Review: Come Dancing by Leslie Wells

come dancingReviewed by Janell

This book is set in New York City in 1981. If you’re old enough, it will ring of nostalgia, and if you’re young enough, you’ll be like, “Landlines? Manual typewriters? It’s all so quirky!”

Julia grew up in a  small town, but she made it to New York for grad school. After getting her Master’s, she decided to join the glamorous world of publishing. She works as an editorial assistant at a small publishing house and lives in SoHo, a neighborhood slowly converting from vacant warehouses to art galleries and sushi bars. She scavenges all of her furniture from the streets on garbage day, hangs her thrift-store clothes on nails because she doesn’t have a closet, and cuts her own hair in the style of Chrissie Hynde.

Julia and her friend Vicky go out dancing a lot, and one evening they’re summoned to the club’s VIP lounge to meet two members of the band Four on the Floor. Jack plays lead guitar and writes songs, and he wants Julia. She’s not ready for a one-night stand with a rock star, though, so she turns him down. But Vicky and Sammy, the keyboardist, hook up and manage to get Julia and Jack together again. Jack uses his British accent and shared love of the blues to woo Julia, and soon they’re getting tangled up in the sheets.

This book wins big points for setting. I could really feel New York before it got cleaned up and touristy: drug dens, bars with cockroaches, and punk rock style. Julia’s job was enlightening. She was constantly typing, and editing, and trying to get promoted so that she could finally have an expense account to woo agents. And the rock star scene was everything that it should have been — booze, marijuana, and cocaine everywhere; sheer, lacy, androgynous outfits; and tons of groupies.

I have to highlight a few differences between these rock stars and the more modern (fictional) rock stars. No tattoos! Or at least none were mentioned. It must not have been a thing, back then. I also noticed a surprising lack of dirty language. Jack was more into jokes and innuendo, or sounding like a blues song: “I’m desiccated, I’m pixilated, I’m frustrated, I’m about to bust open, I’m so full of what I got to give you. I’m gonna pass out if I don’t get me some soon. I’ma boil your cabbage when I get home, baby.”

Julia is the sole first-person narrator. I loved her dedication to her job and her realistic approach to life. She was poor and struggling, but she fought for what she wanted. Remarkably, she was never overwhelmed by the crazy rock star parties, and she had no moral judgment against Jack doing drugs. She adapted to the constant, energetic sex pretty easily, too. But she struggled with jealousy.

She dwelled on Jack’s past, assuming that it was full of women, but she never directly asked about it. She tried to play it cool and not act clingy, which led to Jack thinking she was cool and not clingy, which led to Julia assuming that she was a casual fling and that Jack was seeing other women at the same time. That bothered me. I feel like I’m being too hard on her, but she was brave enough in her professional life, I wanted her to be brave in her romantic life and tell Jack that she wanted a committed relationship. Instead, she seemed to be waiting for him to get tired of her and move on to someone less bookish. Don’t make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, Julia!

So this story was fun, and filled to the brim with episodes of glamour, excess, and sex. It was also very low angst. Jack and Julia didn’t have many emotional conversations, and they resolved a lot of their arguments with sex. But I could see their relationship growing, and Jack adjusting to the idea that he wanted one woman and that he had to work to keep her. Julia irritated me with her passivity, but she also didn’t cling to drama, which I appreciated. It moved quickly, and left me smiling.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon

Come Dancing
by Leslie Wells
Release Date: June 8, 2014
Publisher: Allium Press

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