tl;dr: sexy Dancing With The Stars-esque romance by #ownvoices author
I want to start by saying that I loved this story. It was something I’d heard some buzz about and decided to read because of that. I was so happy that I did! Reality TV isn’t really something I enjoy, but this book really doesn’t require much investment into that, as the settings and characters are so richly developed.
Gina Morales is on her third season of The Dance Off as a professional dancer, and she’s got the trophy in her sight. So when her producers take her into a remote region of Alaska to meet this season’s partner, she’s hoping for some kind of superstar athlete, but instead, meets Stone. Her tongue nearly falls out of her mouth after she spots him for the first time, bare chested and swinging an axe. Stone Nielson turns out to be a mountain man, part of a reality show of his own, that follows his family living off the grid in the wilds of Alaska.
Their beginning attraction starts to flourish the more they dance together, particularly as Gina coaches Stone to let all of his emotions out into the dancing. It’s not long before they’re nearly ripping each other’s clothes off from pent-up lust. But there’s a hiccup: Gina is totally against a showmance (real or fake) because she doesn’t want to play into the stereotype of the sexy Latina. She wants to earn her success based on her talent and drive, not who she’s sleeping with. Stone doesn’t understand, but he wants to make her happy, so they continue seeing each other in secret… until it gets out.
Overall, I loved the characterization and the setting. There are some minor time jumps in the story (for example, the story skips from rehearsal straight to the end of a taped performance at one point), but I think this worked in the story’s favor to keep the plot moving and prevent it from dragging.
My one criticism is that I felt that Stone (and the author by extension, due to commentary from other characters and how Gina came to her epiphany by the end) totally disregarded the real struggle that many women performers have when it comes to career double-standards. I did like the line where Gina tells Stone that “men always do”, when it comes to bouncing back after a misstep in their careers. Most of the reasons that Gina had for not wanting their private life to be public and to not capitalize on that for the sake of votes seemed incredibly sound and reasonable, and a lot of the characters tried to brush it aside, and intimated that the things Stone had kept from her were for her own good.
The final “grovel” (as a convention of romance novels) was altogether a little rushed and sloppy. Some of the dialogue felt to me slightly insincere, like they’d written it down and rehearsed it beforehand, although their reunion was a surprise and at least for Gina, unplanned.
I also enjoyed the other characters, and felt that they were mostly well-rounded and added a lot of color to the story. Lauren, the other top performing celebrity partner, was a bit evil and sinister without any real character development, but that’s fine. It was enough to know that she was highly competitive and felt threatened by other people who did better than she did.
As a whole, this book is a sizzling and fun romp through the world of dance competition reality shows. I love when a romance has sexy chemistry AND the hero and heroine genuinely like each other and make each other better people, and this book has that in spades. I definitely plan to read the next books in the series and hope that Gina and Stone at least make a few cameos.
This book appears to be only available as an ebook at this time, so keep checking your library to see if they’ve added it, or purchase from your favorite retailer.
I don’t have any other reality show or dancing romance novels, but I’d love to read some! Please leave some suggestions in the comments if you have any.