Narrator: Iggy Toma
Length: 9 hours, 59 minutes
Ed Mauer was a semi-pro football player when he was critically injured in a game. Football was his life, but now he can never play again or he risks injuring himself even more. Ed misses football deeply and, though he loves his former teammates, it is hard spending time with them knowing what he lost. Especially since Ed suffers from recurring, severe neck pain that can see him unable to move for days.
Laurie Parker is a well-known professional dancer who had a promising career. That is until he took a risk — dancing with another man at a ballroom competition — that didn’t pay off and has left him feeling disgraced. Laurie is now running a suburban dance studio and no longer competing or performing, much to the frustration of his mother and godfather. But the disappointment took its toll on Laurie and he can’t bring himself to dance publicly any more.
The two men both work at the Halcyon Center teaching classes in a low income area. The men drive each other nuts, but are forced to compromise when the sound system is on the fritz. Laurie agrees to end his class early if Ed will act as his partner in a ballroom dance class he is teaching. Laurie never expects the big, burly Ed to agree to something like dancing with another man, but Ed surprises him. And Ed surprises himself when he realizes how much he enjoys dancing with Laurie, and how much he would like to continue.
Ed and Laurie slowly become friends, and then it grows to more. Ed is still dealing with the pain of his injury, having to face the fact that it will be a part of his life forever. But dancing with Laurie brings him such joy and enables him to feel the strength and power that used to be only for football. And Laurie begins to find a joy in dance again that he thought he lost. He is able to finally consider how he can bring dance back into his life in ways he never expected. Both men have pasts that are filled with pain, but their partnership together is helping to give them strength to move forward with their lives and their relationship.
Sigh. I love this book. Truly, this is one of my all time favorites. In fact, the original version made my very first Annual Favorites list in 2011, though I had read it earlier that year before I started the blog. I have since read it many times, but when Cullinan rereleased it and put it out on audiobook, I decided to review it here.
The best word I can use to describe this story is “beautiful.” The relationship between these men, the passions they have individually, and the ways they are able to make those passions blossom through their mutual love is just such a beautiful thing to read about. I just adore these guys completely. Both start out the book in so much pain, both mental, and in Ed’s case, physical. They each had something that was so important to them that was taken away, and now they are both struggling to find their way without that as a guide. I love that they start off bickering and irritating one another, but then slowly find friendship, attraction, and then love. I love how this story shows both Ed and Laurie discovering a mutual love of dancing together and the way that connection changes them, gives them the strength to reach for new things, to be brave, and to finally open themselves up once again.
As I said, I adore both of these guys. Laurie is fussy and kind of uptight and not always easy, but when Ed looks at him all he sees is beauty. Ed is more rough around the edges, a burly football player to Laurie’s graceful elegance. I just love the way Ed lights up when he watches Laurie dance. He just worships Laurie, and that love gives Laurie confidence and strength that he has been missing for so long and helps Laurie be brave again. They are so incredibly loving and romantic, but oh god, also so incredibly sexy together.
The audio version is just spectacular. I will tell you that I loved Iggy Toma’s narration of Cullinan’s Love Lessons series, but I think this is the best work I have heard from him. Something about this story just works so well in audio. I think it is because this is a story about dance and when we read, we only have the words and our imagination to picture the movement and the beauty. But when Toma adds his narration, it adds another sensory experience, and I could feel the music and the movement in a way that enhanced the story so much. Toma does wonderful, distinct voices for the two men that completely fit them. Ed’s voice is so spot on perfect, it is amazing. Toma gets that rough, everyman quality about him so well. When he says “Laur” in that raspy voice, it just makes my heart pang a little.
So you guys need to be reading this book. If you have read it already, you need to be listening to the audio. It’s just as fabulous and as wonderful as I remembered it. Sweet, sexy, romantic, moving, and beautiful.
Cover Review: You guys, this cover is so gorgeous I can feel it as almost a pang in my gut when I look at it. It is so beautiful and moving and completely captures the feel of the story and the beauty of Laurie dancing. Spectacular.