Desert Isle Keeper
Pas de Deux: A Dance for Two
Mina Allende, the world’s fourth highest paid ballerina, needs a new challenge after her triumphant run as Giselle. She accepts Zack Coen’s offer to co-star alongside him as Camille, the tragic courtesan of his directorial début, dance-centered musical The Lady in Red. Facing a mad rush to perform at the Tonys, learn vocal parts, and master a new genre of choreography by opening night, attraction to her director and co-star is not something Mina needs. But every time they touch each other, the floor catches fire. I loved this novel and eagerly await more from the author.
I loved, loved, loved, the dance scenes in this novel. Watching Zack and Mina rehearse their choreography is shiveringly sexy, as the two navigate physical contact, challenging lifts, and the trust required to be both physically and emotionally vulnerable to each other. Mina is a bit of a diva and Zack is a bit of a hardass, which make for a dynamic combination. I’m not sure what’s hotter, their dance scenes or their sex scenes, but I was sure to read both closely and repeatedly to help me make up my mind.
So often, meticulous research and world-building is considered the province of historical or fantasy romances, so I’m always delighted when an author transports me into a new place in the present. Everything about the dance and theater worlds comes to life realistically. Zack is a brilliant choreographer and writer, but he still lives on the fourth floor of a patron’s brownstone because the “job pays a pittance,” and he refers to himself as “old” in the dance world (he’s thirty-six to Mina’s twenty-eight). The author zooms in on details like Mina’s feet, described in terms of their injuries (like toe splits and past stress fractures), their dark skin, which requires her to custom-dye her own toe shoes, their shape, with squared-off toes that help her distribute her weight while en pointe, and their size, which shrinks from seven and a half to seven during the ballet season.
Mina is black, and Zack is white, and I felt that the author effectively incorporated the role of race in the characters’ lives. For instance, Mina reflects on ballet teachers scrutinizing her developing body for signs of voluptuousness – “as if black women only come in one body type.” Zack, who was adopted by Puerto Rican dance instructors out of the foster system, observes that:
“As a white guy, my story makes me interesting, like street cred is sexy. But for these [Hispanic and black] kids, it’s a stumbling block – the world counts it against them.”
What lovely self-awareness, and something that’s led me into reflection on the many, many ‘up from poverty’ white heroes that pervade Romancelandia.
The story is, unfortunately, temporarily derailed by a completely unnecessary and wildly soap-operatic crime plot about 80% of the way through. Fortunately, it vanishes nearly as quickly as it popped in, but I wish the author had simply left it out all together. There is enough drama in two co-stars – one the director – falling in love while premiering a Broadway show without us being jerked sideways into a whirlwind criminal investigation. The page count this would free up would have allowed for more exploration of Zack’s issues derived from his foster experience, which I felt could have used more development.
My biggest disappointment about Pas de Deux is that Lynn Turner published her first book last year, so I can’t nominate her for best début author. Given that this means I have another Lynn Turner book to read, I’ll take it!