Daria, Alexis. Take the Lead. (Dance Off #1) St. Martin’s, 2023. 352pp. ISBN 9781250817969 $17.99
This remastered romance novel gets a facelift with updated text and an artful cover. Strong silent type Alaska native Stone Neilson stars with his family in a roughing it wilderness show; he is paired with vivacious Puerto Rican dancer Gina on a Dancing with the Stars-type reality television dance competition. He needs to help pay for his mother’s hip replacement surgery, and keep the truth about his family’s backstory quiet. Meanwhile, Gina is looking for a bigger break to launch her career, and if she and her dance partner don’t make it as finalists this year, she’s out of a job. Her boss is itching for some showmance between them to bring in the ratings.
In movies, the way a couple dances together–intense, playful, timid–is supposed to serve as a metaphor for how they are in the sack together. Part of Stone’s character growth is understanding how dance can convey emotion. In spite of his lack of formal training, he’s a quick learner with a good teacher. Gina is resistant to a relationship with a dance partner for personal and professional reasons, but their attraction is immediate and palpable, and she gives in. Their chemistry is both a boon and liability. They foxtrot, tango, jive, rumba and more, mostly scoring high throughout the completion. Some mean-girl antics from a fellow competitor, support from some crew members, and scheming from the producer round out the drama of this tale.
High on dance moves, fashion details, and peppered with Spanish, the writing is straight forward but solid. I appreciated the Puerto Rican cultural details and that the author didn’t feel the need to translate any words or phrases, but skillfully conveyed meaning to the reader through context. My two quibbles: the author–or editor–chose to leave some dramatic competition scenes off the page. Sometimes we get more details about rehearsal than the pivotal moments! Secondly, probing conversations with well-meaning parents are so short they seem abrupt.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #TakeTheLead from #NetGalley.
Ballard, Falon. Just My Type. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2023. 368 pp. ISBN 978-0593419939 $17.00
Serial monogamist and relationship columnist Lana Parker was expecting a proposal when her boyfriend of four years tells her it’s just not working, and even though she agrees, she’s still low-key devastated, exacerbated by an out-of-the-blue text from Seth Carson, The One That Got Away (and Broke Her Heart) when their high school relationship ended abruptly. The morning after she drowns her break up sorrows in alcohol with her bestie May, she gets an alert on her phone about a mandatory on-site work meeting, and drags her hungover ass in… only to learn her ex is joining their team as part of a publishing merger. Her boss smells the unfinished business vibes between Seth and Lana, and sets up a competition between them: Seth, the player, has to embark on a long term relationship and NOT have sex, while and Lana, the afraid to be alone heroine, has to remain single and have a one-night stand (a challenge she issues for herself). They must detail their experiences in weekly columns, tallying likes and comments weekly, and then the public will vote for a fan favorite to get a promotion to their own serious journalism column.
Pop culture and LA references abound, and Lana is a self-professed sci-fi geek who dreams of moving to an entertainment features column instead of giving dating advice. She’s a great friend and a decent writer but too easily manipulated, and her behavior towards Seth is not completely unwarranted, but I have trouble with women that are too mean and too immature and too inconsistent, and she occasionally veers into pretty unattractive behavior to someone she supposedly is still in love with. On the other hand, I loved the fake date setups and their boss trying to throw them together, but didn’t love that it was for hits and sales, rather than for its own merit and their happiness. The therapy sessions, group chat (Get a Room!) with the other journalists, and the great chapter headings that excerpt former and new columns are a nice touch.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #JustMyType from #NetGalley.