Kassa's Reviews > Dance With Me

Dance With Me by Heidi Cullinan
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Sep 22, 11


This is a bit of a difficult review to write because while the book is decent, I didn’t particularly enjoy reading it. I’m not entirely sure why except I couldn’t connect to either character and thus never really cared about them together. Due to this the story somewhat bored me and I found myself sometimes skimming just to finish. There are a lot of great elements in the story that should work together to form a moving, memorable story. I like the individual characters but together I never really bought into their dynamic and I didn’t like some of the choices the story made. Overall this one just didn’t work for me unfortunately, but judging by the popularity of the story it might just be me.

The story follows dancer Laurie and ex-football player Ed as they try to form a life together after individual crushing disappointments. Ed is injured during a semi-pro game and has to give up football entirely. He’s stuck in a desk job he hates, living with extremely difficult and frustrating neck pain. Laurie for his part ruined his dance career after an ill-fated attempt to bring man/man ballroom dancing into the mainstream competition. The two have a lot of baggage to overcome individually, let alone together.

Like all of Cullinan’s books, Dance with Me is definitely well written with a lot of subtle emotion, nuance, and descriptive quality. There is a good bit of angst but nothing overwhelming or especially exhausting to read. Instead the story unfolds naturally as the main relationship builds piece by piece. The changes and steps make sense and feel organic as the characters move through the story. This is a character driven story where the tension is entirely internal due to the various issues between the two men. This will appeal most to those readers that like complex men with a lot of angst between them.

This is also where there are a lot of great elements. Both characters are well rounded and pretty complicated. Laurie is a very difficult, fussy kind of man that is deeply unhappy with his life but doesn’t know exactly why or how to change it. Instead he tends to alienate others with his behavior though he has a genuinely good heart at the core. For his part Ed is more the one I gravitated to and found more interesting. His difficult path is definitely hard to read at times as he struggles with a life of pain management and depression. His neck injury is one he’ll have to live with and this makes his portion of the story pretty compelling. Watching as he struggles, sometimes fails, and ultimately finds a positive path in his life is perhaps the main reason I stuck with the story. It’s moving and very engaging.

On the flip side when the two men get together is where I stumble a little bit with the story. I just couldn’t get interested in them as a couple. Their chemistry went hot and cold for me. When Laurie is describing their first time together, while Ed was drunk no less, I got chills during that scene. It’s so romantic and beautiful, yet Ed drove me nuts when he failed to say a single word. Ed’s failure to have any ability to really communicate limits his character’s likability for me. I wanted him to be more mature, more able to say something while Laurie lives in his head so much the two clash a lot with misunderstandings. This keeps the tension high and some readers will appreciate this dynamic more than I did.

I had some additional problems with the choices in the story. I didn’t particularly like any of the female characters in the story. They come across as controlling, lecturing, and very strident. Although they all come around in the end to make a happy ending, all the females up to that point are very off putting and difficult. Additionally while the characters of Oliver and Christopher are a nice addition, the last sex scene between the four of them really put me off. It feels totally out of place and awkward. I didn’t really understand what point the story was trying to convey and ultimately that sex scene made me want to drop the story entirely. Thankfully it’s close to the end but it feels like a jarring moment and out of the blue. Likewise some of the resolutions, especially Ed and Laurie dancing, don’t really feel natural or honest but instead manufactured to tack on a happy ending. Perhaps this is a more a function of the fact that I was already disconnected to the story and the later elements and scenes did nothing to re-engage me.

Trying to explain these issues feels awkward and somewhat intangible. For these reasons and others, the story and characters just didn’t work for me. It’s well written and definitely a story I can see striking a chord with readers. I’m just sorry it didn’t with me. Perhaps next time.
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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Antonella I'm absolutely with you on this one, for all the reasons you've listed. And it's not that I didn't I like other books by Heidi Cullinan.


