Fiercely independent Chelsea Barnes has caught a rare break and been cast as the first non-celebrity on the hit show Celebrity Dance Off. Chelsea is coined ‘America’s Chance to Dance,’ but her partner planned on an A-lister, not a nobody.
Clashing with her partner, she’s ready to go home; but during an emotional dance, her heart-breaking past as an abandoned, homeless teen is revealed. Not only do the viewers fall in love with her, so does the flirty British guest singer, Broadway star Thomas Evan Oliver.
Tom is struck by this feisty girl who complicates his over-structured life, and pursues her in a romantic cross-country courtship until she’s voted off and joins him. Their sexy whirlwind love affair blossoms in New York as she navigates the big city and his exhausting eight shows a week, but most important, her scarred heart begins to heal. Perhaps happily ever after might be a possibility after all.
4.5 stars — I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion. Though I was delayed in getting to my ARC, so I actually read the copy I purchased instead.
OMG you guys, it didn’t take me long into the book before I knew I was going to love this one. I’ve loved so many of Ms. Stanton’s YA books, and this one felt like Dream Chaser for adults. I honest to goodness laughed out loud, silently cried, squealed in delight, and last night before bed I got so hyped up that I was singing “Don’t Stop Believin” to my husband, and he was cursing my caffeine intake, but it was really just excitement over this book. And honestly, if it wasn’t for the ending, this would have been at least a round up if not a full 5 stars. The ending is the reason for rounding down. I’ll get to that later, I want to gush first.
I will admit to being a Broadway fan (we always go to at least one show each time we visit NYC), and while I don’t watch any of those reality dance shows (b/c I’d always rather be reading), I do love the world of dancing as well…probably b/c I have like no grace or coordination myself (although I did attempt ballroom dance lessons when I was in University). So this book really was almost tailor-made for me. But what makes it stand out is not just that these settings were present, but that the author does an amazing job of really making you believe it, and really giving you all the little bits to immerse you into both worlds.
The book is really split into two halves, and the first half is where we’re immersed into the world of dancing, and it just made my heart so happy. It was grueling and exhilarating all at the same time. I felt how hard Chelsea worked, what a toll it took on her body, and how it really showed a true appreciation for dancing as almost a sport. I was so concerned with how her relationship started with her dance partner, Dominic, and so was ridiculously pleasantly surprised with how that relationship developed. It could have gone in a cliche direction, and it didn’t. I LOVED that. And I adored Chelsea’s interactions with Hank. He was definitely another favourite secondary character. I really appreciated that her progression through the weeks was believable too. And I loved how we got to see Chelsea’s character really develop and become stronger in this first half. I was so proud of her when we got to the finale and all the work she put into it.
The second half was about her time in NYC with Tom, and really the development of her romantic relationship with him. This is where we got to dive into the world of Broadway, and what it’s like to be an actor trying to make it work on Broadway. It honestly opened my eyes to the challenges and rewards of such a career. And I felt the magic of his performance…I wanted it to be real! I wanted to see him perform and hear his beautiful voice! Damn you Ms. Stanton! Make it real!! I couldn’t hear him sing, but it didn’t matter…it felt like I could. I felt Chelsea’s emotions when he finally got Stay right. It helped me to imagine her dance as well…I felt like I could see it. It was very emotionally impactful.
Tom was RIDICULOUSLY swoon. Like, added to my top book boyfriends list swoon. Like, I had tummy tingles almost from their first interactions. And he was more of a beta boy, and you know how I love me a beautiful beta boy!! I loved that he was technically the celebrity, but he was really very down to earth, humble, and at times insecure. If you couldn’t tell, I ADORED him.
I LOVED their romance. The chemistry was off the charts, and they just made me giddy and happy. My highlight was definitely Tom’s teasing, and the way they would banter with each other. I can’t even describe to you how many times that boy made me laugh. I loved that we got to watch their romance go through all the stages, from crush to early relationship honeymoon phase to honest struggles and missteps. My heart hurt for the challenges that they faced, and I thought it was very realistic.
I had a bit more of a rollercoaster ride with Chelsea. I loved her, and my heart ached for everything she went through in her past, and how it shaped her into the woman she is today. I really believed it too. She was hard to read, b/c she was so insecure and damaged and afraid, and self-sabotaging at times. I think what made her character really hard to read is that in the first half we got to see her really develop and become stronger, and I was rooting for her all the way. But in the second half we saw her fall and fall hard. That’s hard to take.
And this is where my rounding down comes into play: I wasn’t satisfied with how the book ended with her character. She fell, and we really didn’t get to see her climb back up and become strong on her own again. I needed to believe that she was going to be OK, that she was getting stronger, and without Tom. I didn’t want her strength to be completely dependent on Tom. It wasn’t enough to ruin the book, it just bummed me out a bit.
And honestly? The ending was extremely abrupt. Like turn the page and do a double take when it’s the note from the author and not an epilogue. I’m always a sucker for an epilogue, but I really felt that this book needed one.
So, as seems to be the case with me lately, there is my short novella of a review. While the ending wasn’t as satisfying as I wanted, it was really a small blip on what was an otherwise perfect book for me. I’m so happy right now, and don’t even want to read another book, I just want to bask.