Take the Lead by Alexis Daria. Swerve. 2017.
I loved this! It was completely gripping; I stayed up way too late last night because I could not put it down.
I loved these characters so much, fell hard for them both, and particularly for Gina. I was rooting for them all the way, as a couple, as dance partners. I wanted them to get a happy ending. The obstacles and conflict felt so right, they unfolded in a beautiful way.
The heroine is Puerto Rican, and I really appreciated how deeply culturally specific so many aspects of the story were, and really felt for Gina in her fight to push back against sexualized stereotypes of Latinas. The way that was woven into the conflict in the story was brilliant, and had me really invested in her arc.
As a New Yorker, I also really enjoyed how much this book (and Gina) were enamored of NYC, even though so much of it happened in other places. It was lovely to read the NYC set scenes, they were swoony and full of details and just made me really happy. The Central Park scene totally had my heart.
I liked the way the book showed the depth of Stone’s discomfort with being sexually objectified and in particular, sexually harassed by one of the other contestants. These things are often excused and made light of when men are being targeted, and I liked that this story didn’t do that, that we were shown how very uncomfortable he was with it.
I absolutely adored the dancing in the story. Loved how central it was, how much it was described, it just made me so happy to read that. I got to really sink into the details of the dancing, and the arc of the competition. I also got a kick out of the reality tv aspects of the story, how much it played with the manipulation of reality tv, how that brought them together and how it created obstacles for the romance. So much drama! So much push-pull and forced proximity and intensity and internal and external conflict!
I loved the chemistry between Gina and Stone, it was so hot, and had this lovely thread of tenderness in it too. This translated into the sex scenes, that brought so much heat, and also a lot of heart. Stone was a wonderful match for her; I really got why she fell for him. And I loved how much he adores her and admires her and gets invested in her success.
The resolution of one of the central romantic conflicts caught me a bit by surprise, but after I sat with it for a minute, really worked for me. The other resolutions of the major arcs were extremely satisfying, and one of them around Gina’s career, really got me in the feels. This felt like such an intricately woven story, and I loved the way it wrapped up.
A masterful job of pacing and characterization, this romance was a joy to read, and is an incredible debut. I can’t wait to read book 2!
- Puerto Rican woman MC
- Puerto Rican woman author
Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)
Hero is sexually harassed. Both hero and heroine are pressured to act like they are in a romantic & sexual relationship. Sex on the page. Alcohol use. Wilderness scare with a bear, and use of a firearm.
- Source of the book: ARC from the publisher, via Netgalley
- I have had some contact with the author on Twitter.
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