Danced Close, Annabeth Albert

Danced Close,  Annabeth Albert

Danced Close (Portland Heat) by [Albert, Annabeth]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

I love romance reads, love a HEA, but don’t like to read the same recycled story over and over, and sadly its a genre where that gets served up far too often.
I discovered the M/M genre a couple of years back and found that hurrah – its romance, but mostly of the authors strive for that missing extra, the thing that makes their story stand out, and not read like a thousand others but with different character names…Maybe I’m over exaggerating here…just a bit 😉 but some days that’s how reading romance feels.

I’ve only somehow caught one book in this series, and loved it, that could be my fault, I tend to ignore shorter reads. I find usually they don’t give me enough character depth and story, but though this and the wonderful Delivered Fast are short, they still gave me a good solid read, great characters and real plots.
So, the something different I look for – well, double bonus here, Todd has some issues related to his past that rarely get seen in romance, but which do affect many people, and Kendall – well, he’s just so unique.

I so felt for Todd, he’s come such a long way, worked so hard and yet doesn’t seem to feel good enough for Kendall, seems to feel the way his ex treated him was what he deserved. He’s such a great guy, but can’t see himself as Kendall sees him, someone gorgeous, solid, good, worthy.
His past, from family, the circumstances he found himself in, and then his ex have all impacted so badly on his self confidence that he’s afraid to step out of the routine he knows.

Kendall, what a great character. He’s gender-fluid – and why not? I’ve always wondered why we obsess over putting people in pigeon holes, labelling them. I guess its that society wants everyone to conform, to be different makes someone a target and there’s strength and protection comes from being one of the crowd.
Kendall won’t compromise though, wants to be true to himself, be who he feels he is, and that varies from day to day. Why shouldn’t men wear dresses and nice fabrics if they choose? No-one bats an eyelid at women in trousers, however mannish the outfit, but a man is a dress, or men’s clothes but with delicate fabrics and pretty embellishments? Shock horror!! Stupid isn’t it?

QUILTBAG, that’s a new term to me but fits perfectly. I love the way that slowly society is coming to the idea we aren’t just M/F but encompass so many different types. Sadly there’s still a lot of aggression about those who don’t stick strictly to the MF definition. One day….

Back to the book, Todd, big burly Todd, is perfect for Kendall, but again turning perceptions upside down when they dance Todd lets Kendall lead, something new to him. Being the person he is others have always assumed he wants to be led, not take the lead, and he finds he’s actually good at it, enjoys it.
The thing I mentioned about how others perceive anyone a bit different, well, we see it at the dance lessons when poor Kendall gets the side eye from another couple. You’d think being gay themselves they’d be more accepting but they’re not. They don’t know how to deal with folk like Kendall, and giving him some unpleasant looks, definitely not up for swapping dance partners.
Then we meet one of Kendall’s clients who takes the opposite view, the bride and friends who probably pride themselves in being open minded, accepting and liberal, but who treat Kendall as an exhibit, someone who’s “costume”/style of dress for the day is just an addition to the wedding.
There’s too many like her, and she’s disappointed when Kendall isn’t feeling good and has dressed down, no lace and frivolity, and she makes it clear she thought that was part of the wedding package.
I was so outraged for Kendall, and yet I guess that kind of thing also happens too often. I was so glad he stuck to his guns and didn’t let her walk over him with her entitled, money-buys-everything attitude.

The romance was perfect, not without hiccups, not all smooth sailing and we really get to see “inside” the two guys, about how they feel, and why, and how the past affects them both.
Its a great read, full of emotion, angst, and had me thinking how on earth could they get a HEA or even a HFN? Its a shortish read, but contrary to most shorts, packs a huge and very real story in it.

Stars: Five, a fabulous romance that felt very real.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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About jeanniezelos

I'm an avid reader, love my kindle and I have my head in a novel for hours daily : ) Mum used to say I'd read toilet paper if it was printed- it wasn't, so i had to contend myself with the back and sides of the cereal packets. I've always Needed to read and we had few books when i was a child hence my penchant for reading anything including adverts then... I review mainly contemporary, erotic and paranormal romance books though dystopian and urban fantasy also appeal. I'm currently rated around the 300 mark on amazon.co.uk for my reviews. I try to keep them structured and to say what I do and don't like about a book so other readers can use my review as a guide to whether they may enjoy the book.

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