Chico has left his controlling boyfriend of two years. The man demeaned him constantly, and to top it off, he cheated on him. Now, Chico lives in a small apartment above his cousin Davi’s garage. His spirit is completely broken, and all he wants to do is sit alone and brood. Davi inisists that Chico should volunteer at the local dance studio, helping them get ready for a major recital. Chico gets to the studio (reluctantly) and looks for his fellow volunteers. Hearing voices behind a door, he walks in…straight into a dance class in progress. Chico becomes overwhelmed when the handsome and charismatic instructor brings him to the middle of the dance floor to demonstrate a waltz. Chico doesn’t like being the center of attention, and he’s completely mortified to have people watching him. However, he does feel a little flutter in his heart and body when he’s in the teacher’s arms.
Rafael is the opposite of Chico. He enjoys being around people, and he loves his job. The dance studio belongs to his family, and even though he could have been a professional, he decided that wasn’t what he wanted. Rafael is gay, but in a town this small, there isn’t much action to be had. It’s obvious that he feels a pull toward Chico, but Chico is so skittish, so Rafael must be careful with how he deals with him.
In the weeks leading up to the production, Rafael and Chico dance around each other (pun intended). They talk a lot, and Chico finds himself confiding his feelings of sadness, inadequacy, and loneliness. His self esteem is very low, and Rafael tries to convince Chico he’s worthy of other people’s love and friendship. Chico realizes that, in Rafael’s arms, he can be strong and happy. It’s not all moonlight and roses, though. There are some bumps along the way.
The blurb for Dancing Lessons grabbed my attention. I love books about dancing…especially with two men. I had high hopes for it, but I feel like the story fell a little flat. Chico had come out of a bad relationship, and there were some references to what happened, but there isn’t much background given. I would have loved to know more about him and what he was like before he became so bogged down by life. His self esteem is just so low. Several times, he refers to himself as Silly Chico, and while my heart broke for him, it became a bit too much. I was starting to feel as depressed as Chico, himself.
Rafael, on the other hand, made me smile. He is beloved by the whole town. He teaches dance to people of all ages, and he’s very supportive. He feels an instant pull to Chico, and he’s so patient with him. In fact, he’s got the patience of a saint because Chico pushes him away so many times. You would think Rafael would get frustrated and give up, but he’s in this for the long haul. Finally, he breaks through Chico’s walls, and what happens between them as a couple is lovely.
The beginning of Dancing Lessons was pretty slow. I was getting frustrated with Chico. I wanted him to see what was right in front of him and realize that he was worthy of someone’s love. I realize that the trope of watching someone come out of their shell is a popular one, but here, I felt bogged down by it. I was getting angry at him and wished I could grab him by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. When their relationship becomes physical, the love/sex scenes seemed to have been a bit choppy. The first time they have intimate contact, I had a difficult time imagining what was actually happening. I couldn’t bring the picture to mind. There didn’t seem to be any real flow to it. Sex isn’t always the most important part of a story, but when it’s there, it should fit in and suit the characters.
I did enjoy what was going on in the background. The preparations for the show, the other characters (Davi, Rafael’s parents, the dancers, and two adorably crotchety seniors), and the studio itself were delightful. The town seems like it would be a nice place to live. I would have loved to have more interaction between Rafael, Chico, and his parents. Something tells me that would have been a real hoot.
All in all, I liked Dancing Lessons. If you’re a fan of angst and a slow burn, this might be a good fit for you.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.