Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin
Date of publication: February 14th, 2023
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Adult, Fiction, Chick Lit, Adult Fiction
Series: Dance Off
Take the Lead—Book 1
Dance with Me—Book 2
Dance All Night—Book 2.5
Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat
From Alexis Daria, author of the critically acclaimed, international bestseller You Had Me at Hola, comes a fun, sexy romance set against a reality dance show.
Gina Morales wants to make it big. In her four seasons on The Dance Off, she’s never even made it to the finals. But her latest partner, the sexy star of an Alaskan wilderness show, could be her chance. Who knew the strong, silent, survivalist-type had moves like that? She thinks Stone Nielson is her ticket to win it all—until her producer makes it clear they’re being set up for a showmance.
Joining a celebrity dance competition is the last thing Stone wants. However, he’ll endure anything to help his family, even as he fears revealing their secrets. While the fast pace of Los Angeles makes him long for the peace and privacy of home, he can’t hide his growing attraction for his dance partner. Neither wants to fake a romance for the cameras, but the explosive chemistry that flares between them is undeniable.
As Stone and Gina heat up the dance floor, the tabloids catch on to their developing romance. With the spotlight threatening to ruin everything, will they choose fame and fortune, or let love take the lead?
Gina Morales clutched the edge of her seat in a white-knuckled grip and gave her field producer a side-eye glare as he and the camera crew sorted through equipment.
Take the Lead by Alexis Daria
I do not watch a ton of reality TV. My one guilty pleasure is to watch OPLive on Reelz on Friday and Saturday nights, and that’s it. I stopped watching after seeing how rude the stars were (Real World Boston’s cast and crew would come into where I worked every week). I also stopped watching because, to be honest, it became mind-numbing. So, I surprised myself when I decided to accept the invite for Take the Lead. I figured reading about a fictional reality TV dance competition would be slightly better than watching it. And I was right.
Take the Lead is the first book in the Dance Off series. Since it is the first book, you don’t have to read previous books to figure out past characters and storylines. You can go in cold and enjoy it.
Take the Lead is a fast-paced book that mostly takes place in New York City. There are brief scenes in Alaska and Los Angeles, but most of the action takes place in NYC.
The plotline for Take the Lead was over the top. Stone, one of the stars of an Alaskan wilderness show, is chosen to dance on the celebrity dance show, The Dance Off. Gina is the dance pro who is paired with Stone for the show. Gina is desperate to win The Dance Off. In the four seasons she has been on, she hasn’t even come close, and the producer is threatening to cut her, even though she is popular. Gina believes that Stone, with his mountain man persona and ripped body, is the key to her winning. Stone also wants to win but for different reasons. From day one, the sparks are immediate between Gina and Stone, but Gina refuses to act on them. As they progress through the show, the pressure and chemistry between Gina and Stone grow. But Stone has a big secret that could ruin everything. What is Stone’s secret? Will Gina and Stone give in to their attraction? Or will everything explode and become reality TV fodder?
When I started reading Take the Lead, I didn’t know what to expect from the characters. I did expect them to be over the top and maybe dramatic. So, it was refreshing when the main characters didn’t act like that. The secondary characters gave the drama (mainly the figure skater and Stone’s family).
- Gina— I loved her from the first paragraph. She was sassy, and my mental image of her was akin to J-Lo. I loved how professional she was with Stone, and I loved seeing her stand up for herself (and her image) when meeting with her slimy producer. I also loved that she went all in when she decided to throw caution to the wind (her relationship with Stone). I also liked that while she thought she was being sly with seeing him, she wasn’t.
- Stone—Where do I start with him? I thought he was terrific to go to the lengths he did for his family. But I also felt awful. He was uncomfortable being on The Dance Off and his family’s show. I thought what his family and the producers (for their show) asked him to do was pretty awful. I also didn’t like how scripted his family was. His attraction to Gina was refreshing too. He didn’t care that they were on a reality show or that their romance would feed gossip mills; he wanted to be with her.
Take the Lead fit perfectly into the romance genre. It was a mix of forced proximity and opposites attract tropes, and they worked perfectly. While I didn’t like that the background was a reality TV show and everything was filmed, I thought the author did a great job of allowing the romance to mature. This wasn’t an Instalove situation but more of an Instalust that turned to love.
Gina and Stone had fantastic chemistry from day one. I liked that the author didn’t temper it and allowed it to be expressed differently (mainly through dancing). Plus, Gina and Stone genuinely liked each other, and that helped to make it more realistic. The sex, when they did have it, was hot and steamy. Every sex scene after that was comparable to the first one, which I rarely see in romance novels. Usually, the main characters have sex, it’s wonderful, and then it falls flat every other sex scene after that.
The storyline with Stone, his reasons for being on The Dance Off, his family, and everything else that goes with that had me low-key raging at points in the book. I was so angry on his and his siblings’ behalf. Stone went into each sibling’s different issues, and I wanted to cry. I also wanted to smack his parents for putting the kids through that. I wasn’t surprised (actually expected it) when the nasty figure skater let the secret spill. What I wasn’t expecting was how his family reacted—no wonder he didn’t talk much.
The storyline with Gina, Stone, the show, and their eventual relationship was well written. I loved seeing Gina and Stone progress from two people who wanted each other to being in a secret relationship to being in an actual one (sorry for the spoilers). Their relationship made reading about the show and the different types of dances easier to read. I was expecting more catty competition between the dance pros and was a little surprised (a happy surprise) when they all seemed to get along. Even the contestants were friendly (which we know never happens in real life) except for the blonde figure skater girl. She was nasty.
The end of Take the Lead was your typical HEA. I liked that it was Gina who realized what she was missing and it was Gina who went to Stone. And the epilogue!!! I loved that!!!
I would recommend Take the Lead to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and semi-graphic sexual situations.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin, NetGalley, and Alexis Daria for allowing me to read and review Take the Lead. All opinions stated in the review are mine.
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