one step forward two steps back coverRating: 3.25 stars
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Length: Novella


Joshua has taken a job subbing in as a pianist for a dance studio. While there, he meets Brandon, a gorgeous instructor, and the two men hit it off right away — so much so that they end up hooking up in the supply closet before the day is out. When Brandon gets called away too soon, both men are left unsure where things stand between them. Joshua has agreed to play for Brandon’s upcoming dance performance, so they are spending time together, but neither one is sure about making the next move.

When the guys finally work up the nerve to get together once again, the sparks continue to fly. They find they are a great fit together, and are even enjoying exploring a little bit of kink for the first time. But there is an expiration date on their relationship, as Brandon is soon moving across the country soon. Both men can imagine a future together, but they need to talk about what they both want and confess their feelings if there is a chance for something lasting.

This is a light and easy story about two men who need to do a bit more talking to one another, but who find a connection that neither expects. I think where it works best is when it focuses on the combination of music and dance, as Brandon is a dancer and Joshua a composer. I enjoyed the way the story highlights how the men create together and the way their artistic skills each enrich each other’s work.

Despite some lack of conversation between the men, this one is a quick, easy read, with a touch of kink, so I think that may appeal to some readers. However, I struggled here as everything just felt surface deep and nothing was really explored or developed, particularly in terms of the characters. The author tends to throw out background information or key things about the characters without ever delving into them or explaining more. For example, the story opens with the line “Joshua Goldman knew he had a talent for failure, which is why he worked hard for every small, achievable victory.” Yet, even after the story ended, I have no idea what this “talent for failure” actually is or why he thinks that about himself. The story presents it as if Joshua’s life is a mess, he has made all these mistakes, etc. His ex-boyfriend mocks him in a way that suggests something has gone wrong in the past. And we know Joshua seems somewhat at a crossroads in terms of what to do with his future. But the book never actually explains what is going on with him, what has happened to him in the past, or anything to justify this continuous suggestion that he is a total mess. We get the same thing for Brandon who “didn’t know if he had it in him to be a real partner to someone who wasn’t damaged like him.” But what is the damage? Why does he feel that way? We are told Joshua’s ex rode “roughshod over his boundaries,” but get no detail about what this means or why he is sure he isn’t relationship material.

Throughout the book, we are told things about these men, but it is never really developed and rarely explained in enough detail to understand the issue. It made it really hard to connect to these characters because I never felt I really knew or understood them. They also have a habit of not talking to each other, avoiding conflict, and making assumptions. All of which made me frustrated and not really connect with them as a couple either. I guess I just didn’t ever find my way with this one. The basic story is fine, but everything just felt so surface level that I never really could get invested in the story.

As I said, if you are looking for a fairly quick read with some kink, particularly if you like stories about dancers or musicians, this may work for you. For me, there just wasn’t enough here to really engage me as I had hoped.

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