Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Enjoy the Dance
SERIES: Dancing #2
AUTHOR: Heidi Cullinan
LENGTH: 224 pages
RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2016
Dance with your heart, and love will follow.
Kindergarten teacher Spenser Harris has carved a quiet, stable future out of his tumultuous past, but his world turns upside down the night a homeless teen appears on his doorstep—a boy whose story mirrors the one Spenser has worked so hard to overcome. The decision to shelter Duon is easy. What’s tricky is juggling the network of caregivers in Duon’s life, especially Tomás Jimenez.
Tomás wouldn’t have hesitated to take Duon in, but his plate is already full working three jobs to support his family. Though Spenser’s carefully constructed walls are clearly designed to keep the world at bay, Tomás pushes past Spenser’s defenses, determined to ensure the man is worthy of his charge. As the two of them grow closer, Tomás dares to dream of a life beyond his responsibilities, and Spenser begins to believe he might finally find a home of his own after all.
But Spenser and Tomás’s world is poised to crash around their ears. Duon’s grandmother isn’t sure she wants him to be raised by a gay man and challenges Spenser’s custody. Tomás’s undocumented parents could be deported at any time, and all the while the state of Minnesota votes on a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and the US Supreme Court debates whether or not Spenser and Tomás get a happily ever after. All they can do is hold tight to their love, hope for a better future…and remind each other to enjoy the dance.
“You don’t have to dance perfectly. You don’t have to be perfect, or outlandish. You don’t have to ride in on a horse to be a hero. You don’t have to stand in the spotlight to be a star. If you save one person, if you shine light for one soul— why is it less than saving two, or three, or four? You know you have done this for Duon . For the children in your classroom. For Tomás, who still works too hard but has a spring in his step now, yearning for the moment when he can spend more time with you. That is who I want to see dance. That is what you bring to the floor. To everyone in your life. To life. Show me that dancer, Spenser.”
Tomás has lived almost his whole life trying to protect and care for his family. With the constant threat of INS deporting his parents, he has had to be the support for not only them, but for his sister and her kids as well. It’s exhausting, as you can well imagine. He barely has time to sleep and eat, let alone romance the shy teacher across the hall from his home. That doesn’t mean he can’t dream about it, though.
Spenser has always wanted a family. Taken from his mother when he was a child and sent into foster home, after foster home, he hasn’t had very many chances to have people in his life who cared for him. Which is probably why he takes Duon into his home when he finds him outside his door, beaten and bloody. The kid reminds Spenser a lot of himself at that age, and despite the fact he never got a chance at family growing up, he’d like to make sure Duon never has to say the same.
Between dealing with his sudden leap into parenthood, and his growing crush on Duon’s friend and dance coach, Tomás, Spenser is finding out that dreams are a lot of hard work. But well worth the price. Even if that price is facing those dreaded dance lessons…
So, I can’t be the only person who has eagerly been awaiting this sequel to Dance With Me. That book has always been one of my favorites by Heidi Cullinan, and I’ve wanted to know more since I got to the last page and realized that the story had ended. Luckily Heidi has decided to go back and give us more dancers to swoon over.
One of my absolute favorite things about Heidi’s varied works is how she humanizes topics and situations in a way that leads to identifying with people who you may not give a second glance at in your normal run of life. Things like depression and chronic pain, or in this book, the struggles of undocumented immigrants and their families, are presented in such a way that even if you yourself have never dealt with them you come to understand it better. To view it in the terms of how they impact people in real life situations, and not just as statistics or fearsome and racist propaganda.
There is so much about this book that I ended up loving. Tomás, Spenser, and Duon are all fabulously written. At time I could not bare to tear myself away from their story. I fell in love with Duon in Dance With Me, and was thrilled to find out that he plays a key role in this second book. Finally having him find a place that was safe and supportive was great. And the way he was when he was dancing…heartbreaking is probably the best of ways. I can only hope that if Heidi decides to continue this series that Duon will get his own book.
Spenser was the one that really had me in near tears, though. Dear lords of mercy, but I wanted to give this guy a hug. The constant pressure of finally getting everything he has ever wanted, but not daring to trust that it will last past morning, really makes for some sad reading.
The balance between hope and reality plays a big part in all aspects of this story. From Tomás and his parents dealing with the threat of deportation, to Spenser yearning for an open life but having to hide in order to keep his job…and thereby Duon. Even Duon struggles to believe that he has found a home all the while knowing that the government could look at Spenser and see someone unfit because of hate and prejudice. There is no truly safe place in this book, everything is always on the brink of collapse, but Heidi does a masterful job of keeping the reality of life while still granting us the happy relief in the end.
Set against the backdrop of societal and political turmoil, these three guys struggle to create a family out of hope and determination…and not a little bit of dancing. It was, in the end, more than enough to keep me enthralled.