Author ~ Heidi Cullinan
Published ~ 11th October 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
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.
Enjoy the Dance is set in Minnesota in 2012, an election year and also the year DOMA was being fought and Minnesota was in the midst of a battle over the legalization of same sex marriage. These are not the only social issues that Heidi Cullinan dives into in the story; she also places an emphasis on immigration issues and the foster care system, especially as it relates to LGBTQ children and persons of color.
This story has a very different feel to it than Dance with Me. While that focused solely on the romance between Ed and Laurie, this story has more of a romantic fiction feel to it. The romance is subdued as bigger issues surround it. Kindergarten teacher Spenser and dance teacher/barista/custodian Tomás fall in love as they care for Duon, a teenage dance student who is kicked out of his grandmother’s house. For reasons of his own, Spenser agrees to take in Duon since, for his own completely different reasons, Tomás isn’t able to offer him that help. As the men get to know each other and fall in love, they face one hurdle after another in their personal and professional lives. The romance itself comes rather easily, it’s the outside issues that threaten to bring everything crashing down.
There were a couple of occasions where a conversation turned on a dime to take the tone of a lecture on the struggle for marriage equality and immigration and foster system reform, and it did take me out of the story. But other than those few times I thought the issues were integrated well into the story. Each character had a different angle they were approaching from so while they all were striving for the same outcome, they had a different take on things. Spenser as a child of the foster system who is still afraid to hope for a home and a family, Ed and Laurie as husbands whose marriage and rights are at stake and Tomás, an American citizen whose parents are undocumented, is trying to keep his family together while fearing deportation and losing his nieces and nephews to the foster care system. Even with all of this going on, the book doesn’t get too heavy and there is the author’s trademark happy for everyone ending.
There is a romance and Spenser and Tomás, when they actually find time to be with each other, are a sweet and sexy pair. Whether it’s Tomás trying to get Spenser to lighten up and dance or Spenser cooking for Tomás, it’s clear they both are looking for the same thing; someone to have a future with. Tomás gets dating advice from his mother who thinks he needs to court Spenser and is not above cockblocking her son with a plate of empanadas and homemade ice cream. When Tomás and Spenser do finally get together, it’s passionate with plenty of chemistry, a bit of the dirty talk Heidi Cullinan does so well and also some very tender loving.
While this is a follow-up to Dance With Me, and Duon, Ed, Laurie and some other secondary characters were introduced there, this can easily be read as a standalone (but I would urge you to read Dance With Me anyway as it’s a wonderful story). Other than those few bumps I mentioned, I was invested in all the characters and was really rooting for everything to work out.
Yes, there is a clear political bent to this story and some readers may not like that at all. I think if you go into this knowing that it is not a full on romance like the first, but rather a story that weaves the romance in to the bigger tale of finding family, fighting for what you believe in and a nod to the difficulties many people face in trying to get to that happy ending, you will find plenty to enjoy in it.
Dance With Me (Book #1)
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.
This novel has been previously published and has been revised from its original release.
Meet Heidi Cullinan
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.