Hello, Readers! It is my privilege to tell you about A.M. Heath’s latest book, Dance with Me, and to take part in the blog tour celebrating this books release! There is quite a bit going on in this post: first there will be some basic info about the book and author, then my review, and finally a giveaway hosted by the author!
About the Book
First things first, here are the basics you need to know about this fabulous book:
Title: Dance With Me (Art of Love series #1)
Author: A.M. Heath
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction (1950s). Also contains Romance elements.
Released: April 8, 2019
Blurb: Will a new partnership tear their worlds apart … or will it be the piece they never knew was missing?
In 1959, Arleen Thatcher and Neil Fox are fierce competitors on the dance floor, so they’re the least likely pair to enter a televised competition together. But when rivaling studio owners decide to team up, the two find a partnership they never thought possible.
Arleen’s reputation around town is reason enough for Neil to keep his distance from his new partner. But as Neil gets to know Arleen, he discovers a side of her few others have seen, one of dark family secrets and carefully-constructed facades. God’s plan for their partnership may involve more than a single dance; it may be the key to the healing Arleen so desperately needs.
The Art of Love series is compiled of stand-alone novels where the characters tell their own stories and love means so much more than passion.
Content Warnings: Brief depictions of domestic abuse (physical and emotional), implications of alcoholism, and infidelity. None of this is gratuitous or took away from my appreciation of the story.
Link to Buy: Amazon
About the Author
Besides being an Indie Author, A.M. Heath is a wife, mother of four, children’s Sunday School teacher, sweet tea drinker, history fanatic, romantic, bubbly, lover of broccoli, and cake decorator who has a soft spot for Christmas trees, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. What she is not is a laundress (or at least not one who keeps up very well), a duster, tall, or patient in a doctor’s office.
I did not expect to love this book as much as I do. As in, this review is not just a casual endorsement of a book that is clean and tells a good story, but rather I loved this book!
Interestingly, the book starts in the present day, with Neil and Arleen recounting their story for a reporter. The story quickly jumps back in time to 1959, when the two were competitors instead of partners. From there we watch their relationship develop and change as they are thrown into the unusual situation of dancing as partners even though they usually dance for rival studios.
I know nothing at all about the world of competitive dance, and very little about small town life in the 1950s and 60s. However, I immediately felt comfortable in the book’s atmosphere and enjoyed learning about the setting as the story progressed. If you’re a fan of diners, classic cars, and old-fashioned virtues, this is a story you will feel at home in!
However, everything is not trophies and jukeboxes all the time. Unbeknownst to anyone outside of the house, Arleen’s family is falling apart, and has been for years. Substance abuse and domestic violence are prevalent, and this plays a large role in Arleen’s personality and her need to win every competition she enters. Over the course of months preparing for the big televised competition she and Neil are entering, this dark reality will come crashing out with dramatic consequences.
The way Neil and Arleen’s friendship changes over time is depicted wonderfully. I love watching them interact, learn, and grow as individual characters and as friends. Although there are moments of frustration, they keep working. Both are loyal, although you wouldn’t know it by first glance at Arleen. Ultimately they support one another well.
Because this is Christian fiction, I also need to talk about the faith elements. Neil’s faith, along with that of the rest of his family, is strong from the beginning. Arleen develops an appreciation for and eventual belief in God as a result of getting to know Neil and his family. This is a good example of how powerful personal testimony can be, even if you don’t think your story is particularly dramatic. By simply caring for and respecting Arleen, the Fox family gains her respect and her ear, which she then inclines toward God at their urging. Arleen’s attitude and lifestyle change immediately following her acceptance of the Gospel, but life is still not completely easy.
On a related note, I appreciate the way Heath deals with domestic violence. Arleen’s father is, to say the least, awful. In the end, his character is not redeemed or explained away. There is no easy answer except that he is no longer in her or her mother’s lives. Arleen and her mother have lives that blossom as the book draws to a close, but her father remains stagnant. This is the reality of evil.
All in all, Dance with Me is a wonderful book. I read it fairly quickly and couldn’t put it down; I constantly wanted to know what would happen next with each of the characters! Speaking of the characters, they are well developed, evoking the intended emotional response deeply and easily. The setting, also, is enjoyable, and the background of the dance competition is unique enough to set the story apart without being unreasonable. Themes of friendship, faith, and loyalty are woven into a slowly building romance and (mostly) fun story that does not cover up unpleasant situations or gloss over sin. Neil and Arleen are dependable narrators and great characters. I highly recommend Dance with Me to fans of Christian fiction, clean romance, historical dance competitions, and happy endings.
A.M. Heath has the full tour schedule and a lot of bonus content over on her site, including some fun videos explaining the types of dances mentioned in the book! You can find the landing page for all things related to the Dance with Me blog tour here, and the post with bonus videos here!
It’s finally time to talk about the giveaway! The author is giving away a paperback copy of Dance with Me and a CD.
Best of luck to all who enter!
You’ve made it to the end of this post! I love doing blog tours, but there is a lot to fit in a single post sometimes! I do have one last thing to mention before I sign off, though. Overlapping with this blog tour, A.M. Heath is having a sale going on for some of her previous books and one is available for free on Amazon! I can’t wait to read more by this author, and these may be the perfect place to start!
Thanks for joining me on this tour, and keep an eye on Dance with Me. I loved this book so much, and I know a lot of others will, too.
Until the next chapter,
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ecopy of this book from the author. I happily and freely provide this review; all opinions expressed are my own and true.