Advance Review Copy generously provided by the author
in exchange for an honest review.
Dance with your heart, and love will follow.
Kindergarten teacher Spenser Harris has carved a quiet, stable future out of his tumultuous past, but his world turns upside down the night a homeless teen appears on his doorstep—a boy whose story mirrors the one Spenser has worked so hard to overcome. The decision to shelter Duon is easy. What’s tricky is juggling the network of caregivers in Duon’s life, especially Tomás Jimenez.
Tomás wouldn’t have hesitated to take Duon in, but his plate is already full working three jobs to support his family. Though Spenser’s carefully constructed walls are clearly designed to keep the world at bay, Tomás pushes past Spenser’s defenses, determined to ensure the man is worthy of his charge. As the two of them grow closer, Tomás dares to dream of a life beyond his responsibilities, and Spenser begins to believe he might finally find a home of his own after all.
But Spenser and Tomás’s world is poised to crash around their ears. Duon’s grandmother isn’t sure she wants him to be raised by a gay man and challenges Spenser’s custody. Tomás’s undocumented parents could be deported at any time, and all the while the state of Minnesota votes on a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and the US Supreme Court debates whether or not Spenser and Tomás get a happily ever after. All they can do is hold tight to their love, hope for a better future…and remind each other to enjoy the dance.
Contemporary, M/M, LGBT+
224 e-book pages
Dancing (Book 2)
Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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When I saw a tweet offering an ARC of this book to reviewers and bloggers, I ‘bout sprained my finger clicking the link to request it. I LOVED the first book in this series that wasn’t a series until Heidi hit her head on an AH-HA brick and realized it needed to happen.
As much as I was excitedly clamoring for this, I was also a little afraid.
See…the blurb, y’all. It hints to lots of political and social issues that can be a tricky mix to navigate correctly and with the care and honesty they deserve. And one of the biggest reasons I read is to escape too much seriousness of the world, so…
But, I’ve read a lot of Heidi’s books. She’s delved into delicate subject matter before and pulled it off with artful dexterity and mindfulness. I remembered I should have faith. Also, sometimes it’s good to remind myself that there are so many things to be fighting for, that keeping my nose in books shouldn’t always be about hiding from the world.
Enjoy the Dance steps back in time just a few years to 2012. It’s the slow-burn, tale of Spenser & Tomás woven among some significant social issues that are still in the headlines now, four years later: Same-sex marriage, DOMA, immigration reform, a little about healthcare reform, LGBT+ youth homelessness, the foster care system….
This is a busy book.
Spenser and Tomás are across-the-hall neighbors who’ve only exchanged smiles and harbored mild crushes for each other in passing for however many years until Duon enters the picture. He’s a somewhat troubled teen, who’s discovered hanging out on Spenser’s doorstep while waiting for Tomás to get home. It’s Duan, who despite a shaky home life, is a spitfire of a kid with a heart of gold, and big, sparkly dreams, ultimately setting Spenser and Tomás on their path to romance and coupledom.
But it’s not so easy.
Tomás is working his ass off at an impossible pace of juggling three, sometimes four, jobs to keep his family afloat. He’s forever worried about DHS and INS ripping his family to shreds, and attempting to deal with a flighty sister who barely takes care of her children.
Spenser essentially becomes a parent to a teenager overnight. While navigating those uncharted waters, he’s a private school kindergarten teacher with increasing stress in the workplace due to some jackass higher-ups.
There’s so much going on that the romance is not always front and center, but rather simmering in the background. It’s peeking around corners, a few snatches of time, moments here and there, a hurried kiss in the hallway, a quick I’m thinking of you text.
Through all of it, I thought all of the themes Heidi tackled were handled exceedingly well. Not only was she hammering at real life issues that affect millions around the world, but there was also the 2012 presidential election where the world held a collective breath over some life-altering topics and potential outcomes. Huh…kinda like now.
Painting those big-world pictures and how they affect people in everyday real-life ways while coloring in a budding romance was a lot to take in at times. I’ll admit, I felt a little bogged down when I wanted more interaction and romance progression between the MCs. But…these WERE and ARE issues that too many people face and it would’ve been a copout had they not been dug into, gutted, and addressed head on.
And, in life, it’s way too often that when one thing strikes us low, there will be a few more blows from other directions before life evens out and problems get resolved so we can stand up and move forward with intent.
So I got it. I got all of it. And I thought the delivery was gorgeous.
The dancing….Let’s talk about that for a sec because it’s the underlying thread of this series. Honestly, I wanted more of Tomás fulfilling his dreams of dancing, teaching dance, and performing. Spenser…because he’s not so much into dance, I LOVED how he started to understand the power of it and how it helped him be more accepting of himself. How it taught him to let go of a lot of insecurities. I don’t think dance was something that would ever become his passion, though he could appreciate it and enjoy the time it gave him with Tomás. And also just watching Tomás in his element was definitely a thing Spenser could appreciate.
The first book in this series, Dance With Me, remains firmly one of my favorite of Heidi’s ever written. I love all her books and love her style of fluid prose so this book is not to be missed.
Hey! Another quick thing…I don’t know about you, but I read EVERY WORD in a book from the copyright page through the Author’s Notes and Acknowledgements. The only thing I won’t read are excerpts from books that haven’t been released yet. BECAUSE THEY MAKE ME HAVE GRABBY HANDS WITH ALL THE WANT. Ahem, sorry. Anyways…I just want to mention Heidi’s Author Note in the back of the book. She states that, just by purchasing this book, you’re making a donation to two organizations: Avenues for Homeless Youth and Youth Standing Strong, AND to a real-life Duan. HOW COOL IS THAT?!
AND not simply because I received this book for free, but because I’m always looking for LGBT+ youth charities, you can bet your ass I’ll be making my own donations to both of those organizations forthwith.
First Book in the Series:
About the Author:
Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.