Kassa I figured I'd be the lone one on this one so it's comforting to know I'm not the only one. I really like HC as an author tho I tend to like her fantasy stuff more than contemporary it seems. I am looking fwd to her next book.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I feel your pain. Please notice I didn't even attempt to write a review. I'm not sure my issues were all the same as yours, but I couldn't really put my finger on why this didn't grab me, or why I kept putting it down and reading something else in between.

I've had a hard time with most of Heidi's female characters in her contemporary stories. They are rather strident and tend to over shadow her more nuanced men. I also agree with the weirdness of the hot tub scene which was I found kind of distasteful. Perhaps my biggest problem with this one is that it felt like Heidi's own experiences took over the last part of the book and drove the characters, especially Ed.

Did you wonder what happened to the Duon story? I expected him to be a major factor after we see so much of him in the first half. To me it felt like the story started in one place and then took a random left turn somewhere around the mid point and headed a different direction. I dunno. I guess maybe I'd call it the author being hijacked by her own work. Either way, the two halves of the story felt disconnected and didn't work together for me.

How's that for incoherent? It's why I didn't even try a review!


message 4: by orannia (last edited Sep 22, 2011 01:14PM) (new)

orannia Kassa - I just wanted to say I thought you expressed why the book didn't work for you very well. And this probably sounds weird, but...I still want to read it.

FYI - I've only read one Heidi Cullinan book to date - Special Delivery - which was way out of my comfort zone...or so I thought. My comfort zone moved :)


Kassa Kate Mc. wrote: "I've had a hard time with most of Heidi's female characters in her contemporary stories. They are rather strident and tend to over shadow her more nuanced men. I also agree with the weirdness of the hot tub scene which was I found kind of distasteful. Perhaps my biggest problem with this one is that it felt like Heidi's own experiences took over the last part of the book and drove the characters, especially Ed."

Yes, yes, yes. Yes. I totally agree. What's even better is that I forgot about Duon too. I mean I realized his storyline had been dropped but it was so awkward and weird in the first place (why include it at all really?) that I didn't notice really when it was dropped. It was only later I thought "why was it there in the first place?"


Kassa orannia wrote: "Kassa - I just wanted to say I thought you expressed why the book didn't work for you very well. And this probably sounds weird, but...I still want to read it."

Good! I'm not trying to say this will be everyone's reaction, it was just mine. If you still want to read it, I definitely encourage you to do so. There are a lot of readers that liked (and loved) this one so don't rely on my review alone. Hope you like it!


message 7: by orannia (new)

orannia That's the impression I got from your review (and why I like reading them so much). You express (very well :) why a book does and doesn't work for you. When I get to it I'll let you know what I think :)


Kassa Well you're definitely not alone VM. (great name btw!) I know there are quite a few readers that have loved this book to pieces and that's great but there are a few of us that wanted to like it but just couldn't get into it. Here's hoping the next HC book is better.


message 9: by Nicci (new)

Nicci I love HC's Double Blind, but this one is killing me. I'm at 45%. It's difficult slogging through Ed and Laurie's numerous inner thoughts and the Woe is Me attitude.


Kassa Perhaps take a break? Sometimes coming back fresh to a story helps.


message 11: by Nicci (new)

Nicci Kassa wrote: "Perhaps take a break? Sometimes coming back fresh to a story helps."

Good idea. I'll do just that.


Elizabeth H. I'm really struggling with how to rate this book as it was all over the map for me. I especially agree with what you say about the hot tub scene; that one scene almost made me not finish the book. It feels forced to me, as if it were shoe-horned in merely for the sensationalist aspect: oh, I've got to have some sort of kink scene. I was also tremendously squicked by Oliver being voyeuristic when he's functioned as a substitute father to Laurie. It smacked of incest. Other than that, there were just little things that kept tripping me up in this novel. You did a good job of explaining why the novel didn't work for you.


Annika I'm with you on this one, point for point.


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