Sometimes life requires a partner.
Ed Maurer has bounced back, more or less, from the neck injury that permanently benched his semipro football career. He hates his soul-killing office job, but he loves volunteering at a local community center. The only fly in his ointment is the dance instructor, Laurie Parker, who can’t seem to stay out of his way.
Laurie was once one of the most celebrated ballet dancers in the world, but now he volunteers at Halcyon Center to avoid his society mother’s machinations. It would be a perfect escape, except for the oaf of a football player cutting him glares from across the room.
When Laurie has a ballroom dancing emergency and Ed stands in as his partner, their perceptions of each other turn upside down. Dancing leads to friendship, being friends leads to becoming lovers, but most important of all, their partnership shows them how to heal the pain of their pasts. Because with every turn across the floor, Ed and Laurie realize the only escape from their personal demons is to keep dancing—together.
Dance with Me is only the second of Cullinan’s books that I’ve read, but having loved Carry the Ocean I was excited for the opportunity to read another M/M romance by the author. I am delighted to say that was not the least bit disappointed as this is a book I can see myself reading again and again and again.
The Overture (or prologue) does a wonderful job of introducing us to the main players – Ed and Laurie. We get to see them both at the height of their careers and experience their nerves and excitement as they step out onto their respective stages. Then we get to see what it is that brings their careers to a screeching halt and the scenes play out with so much emotion that I was invested in both men within pages. Considering how different their backgrounds are, it’s not the least bit surprising that they rubbed each other the wrong way in the beginning. With Laurie appearing to be the stereotypical flaming gay man, the exact persona that makes Ed cringe, and at the same time, Ed appearing to be the stereotypical jock to Laurie, the kind of guy that likely made his adolescence and early adulthood miserable, there’s no way these men will ever get along, much less be friends. Yet when the two men come together in dance, they’re beautiful. By that I mean that all of the judgements and preconceived notions fall away and they are simply two men who share a love and passion for the same thing – dance.
I have to say that I loved that Ed wasn’t an in-the-closet gay man. Considering his athletic career, this actually shocked me, but it was a pleasant surprise that I thought played out very well in the novel. No, he wasn’t in your face about it, but he didn’t hide it from his teammates, friends, family, or the kids he worked with. Ed’s easy acceptance of himself is what made Laurie’s disbelief so amusing. While on the surface, there is nothing about the two men that would make it seem as though they would work, the way their relationship developed was entirely believable. It wasn’t so much of an opposites-attract situation as it was one in which a shared passion provided common ground on which they got to know one another. They dropped their walls and judgements and got to know the man in front of them. I had a hard time reading Ed’s depressive episodes as they were too realistic for me, hitting a bit close to home at times, but this just added to my connection with Ed. His mother’s reaction when he said he wanted to clean his apartment was priceless as was her excitement as to the WHY. Both men’s families added to the realism of the romance in their support and by driving them each nuts in the way only family can. I really enjoyed Dance with Me and look forward to the novella the author’s note at the end says is on its way because I want more Ed and Laurie!