Title: A Dance of Love and Jealousy
Author: Roland Graeme
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Amazon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: Novel (350 PDF pages)
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Sirius
Summary: This passionate story about ballet dancers captured me from the beginning and never let go.
Nate Deventer is about to go from standing in the wings to dancing into his future. He’s earned his way from a major ballet company’s corps boy to a soloist, gained a mentor in one of the principals, clashed with handsome star Dane Stockton—who has a girlfriend in the company despite his wandering ways—and met his idol: famed dancer and new resident choreographer, Romuald Ghent. Romuald’s first major project for the company is a new ballet, and Nate is cast as the understudy of one of the leads. It’s an exciting opportunity, one that brings him closer to Romuald and fosters a burgeoning mutual attraction. But between them is Romuald’s on-again, off-again relationship with guest star Henri Keller, and the success of the ballet may depend on how well Nate can dance between his professional and personal lives.
The biggest challenge I had to overcome before I sat down to write this review was convincing myself that I would be able to clearly describe why I loved this book so much.
Nate Deventer is a young, ambitious, very talented dancer in NY City-based ballet company. We meet him when he jokes with another dancer Larry Duvenaux about Dane Stockton, whose sexual escapades apparently are one of the favorite conversation topics amongst the dancers.
The love story begins with the admiration Nate feels for famous dancer and choreographer Romuald Ghent. When 39-year-old Romuald starts his work as resident choreographer with the company, 23-year-old Nate gets a chance to know him better, to be a part of the ballet Ghent is working on and, though not without some obstacles on its way, mutual admiration eventually turns into love.
I think that you may have to like the ballet in order to enjoy this book because there is so much of it in the story, although this is not a requirement by all means. In any event, you certainly do not have to know a lot about it to read it.
This book is about Nate’s journey towards professional and personal happiness, but it does not just concentrate on Nate; we get to know the other ballet dancers, his friends and colleagues as well. We are thrown right into the dancers’ everyday lives and slowly get to know characters more and more. We see their hard work during the rehearsals and performances, and it felt to me as if the author showed me a very well-researched (or known from the personal experience?) look from behind the scenes. The reader can feel the passion those men and women feel when they dance, and I felt as I if I was observing the action “live” instead of just reading about it. The writing just sweeps you along if that makes sense.
Several of Nate’s friends, especially Larry and Dane, are portrayed with a lot of depth as well. As it turns out, Larry and Dane are Nate’s best friends and, being few years older than him, they took him under his wing when Nate, son of two college professors, became a member of the company. Both Larry and Dane are among the principal dancers of the company and are talented performers, albeit with the very different styles. Larry is happily married to one of the company’s ballerinas and Dane is in a relationship as well.
Dane is, should we say, sexually starved? I have to admit, I found his relationship with another prima ballerina of the company Kitri to be a little strange, however by the end of the story my only thought was “Oh well, I guess it works for them.” Dane flirts with everybody — literally with everybody — in the company, sleeps with many, many men and goes home to Kitri and tells her all about it. Apparently Kitri still thinks he is such a wonderful lover that she wants to be with him.
The guy for all his crudeness is a sweetheart though, and yes, I was completely sold on him by the end of the story. He loves his friends (even when he wants to get them into bed), never trash talks about his flings and wants Kitri to marry him. Yes, I know it may be difficult for some readers to give him a chance, but I was glad I did.
Oh, there is one sex scene between him and Kitri, so if you do not want to read m/f sex on page, be prepared to skip it. It is pretty early in the book.
I like how this writer slips in a suggestion of why Dane may behave this way. Early in the days, when Dane was trying to get into Nate’s pants, he took Nate out to eat and was trying to get Nate into his bed, which Nate turns down flat again and again. We hear Dane asking Nate whether Nate likes him at least a little, and Nate is reminded that for all his fame, Dane is just few years older than him and maybe behaves as a kid who wants to be popular the only way he knows how. It is never repeated though and the reader is left to draw his own suggestions as to why Dane is the way he is.
There is also a lot of humor in this book. Like here is an example of some of Larry and Dane’s antics:
It was typical of Larry that he was amused by Dane’s stardom rather than envious of it. When a dance magazine featured Dane on its cover and the interview with him inside began with the words “Gay icon Dane Stockton…” a gleeful Larry took immediate action. He had two sweatshirts silk-screened with custom lettering on their chests. The shirt he gave Dane had GAY ICON emblazoned on it in a large block letters. The one Larry kept to wear himself also said GAY ICON, but the words In Training were printed underneath in smaller letters. Both men often wore these garments in rehearsals. Dane, of course, didn’t hesitate to wear his on the street.
“It’s a great conversation piece” he explained.
“Yeah,” Larry laughed “The kind of conversation that ends in a pick up”
Most dancers of the company (and it is shown as typical, though I have no idea if it is true or not of course) show pretty casual attitudes towards sex. The male gay dancers pretty routinely have sex with each other if only for relaxation and fun and not only with each other. Nate, while shown as less promiscuous than many, is surely not a blushing virgin. He is shown to enjoy several flings and sometimes plays for fun with his roommate and colleague Beau.
Nate, however, is shown as disliking anonymous sex and wanting a serious relationship. In fact, he is shown to be an atypical member of the company in couple other ways. Since he is a son of college professors with no dancers in his family, his parents gave him the love for books while encouraging his interest in dance. The author tells us that many ballet dancers who leave home earlier than Nate did and constantly travel may not even finish high school and it is ironic that they are not as sophisticated as their profession may suggest. Again, I do not know if this claim is factually correct or fictional, but it strikes me as having some basis in reality. I am thinking about child movie stars who start their journey in fandom early, and if they are not properly educated on the set, or home schooled, how they would get their education?
Being a “bookish athlete” is one reason why Nate connects so well with Romuald Ghent, when he starts working in the company as resident choreographer. Romuald is a world famous dancer, he has off and on relationship with another dancer Henry Keller, and this relationship is not doing well when Romuald arrives in New York.
Romuald starts to work on the piece which is supposed to be played at the Gala at the end of the year. The piece is based on Virgil’s Eclogues and among its many storylines there is wonderful gay love story. I thought that the dancers rehearsing and performing this ballet was the hottest scene I have read in ages, probably hotter than any love scene in this book and I thought those were pretty good.
As the tidal wave of aggreggios began to surge up in the orchestra, Dane and Nate began their series of lifts. They were grapping like wrestlers. Each time he had to he had to push himself up and entrust himself to Dane’s arms, Nate pressed his feet down flat on the stage floor and flexed his knees and leg muscles until they screamed in agony. But it was worth the discomfort; he levitated himself into the fierce clasp of Dane’s arms, which held him high in seeming defiance of gravity, before Nate reached down, supported himself on his partner’s shoulders, and slid down Dane’s body, chest to chest, their mingled sweat eliminating any hint of friction. They repeated these moves again and again, increasing the intensity each time, as the music swelled like a tsunami of sound.
I thought A Dance of Love and Jealousy was very a passionate book, with the passion for love and the passion for dance mixed so beautifully together. Nate is a very sympathetic protagonist and I wanted him to succeed in love and in his profession. I liked Romuald too, although I confess, based on his dealings with his former lover, that I am a little worried that in the years ahead, Nate will end up being broken by hard everyday work, and whether Romuald will stand up by him.