Dance With Me
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Pages: 89
Goes well with: a glass of sweet tea, a turkey sandwich, and some chocolate candies for dessert.

When you’ve read as many romance novels as I have, it’s very easy to get jaded. I found myself seeking out more and more “hard core” books because the good old romantic ones just weren’t cutting it for me anymore. But then I stumbled across Dance with Me by Mary Manners. This novella is a breath of fresh air in an environment left stuffy with handcuffs and red rooms of pain. Reading it felt like returning to an age of innocence long since past.

Kaci James moved to the neighborhood of Heart’s Haven about a year after her engagement ended. It didn’t just end--it imploded, culminating with poor Kaci being left at the altar. She works as an English teacher at the local high school and moonlights as a romance advice columnist in the local paper--though nobody knows the identity of the author of “Love’s Lessons.” Her neighbor, Ryne Calvert, is a police officer haunted by the death of a suspect. He blames himself for the troubled teen’s death during an apprehension gone wrong. He desperately wants to be with Kaci but she keeps pushing him away, so he winds up writing to “Love’s Lessons” looking for a little help. Will it work? And more importantly, can Kaci learn to take some of her own advice?

This really is a sweet story, if a bit simplistic. I found the dialogue didn’t really ring true--the characters all seemed to speak in similes and old-fashioned aphorisms. But it was refreshing to read a romantic story that revolved not around sex but rather love, and one that oozed pure hearts and flowers in an unabashedly corny way. Dance with Me can also be classified as an “inspirational” story, as the characters are all vocally Christian. I felt that the Christian overtones could have been expressed a bit more subtly, but all in all it added a touch of innocence to the whole story. I also didn’t particularly like the novella’s title; while dancing does make an appearance, I think the author should have chosen something that played a larger role to highlight in the title.

All in all I’d definitely recommend this novella to anyone looking for a gentle, simple love story to read this Valentine’s Day. It actually reminded me of the types of short stories I’d write as a teenager, tapping away at my Brother word processor on a Saturday afternoon: easily unfolding stories of unrequited love between friends that just need a little nudge in the right direction. Reading Dance with Me felt like coming home, which was exactly what I needed right about now.

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