Wednesday, November 17, 2021

TBR Challenge: Alexis Daria - Take the Lead

Gina Morales wants to win. It’s her fifth season on The Dance Off, a top-rated network TV celebrity dance competition, and she’s never even made it to the finals. When she meets her latest partner, she sees her chance. He's handsome, rippling with muscles, and he stars on the popular Alaskan wilderness reality show Living Wild. With his sexy physique and name recognition, she thinks he’s her ticket to the finals—until she realizes they’re being set up.
Stone Nielson hates Los Angeles, he hates reality TV, and he hates that fact that he had to join the cast of the The Dance Off because of family obligations. He can’t wait to get back to Alaska, but he also can’t deny his growing attraction to his bubbly Puerto Rican dance partner. Neither of them are looking for romantic entanglements, and Stone can’t risk revealing his secrets, but as they heat up the dance floor, it’s only a matter of time until he feels an overwhelming urge to take the lead.
When the tabloids catch on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy. Gina and Stone will have to decide if their priorities lie with fame, fortune, or the chance at a future together.

Comment: November came as if no one would notice but it's here and once more it's time for the TBR challenge post. This month the theme is "competition" which can be seen as vague but I immediately thought about this book, which features a dancing competition. Choice solved!

In this story, featuring a fictitious dance competition pretty much like the ones seen on TV where dance professionals are paired up with someone who is a celebrity, we follow Gina Morales, a young Latina dancer whose dream is to have her own show or perform on Broadway. She wants this year to be her winning year in The Dance Off but she is surprised the show's production has chosen for her a really good looking guy, which makes her suspect they want them to be the "couple" of the season.
Stone Nielson has his own reality show, along with his whole family, and they live in the woods, "surviving" in Alaska. He accepts the invite to be in The Dance Off because the paycheck is great and his mother has had a costly hip replacement. He figured he would just learn a few dances, have a good time, despite being in the city, which he doesn't care much about, preferring the wilderness of Alaska, but he is paired off with an energetic, nice and attractive partner who he starts to care about.
Can it be these two, going into the show with different reasons and from different backgrounds have enough in common to make it work?

I liked the setup for this book. In fact, that was the main reason why I added it to my TBR and I was eager to see how this would be mixed up with the romance. I liked the book in general but I must say I also expected a better balance between the several aspects dealt with in it and in the end I felt the romance wasn't fully convincing to me. I just can't explain well if it was due to the lack of balance or simply because the falling in love part wasn't credible.

The premise is really interesting and it reminded me of other authors whose plots revolved around movie settings or theater performances and some I really liked. Like those, I also liked how the story was developed here and in particular the eye for detail of the "backstage" possible scenarios. When one watches reality shows it's usually for the dramas or the "real people's experiences" but pretty much everyone by now has to believe the majority of what happens in these shows is planned and staged. Still, I liked the author included glimpses of what happens to make it possible for the show to happen because it did give some veracity to the plot.

I have not watched any dancing competition on TV but it's something popular enough to allow anyone to have an idea. I also liked how a little of the heroine's personality came to live as she was seen planning choreographic moments for the episodes and the competition and practice scenes with her partner. Another interesting thing was the example of how the hero's reality show was based on lies and wrong premises but they had a contract and, again, drama sells. I think the details regarding the setting up of the reality shows was probably the element I found more interesting in this book.

Gina is a great heroine, she is smart, determined and a good person. She doesn't want to give in to stereotypes people have on Latino women while proving her worth as a professional. I applaud her professionalism and her work ethics. I liked her as the heroine of the book and how the story moved along for her. Stone, the hero, is described as quiet but I liked how he tried his best to help Gina and how positive he was in an experience which should be too hard for a shy person. I think it is believable he could overcome this since he was in a reality show of his own.

The romance felt a little disappointing. I liked the part where they fought their attraction, where they tried to keep the focus on their individual goals and then, as a way to help their partner, but as a romantic couple, it felt things were a bit forced. I mean this in the sense, their chemistry didn't feel very natural, only a progression of their dance partnership and proximity because of it. When they were together as a couple, it was nice but I don't think it was that obvious they had to be together. There was so much emphasis on what separated them and what existed to make it too hard for them to be a permanent couple that, along with the lack of balance between writing and romance descriptions, it just felt the end was also a little unlikely and convenient.

There was something missing from this story. I think perhaps a more romantic or well structured romance development would have helped or more nuances to the characters and their actions. Some things felt well thought but not well executed. I'm not certain I'll read the next installment but if I do, it won't be in the near future.
Grade: 6/10

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