Genre: M/M Contemporary
What a wonderfully pleasant story! This book made me happy, putting me in a good mood and keeping me there throughout the story. Better than a trip to the spa, I found it enjoyable and relaxing and just plain fun to read.
Based loosely on the popular reality TV dance show, this story centers around the competitors in the show, “Dance Off”. Each star is dancing for a charity, getting one thousand dollars for each week they remain on the show, with the top two slots getting fifteen and twenty thousand dollars, respectively. The format of the story and the realistic characterization of the contestants had this reviewer rooting for favorite celebrities right along with the story’s viewing audience.
The authors did a wonderful job fleshing out all of the characters, both MCs and secondary. I hated Eugene, the uptight talk show host, but really enjoyed getting to know Kevan, the rap musician, Deborah, the former Olympic skater, Christine, a former Congresswoman, Freddie, the older and overweight jazz musician, and Amber, a former Miss America. We even got to know the various pro dancers who partnered with the stars, and had insider views of what goes on behind the scenes, both on the show and in their personal lives. The judges were so realistic that I was able to easily picture what they looked like, giving them the faces of other reality TV judges who have been popular in the past and I’m sure were the models in the authors’ imaginations. Most of all, of course, I loved Olivier, the closeted rugby player originally from France, and JC, aka Javier or Javi, a US Olympic gold medal swimmer and his very large and personable Hispanic family, most frequently represented by Mama and Abuela.
Olivier and JC are each athletic and mentally tough enough to be focused, yet each finds it difficult to retrain their muscles into the required dance moves for the show. The authors made their practice sessions and performances come alive with a realism that surprised me. I truly felt like I was there as they struggled to learn their routines. I was also there as they beat around the bush trying to determine if their interest in each other was reciprocated. JC was out and proud as a bisexual man, but Olivier was out only to his closest friends and family members, fearing repercussions from his teammates and/or other teams he’d be playing in the league so he preferred to tread lightly. When the two finally read the signals right and got together, they decided to keep it quiet, fearing that homophobic Eugene would not only cause trouble on the set, but might announce it on his national talk show.
As the season progresses, so do the issues, and when Eugene finally gets voted off, the men share their romance with their housemates. They are warmly accepted and assured of their privacy. As the weeks go forward and they survive elimination rounds each wants to win for his charity, but is very supportive of the other, and once they declare their love for each other they make tentative plans to try to stay together as a couple after the event ends.
It’s somewhat difficult to explain exactly what I most liked about this book. There was never any major angst or confrontations or shocking accusations or other drama. It was simply a beautifully told love story about two young men who join a dance competition to support charities that they felt very strongly about and end up finding the love of their life. Olivier was dancing for Doctors Without Borders and JC was dancing for The Trevor Project. Kudos to the authors for not only highlighting each of the twelve charities in the story, but also for including contact information for each charity at the end of the book.
On the negative side, I was a bit disappointed that some of the opportunities for conflict weren’t pursued. Olivier certainly had a lot at risk if he was outed before he was ready, but the authors didn’t pursue that approach. On the one hand, the story didn’t suffer for not having that kind of drama and tragedy, but on the other, it would have added some spice and been more exciting if there had been some conflict.
The authors certainly did their research for this one and, coupled with the way they made each character and dance scene come alive, I truly felt like I was watching the competition. I’d highly recommend this one to all lovers of M/M romance, especially to those who like an angst-free story. I can’t wait to read more from these two authors.