Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Review: Dance with Me by Heidi Cullinan

91GMOnDHKZL._SL1500_Title ~ Dance with Me

Author ~ Heidi Cullinan

Published ~ (2nd edition) 28th August 2015

Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance





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.

Alan’s Review

I usually don't take a second look at re-released books. Re-releases are generally for new readers. There's almost never enough new material, in most re-releases, to merit a new take on (or even a new purchase of) a book I've already read.

But "Dance With Me" blew me away when I first read it. Rarely have I been as moved (and aroused) as I was by the relationship between the two main characters and the vivid, sensual descriptions of them, how they moved, dressed, expressed themselves in both words and dance. At first glance, the theme seemed pretty trite, what with one macho almost-straight guy and another who is not just gay, but an artist, a dancer, someone who seems to hold the music of the spheres within his soul. Oil and water, of course, but not for long. There's not a false step in the entire book, not a word out-of-character, the emotional highs just keep on coming. In sum, "Dance With Me" is an exquisitely-written book filled with beauty, poetry and insight, well-worth re-releasing, over and over again, as far as I'm concerned.

All too rarely, a book surfaces that is so far beyond the rest of my normal fare, that I am awed at the power and talent of the author. This is one of those. Yes, it has all the requisite Gay Romance elements: financial trouble, physical infirmity, emotional disability, life-altering events. It is also, in some ways, a conventional love story: boy meets boy cute, boys fight, boys fall in love. Been there, done that - but never before as beautifully and evocatively as Ms. Cullinan does it in "Dance With Me".

This book offers another whole dimension beyond the expected, one that touched me deeply - a new, expressive vocabulary that I've never before encountered in any form of literature: dance.

More than once, she moved me to tears, her descriptions of emotions expressed and shared through the language of the body in motion. She deeply understands the joy, the power and the grace of movement. She extols the celebration of the male body as an instrument of art and expression, of beauty, elegance and passion that could (and often did) leave me breathless.

More than three decades ago, I was involved with dance, first as a stage designer, then as a producer of several dance companies, including the Downtown Ballet of New York. Not qualified by training or body to be a dancer, I nurtured my passion for dance by enabling those who do. It was a transcendent time of my life.

Music and art can make my heart soar. But nothing transports me as completely, deeply and spiritually as seeing those exquisite bodies fly through space while telling a tale or sharing their passion, pain and hope. It is truly a great gift. It is also almost unbearably sexy.

Ms. Cullinan gets this. The dance in this book is much more than the literal dance depicted in the scenes. It is also a metaphor for the trials and love of the main characters.

I regret only that my words, in this review, fall far short of expressing the joy, the beauty, the pure flight, the love, the passion of the dance and the dancers that Ms. Cullinan seems to express so easily, with prose that is often inspired.

Of course, that's why she is the writer and I, just a reader - a reader who loved this book.
Thank you, Ms. Cullinan for writing this brilliant book, and for releasing it once again.

Anyone who misses this extraordinary book will also miss one of life's great reading experiences. I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

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