben and Bea’s retorts are so funny – it’s clever rather than trying to shoot each other down all the time. There was real chemistry between them as they had their dare romance, and Bea’s academic knowledge posed a challenge to Ben’s attempts to be romantic.

This is a much more obvious romance than her other books, but I was so invested in the characters that I wasn’t looking for more plot (which is normally why I don’t enjoy straight up romance.)

The setting is 1933 Italy, the summer romance set against a backdrop of the rise of Mussolini and fascism in Europe. It’s a minor part of the story, but it’s really interesting how it’s integrated into the story and how it lets Laura Wood explore prejudice and how “small” beliefs can lead to complicity or perpetuating extreme ideologies.

Now I really want Laura Wood to write a sequel, her own take on Much Ado, because I want more Bea and Ben!

Read my reviews of other books by Laura Wood:

Young Adult:

Trevelayn sisters:


Middle Grade:

Effie Costas:


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