This is one of those books that has received a lot of advanced praise - Sarah MacLean called it one of the best romance novels of 2017 - and yet, there's hardly any reviews for it on Goodreads. What the heck, my readers? What the heck?
WHY HAVE NONE OF MY FRIENDS READ THIS YET??
TAKE THE LEAD is a good book for many reasons. It's set on a Dancing with the Stars-type reality TV show. Gina is a Puerto Rican dancer who has dreamed of and prepared for "making it" her whole life. When she's paired with the wilderness survivalist star from another reality TV show, she's skeptical - until she meets Stone, and finds that beneath that strong and silent lumbersexual exterior is a good-hearted man who is determined to see this dance competition to the bitter end.
I'm a sucker for "showmance" storylines. I think it's the modern-day equivalent of the arranged marriage plots in fantasy and historical romance, which I also love. I think it hearkens to an earlier view of love, based on shared experiences and friendship, where sex comes later. TAKE THE LEAD is definitely romance of a slow-burn variety, even though both characters have instant attraction for one another. Gina doesn't want to get involved, though, and even though that's what they all say, her reasons are totally reasonable and serve as commentary on the sexist lens through which female celebrities are viewed, as well as the stereotypes of Latin American women in media.
But there was something I liked even better than the romance and the Latinx rep - and that was the freaking reality TV setting. It felt very realistic. I loved seeing the characters in the goldfish bowl, and how they dealt with that stress. I loved the descriptions of the dance costumes and the dances. I actually set the book aside - well, OK, I closed my eReader application - and went to YouTube to look up the paso doble dance after it was described in this book and holy so-you-think-you-can-dance, Batman! I don't have a graceful bone in my body, but after finishing this book I had half a mind to sign up for dance lessons at one of the local studios.
So you're probably asking yourself, "If it's so great, why only four stars, Nenia?" There's a Big Misunderstanding plot that creates some additional drama in the last act. It wasn't badly done, but I felt like it was unnecessary and made Gina look like an irrational person. And while I get that we're all irrational people who sometimes behave like jerks, it was still annoying. Also, the beginning was a bit slow, and it took me a while to warm up to the characters, and fall in love with them. (Although I did - by the end of the novel, I was totally ready to smoosh their faces and be all, NOW KISS!)
TAKE THE LEAD is one of the few romances of this year that actually lived up to the hype. It has great characters, awesome chemistry, a creative and fun setting, and an awesome cover. I'm super psyched for the sequel, which stars Gina's biffle, Natasha. Just sent that shiz to me by priority mail, ASAP. Kthxbai. But seriously, if you're a fan of authors like Alyssa Cole and Courtney Milan, you will love this book!
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
4 out of 5 stars