Review: Dance With Me By Heidi Cullinan

Dance With MeDance With Me by Heidi Cullinan
M/M Contemporary Romance
July 26, 2011
Loose ID

Reviewed by Helyce

Ed Maurer loves football. He’s lived it and breathed it and it defined who and what he was until an injury to his neck ended his semipro career. He knew that in the end it could have been worse. If the injury had been just a few millimeters over, he’d be in a wheelchair now. Even so, Ed has to be careful; the slightest incorrect movement can set off a spasm of pain so severe, it takes him days to recover. He’s very thankful that he can still walk and do everything he used to do…except play football.

Laurence “Laurie” Parker has been dancing his whole life. It’s all he’s ever wanted to do and he’s very good at it. In ballet, he’d been called the next Baryshnikov; but it didn’t stop there. He did it all, tap, modern, jazz; if Laurie danced, he was perfect. So, when he and his boyfriend at the time decide to enter a competitive ballroom dancing event, Laurie expects his performance to be received in the same manner as all his previous performances. Unfortunately, he was very, very wrong.

A year after his injury, Ed is now working at a desk job that he’s good at, but doesn’t really like. He needs this job for the medical insurance, but he’s worried; there have been layoffs and he knows it’s just a matter of time before he’s on the chopping block. Ed volunteers at a center for underprivileged youth, teaching a weight lifting class. He loves these kids and looks forward to spending time with them.

Five years after his ballroom dancing fiasco, Laurie is now teaching dance at a studio he owns. People come from miles away to take dance with the esteemed Laurie Parker. He also volunteers at the center, teaching an aerobics class as a favor to his friend Vicki, who is the director there.

This is where Ed and Laurie meet and not under the best circumstances. The center’s PA system is old and Ed arrives to find that the music from Laurie’s class is blaring through the speakers in the room assigned to him and his weight lifting class. This is not the first time this has happened and apparently, it’s not getting fixed anytime soon. In his frustration, Ed approaches Laurie with the following proposition:

“So I want to know what is it you need? Something here at the center, something outside of the center, something at your job-you name it. Your car washed and waxed while you direct me from a lawn chair, your flower bed dug up, whatever. What do you need?”

What Laurie “needs” is a dance partner for a ballroom class he’s teaching at his studio to a group of older couples who want to be able to dance on a cruise they are going on. Laurie’s shocked when Ed agrees without question, so Laurie feels he must clarify…

“As my assistant,” he said, looking Ed right in the eye, “mostly you’ll be dancing with me.”

Ed’s eyebrows shot up. Then he shrugged. “Okay. Is that all?”

Laurie looked at him with extreme suspicion. “You will dance with me. Just like that?”

“Do I have to do it naked or something?” Ed asked.

When Ed agreed to help Laurie out, he had no idea how much he would enjoy not only the dancing but his time with Laurie. From that first night, when he and Laurie continue to dance long after the class was over and dismissed, trying different steps and styles of dancing, Ed was hooked.

I loved Ed from the beginning. He’s a big, good looking athletic guy, who happens to be gay. He’s out, and everyone in his circle is okay with it. He still gets together with friends from his old football team and while he enjoys his time with them, it is a reminder of what he had and lost. Ed is in complete denial about the severity of his injury. He doesn’t do his PT and he continues in a desk job that can only irritate his injury. He has a huge heart and a great sense of humor. I had to get to know Laurie better before I fell for him. He seemed to have a bit of a chip on his shoulder, but as the story moves forward, you clearly see why he is suspicious and cautious with Ed. Laurie grew up with every advantage and was destined to be a star, but after the ballroom fiasco he gave it all up and never performed again. His fear of performing seems to have transferred to all aspects of his life.

The secondary characters have small parts, but bring so much to this story. Ed’s family is wonderful. They are there for him immediately and without question and they welcome Laurie as if he’s been in Ed’s life forever. Laurie’s parents are quite the opposite and it was so difficult to see Laurie’s cold and somewhat superficial interaction with his mother and father. While painful, you understood that their relationship was reflective of Laurie’s own pain and feelings of disappointment in himself and his career, but rather than bring it all out into the open and deal with it, they kept it bottled up so that it festered and pushed them farther and farther away from each other.

Ed and Laurie are truly tested when Ed’s injury flares up and he is forced to take time off from work and return to his PT. Ed goes through a very difficult time here as he moves from denial to acceptance of his injury and it is here where we see major growth between our H/H. And this is where I truly fell for Laurie. Ed isn’t easy to be around during this time, but Laurie has invested enough by this point that he’s not going to be pushed away. He goes from being a bit vulnerable to standing up and demanding that Ed take notice and decide what exactly is important to him.

Ms. Cullinan uses the back drop of dancing to move Ed and Laurie through this story and it is quite beautifully done. We see them move from disliking each other, to getting to know each other; to falling in love and realizing they are meant to be together. I was really blown away by how clearly I felt the emotions the author was trying to convey as I read. Ms. Cullinan’s descriptive writing, especially in the final dance scenes, really moved me and provided a wonderful ending to this love story. I could literally hear the applause when Laurie danced.

Rating: A

Recent Reviews
Dear Author – B+
Parenthetical Observations – 4.5/5
Fiction Vixen – B

Author’s Website

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  1. Mandi says

    After I formatted this review last night, I immediately went to Amazon and bought it. I didn’t get too far before I fell asleep but Ed just agreed to help Laurie in his dance class. I like already!

  2. says

    This book was so good! I like it when characters have to work hard to get their HEA, especially when the issues come from within them and not because of an external circumstance or misunderstanding. My favorite part was that Ed doesn’t get magically cured, he has to work on it both physically and emotionally.

    Great review!

  3. tellulahdarling says

    It’s great to have a guy be in denial about an injury instead of his sexual orientation. My one hesitation around picking up this book is I’m worried I’d just be annoyed by Laurie if he was trained to deal with competitive dance then gave up in the face of one setback. Is he sympathetic despite this?

    • helyce says

      Both Ed and Laurie are openly gay-no questionable sexuality here. I’m not sure how to answer your question, because, yes, Laurie does give up public performance after that one thing; but his issues have a deeper emotional base. He’s still very much involved in dance and through the encouragement of his family and Ed, of course, he comes to realize that dancing is a huge part of making him whole. K, I can’t say anymore, too spoilerish.

  4. Lege Artis says

    This is great review, helyce. I ordered it and I’m quite sure I’ll enjoy it, since I read Heidi Cullinan’s “A Private Gentleman” and liked it.

    • helyce says

      Oh good, I do hope you like it. I loved A Private Gentleman too-so good! Ms. Cullinan certainly knows how to take an emotional character through to healing in a very real way.

  5. helyce says

    Hi Paige-thank you. I hope you enjoy it. I’m looking forward to exploring Ms. Cullinan’s back list as well and see what other gems she has there.

  6. helyce says

    Hi T, you’re right and author handles it perfectly. Loved his relationship with his former team mates too.

  7. Mary G says

    I LOVED this book. Read it back to back with Nowhere Ranch. Dance With Me is as beautiful as Nowhere Ranch is gritty. Both of them blew me away & made my chest ache. Your review brought it all back!

  8. helyce says

    I’ve only heard about Heidi’s more “gritty” stories, but I’m looking forward to reading them and seeing how they differ from this book and A Private Gentleman which I read recently as well. I love her work.

  9. Debra says

    What a combo – sports, dance, and m/m. Yummy. Looking forward to the emotional angst and physical challenges. Btw, lovely muscles on the cover.

  10. Almeta Inoa says

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