Desert Isle Keeper
Dance All Night
I’m a sucker for hero in pursuit stories and Alexis Daria has pushed all the right buttons for me in her new novella, Dance All Night. It’s part of the Dance Off series but takes place away from the show, with a holiday theme and two people who love dance who find themselves falling in love with each other.
Nik Kovalenko is the brother of reality show star Dmitri (from Dance with Me). He’s a dancer in his own right, but used to touring with stage shows. Invited to a New Year’s Eve party at his brother’s place, his eye is caught by the beautiful and talented ballroom dancer Jess Davenport, one of Dmitri’s co-workers whom he’s met a few times before. At the stroke of midnight, they share a sensual kiss, but since Nik will be leaving on tour the next day, it’ll be a nice memory and nothing more.
The following winter, Nik is back. He’s very interested in seeing Jess again, hoping she’s taken the hint that he’d not forgotten her by ‘liking’ and commenting on her social media posts. When they meet up again at another dancer’s holiday party, he tells her he wants to get to know her better. They make a deal to go on three dates, wherein Nik will try to prove that he’s serious about staying, and about her. Can he bring some holiday magic into Jess’s life and give her a Christmas to remember?
This is a really lovely holiday romance! Like I said at the start, heroes in pursuit, the nice guys who show by their actions even more than their words that they are head-over-heels for their partner are my jam. Nik plans their three dates with care, cajoling Jess to get out of her comfort zone and try new things but never being pushy or heavy handed. Though there is a strong attraction between them, things move at a slow pace, as Nik wants to show Jess that he’s not after her for sex but for everything good that comes in a relationship. Both are professional dancers and used to the public spotlight, so with the okay from Jess, Nik shows that he’s been paying attention to her interests by pulling her into a Lindy Hop, her favorite type of swing dance during an outdoor jazz performance.
Dancing with Nik was like being caught in a bubble – just the two of them, with a perfect almost telepathic connection between their bodies and the music. He communicated moves to her through the tension in his fingers holding hers, the touch of his hand on her upper back, and shifts in balance. Dance created a language only spoken between the partners, as intimate as it was invigorating.
Though Jess is charmed by Nik, she’s also wary, because she isn’t interested in committing to someone who’s just going to run off again. She’s happy and settled in L.A. and doesn’t have the wanderlust that Nik has. The more she feels herself growing attached to him, the more she worries about the effect once he leaves, even though he’s told her that he’ll stick around if she gives him a reason to do so. Her feelings about relationships stem from her own upbringing, with parents who fought and a father who left time and again, often around the holidays when the stress would get too great. It’s why she hates the Christmas season and also why she has a strained relationship with her parents who have since reconciled and wish she would come home to Chicago to visit more often. As New Year’s Eve approaches again, Jess will have to decide whether she’s ready to accept what Nik is trying to offer.
There’s a lot to enjoy about this story but the characters really are the stars. Jess is a black woman with a love of the music and dance of those who paved the way for her success, such as Billie Holiday and Norma Miller. She gives back to the community by volunteering for a group home for at-risk girls where her best friend Naomi, a counselor, works, and there are several great scenes with Naomi and Jess that show their close friendship. As for Nik, besides clearly being a wonderful, attentive man, he’s also got a close relationship with his parents and his brother Dmitri. He’s successful, talented and fun to be with, and he’s proud of his Ukrainian heritage. The chemistry between Nik and Jess eventually leads to some sexy scenes, made more intimate by the friendship that they have developed and the real affection between them. With its broad holiday theme and some really funny scenes (reindeer boob comes to mind), as well as a slow burn sexy romance, Dance All Night is a new favorite!