It’s 1927. Jazz is hot, booze is illegal, and being gay could get you beaten or killed. Eddie Cotton was born for Broadway. Self taught and determined, Eddie has finally found some measure of success with a duo act. He shares the limelight with Marian France and, while performing in the Doozies is no Ziegfeld Follies, Eddie gets to sing, dance, and make an audience laugh every night, so he isn’t complaining.
Lane Carillo has been a party of the Family for a long time. He’s in deep and done things he isn’t proud of and when his boss hands him a club called the Marigold, Lane is far from thrilled. As it turns out, running a club for the gay men of Time Square is something of which Lane can be proud and he creates a haven of safety for men who want to enjoy a drink and dance together. And when Eddie Cotton walks into the Marigold, the two men are quickly drawn to one another. What starts as a one-night stand evolves into something more, but love is never easy, especially when the world seems stacked against you. With the mob, a dangerous rogue cop, and a vengeful show producer trying to tear them apart, Lane and Eddie must trust their love can last, no matter what.
Though historically the Roaring 20s are not a particular favorite of mine, Such a Dance excellently encapsulated the flavor and essence of New York during this period and really drew me into the narrative. It is generally a steady paced storyline, with only a few laggy sections that never last long. The author has done a great job of complementing critical historical detail with plot and character development, never sacrificing one to favor the other. The result is an excellent balance that gives the reader a Jazz era sense of flair without getting mired down with unnecessary historical exposition. Times Square is described as an almost living breathing entity and if you’ve ever been there, I think most would agree the place has a richly vibrant character all its own. This is really captured in Such a Dance and gives this book a relatable background.
Amidst the historical context, Eddie and Lane are given center stage. Both are strong men with painful pasts, but who never run, even when doing so would be easier. Eddie knows what he wants from life and how to do it well, but there are other factors beyond his control waiting to tear him down. Lane has been drifting and when he finally gets the chance to do something meaningful, it seems like he’ll never be allowed to succeed. Each of them learns to depend on the other, even when they can depend on nothing else. As a reader it was easy to believe that no matter what the future might bring, be it a depression or a world war, Lane and Eddie would survive it together.
The only negative about Such a Dance was Eddie’s dance partner, Marian. She was sweet enough and it was clear she only wanted the best for Eddie. But she was an idiot from top to bottom. I’m not sure if it was a conscious decision on the part of the author, but she ended up being led astray in the most obvious fashion by an over the top evil producer. It was always obvious to the reader what was happening, but when Marian finally figured it out, she looked foolish and rather stupid. There was something of the stereotypical damsel in distress about her that rankled me. Why she couldn’t have been as clever and quick as the men in the book, I don’t know but this whole aspect didn’t work for me. That said it wasn’t a large part of the plot and certainly didn’t detract so much as to be a real issue.
Overall Such a Dance was a wonderful historical novel that offered up two charismatic and sweet characters. Not only was it easy to relate to Lane and Eddie, they were genuinely decent men that I wanted to see succeed both professionally and personally. It’s rare that a book provides an excellent awareness of time and place as well truly enjoyable characters, but Such a Dance is really the full package. I heartily recommend this one!