Enjoy the Dance, by Heidi Cullinan
Series: Dancing, Book #2 (Stand-Alone)
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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.
Politics (Gay Marriage)
Child Neglect/Abuse (CPS involved; non descriptive but still present)
This is a weird review because for me personally this book would get three stars, but I think for a lot of other people this book would get a solid four star rating. What I didn’t like about it has less to do with the quality of the book itself and more to do with my personal reading preferences and pet peeves. So please keep that in mind when reading this review, and if stuff I don’t like is something you enjoy then I say go for it and read this book!
I really enjoyed the first half of the book. Cullinan did a good job setting up all the plot points she wanted to juggle and developing the characters. Spenser (the spelling of this name distracted me the entire book!!) was my favorite because he was a shy nerd with a big heart. The only problem is that some of his background/family history felt more like a convenient plot point than anything I ended up caring about, and distracted from other character development.
For all that he was a major plot point, Duan was the least developed main character for me. It was like he was there to drive the plot more than to be a person. He spent the majority of the book being talked about instead of talking, which is fine, but it was odd seeing as he lived with Spenser.
That being said the first half of the book these characters were really great. I was on board and ready for their character development and growth, and that’s where they started falling flat for me. Less flesh and blood, and more wooden.
Where the book lost me completely was at about 80% of the way through. The pace suddenly picked up and ALL OF THE THINGS happened at once. For me the suddenness of the plot twists made a lot of them unbelievable, because they did not seem true to the characters or their relationships. It ended up just stuffing the book full of unnecessary plot topics instead of focusing on what she was already developing.
There was work drama, gay marriage drama, immigration drama, foster/adoption drama, etc. all at once, and I kind of checked out because it was stressful and made things become shallow instead of developed. The book is kind of dense for these reasons, but it isn’t until the end that they get to be too much. I feel that if she had trimmed some of the major focus points of the book then it would have been fine, but I think she lost the rhythm of the book trying to do too much.
To top this off things got wrapped up too neatly, so it was like build, build, build, sudden resolution. Total let down. If there was less drama handled better it would have been a stronger book, but for me the payout at the end of the book wasn’t enough.
The characters reaction to the injustices they faced was a little too Scarlett O’Hara I’ll never go hungry again. Works in a movie, but in real life you’d be like, “Calm down. Sheesh!!!” What I am getting at with this analogy is that people got pretty preachy and it disrupted the flow of the dialogue. I get it. This was obviously a book that dealt with things Cullinan is passionate about (immigration, gay rights, foster parenting), and I respect that, but the end result was blah.
It was a shame because I really enjoyed the first book. This one kind of got bogged down and it wasn’t because it was dealing with heavy topics. However, if you like books with conflict or you are personally passionate about these things you’ll enjoy this book a lot more than I did.
Side note that does not affect my rating: I LOVE the covers to this series.
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her family. Heidi also volunteers frequently for her state’s LGBT rights group, One Iowa, and is proud to be from the first midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage.
To find out more about Cullinan and her writing check out her website (Click here!)
Read El’s four star review of Dance With Me #1 here! I second that four star rating so please check the book out if you are interested.
If neither one of these books appeals to you I would still urge you to look through her catalog and see if something does. I have read a few of her books and they are filled with good quality writing!
You can purchase Enjoy the Dance from:
All Romance eBooks
Barnes & Noble
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.