Charlie’s had it rough growing up in small town South Dakota. He never put a name to the feelings inside of himself, but that didn’t stop the bullying and the torment. With few friends, dancing is the one thing that he is sure has saved his life. He knows his mother loves him, but her job keeps her barely at home. After graduation, his mother surprises him with a spot in a dance company in New York City. Charlie has the entire summer to feel free. But he knows when summer is over, it will be time to return home and get a job to help his mother with expenses.
Max is a junior dance instructor living in New York. He is confident and bold, everything Charlie is not, and the attraction is immediate. Max knows he can show Charlie that there is a whole world past his small hometown. As they spend time together, their feelings develop quickly, but Charlie wants to keep their relationship a secret and summer doesn’t last forever.
If you are looking for a sweet and romantic love story with almost no angst, The Storm Before the Calm would be an excellent choice. The story is told from Charlie’s point of view and we are dropped into his world as he desperately tries to get himself through the last weeks of high school. There is no graphic detail but we are given a good sense of what Charlie has endured, and, since he never told anyone, how he has coped. He loves to dance and it is the one place he can find acceptance. When Charlie learns he has the opportunity to leave home and dance it means everything, even if it is only for the summer.
The only person Charlie knows in NYC is his aunt, but on the first day of the program, there Max is. Charlie has never admitted to himself that he is gay, but there is no denying his attraction to Max. When the guys dance together the chemistry is unmistakable and there are plenty of sweet caresses and lots and lots of kissing. Their intimate moments are indicative of young love, first love with a sensual vibe.
We do not learn much about Max at all and he is certainly portrayed as the perfect boyfriend. When Charlie is with Max he feels safe, but Charlie is not out, holds everything tightly inside, and wants to keep their relationship secret. Max is fine with all of it. He is patient, supportive, tender, and loving. It’s everything Charlie needs, but with Max being 21, and then with no background given on him at all, it did lean toward him being too perfect during some of their exchanges.
Charlie’s relationship with his mother did not all add up for me. Charlie says they are extremely close and that she is fully supportive of him. Yet she worked so much that he made himself dinner most nights, bought his own school supplies, and spent the holidays alone. He tells his mother nothing about what is going on in his life or what he wants. On the flip side, his mother never seems to have any kind of pivotal conversation with Charlie, even after having a sense of where Charlie wants his life to be. It was hard to reconcile what we are told to what we are shown and that was the one true weak area of the story for me. The narrative offers a lot of detail on NYC itself and Charlie’s experiences. While I appreciated all of the detail to bring the scenes into visual focus, some of the descriptions were offered as a list that weighed the narrative down at times. The ending is exactly what everyone needs, but a peek into their future would have enhanced the moment for me.
With the focal point of the story being on the developing relationship between Charlie and Max, that is the reason to read this sweet, sexy, feel-good, romantic, coming of age story.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.