Wednesday, March 8, 2017

[ARC Review]: "Danced Close"

romance novel covers, contemporary romance, m/m romance, Danced Close by Annabeth Albert, Royal Pick
Danced Close by Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Lyrical Shine (March 14, 2017)
Series: Portland Heat, 6
Genre: M/M Romance -- Contemporary

Portland, Oregon, is one of the hottest cities in America. Just ask all the hard-working men sweating it up behind the counters of the restaurants, boutiques, and caf├ęs all over town ... 

Newly clean and sober, Todd's taken a shine to his job at Portland's most talked about bakery. It's not just the delicious desserts they sell, but the tasty treats who keep walking through the door. That certainly includes Kendall Rose, a wedding planner with eyes the color of brown sugar and skin to match. Todd doesn't try to hide his attraction to Kendall's elegant confidence and unique style, even as he worries about exposing the secrets of his past. 

For Kendall, the attention is just part of the anything-goes Portland he's grown to love. But he's still looking for that special someone who will embrace all of him—including his gender fluidity. So he takes a chance and asks Todd to be his partner in a dance class leading to a fundraiser. When the music starts and he takes Todd in his arms, Kendall is shocked at how good it feels. Turns out taking the lead for once isn't a mistake. In fact, it might be time to take the next step and follow his heart ... 

Where to Buy*:
More Info:

Reviews of Albert's Previous Novels:

Status Update (#1) -- TBQ
Beta Test (#2) -- TBQ
Connection Error (#3) -- TBQ

Treble Maker (#1) -- TBQ

My Review:

When I read Wrapped Together around the holidays, a tidbit of Danced Close was included in the back. Even from that little glimpse, I knew I was going to love it. Spoiler alert: past me was right. Of course, I've yet to read a book from Albert that has left me disappointed; sure, I have some I love more than others, but overall her writing and stories are all solid and I can't recommend her enough. While Knit Tight remains my favorite in this series, Danced Close hits a close second (....tying with Wrapped Together -- I can't pick one over the other, they're both so good!).

"I'm an acquired taste. Lots of people think people like me given gays a bad name."

"What?" I blinked. "By being too pretty and confident? That's BS. Fuck the haters."

One thing I love about Albert is the amount of diversity in her stories -- in all ways. In this book, we have Kendall, a gay man who identifies as genderqueer and definitely embraces his fem side quite often -- including some makeup and heels, which he rocks with ease. Even better, he's not written like some caricature of a genderqueer individual, either, but comes across as a fully fleshed out character. Kendall is also an event planner -- weddings and so on -- and really enjoys his job. Unfortunately, he occasionally comes across a client who hires him thinking he IS only this gay "drag" (which he's not) character to entertain their party guests. He's quick to shut those clients down and, politely of course, ask them to find someone else. Kendall is quite confident in who he is and takes no shit about it.

On the other hand, we have Todd. Todd works in a bakery, mostly running the front, but slowly he starts working with Vic, the owner, on more of the decorating and such. Here, I'll let Kendall's description of Todd tell you all you need to know about him:

"Hot bearded tattooed hipster who looks fuckable in vintage? Sweetheart, I'm not sure where you've been, but there are whole Instagram and Tumblr accounts devoted to guys like you."

Um. Yes, yes please! Lucky Kendall. *grumbles*

Todd is also a recovering addict. There's a bit more to his story, but I don't wish to spoil anything, so I'll keep my lips zipped on that.

These two first meet (in this book, at least) at the bakery. Kendall often uses it for many of his events, and he's there with two brides picking out their wedding cake. While there, Todd discreetly asks him about his preferred pronouns, not wishing to mess up. It's a bit awkward (as Todd is a bit shy about it) but very thoughtful and cute -- and definitely earns Todd a few points from Kendall, who is used to having people make assumptions about him.

The two have some minor flirting, but things don't really pick up between them until Kendall gets the news that he needs to find a new dance partner -- and he has his eyes on Todd to fill that position. Even better, Todd used to do dancing as a kid, and while he doesn't wish to do it anymore, he's more than happy to help Kendall out for this upcoming fundraiser, especially since it is supporting a shelter that means a lot to him (from having used it during his drug addicts days).

And wasn't that a heady sensation? This bearded baby lumberjack giving up control to me? I want more of that, yes please.

The two start attending the dance lessons in preparation, and I loved those scenes. For one thing, they slowly start to get to know one another, but also they find out that Kendall is the stronger lead while Todd works best as his follower. It was nice to see this stereotype -- of the fem guy being the follower and the masculine guy being the leader -- flipped. And that flip carries over quite a bit into the bedroom, too, with Kendall often taking the lead there as well. This works out very nicely for both men, of course, and there are even a few moments when Todd takes over the lead in bed, too. Their dynamic, in and out of the bedroom, works so well and I loved it.

These two are ridiculously sexy together; Albert does emotionally sexy very well, so this didn't surprise me. By that, I mean it's not just the intensity of the on page action, but how it's intertwined with their intimacy and the reader's connection to them. Fact is, I find some scenes hotter not because they're the most explicit but because I feel the connection between the couple and have connected to them while reading. I love the dialogue, and the fact that they both speak up about their needs during the sex scenes. That's always a plus in my book, and Albert often pulls it in, which I very much appreciate. I also love that their sexual journey is a bit of a slower exploration, rather than just a jump straight to penetration. This is also very common in Albert's writing and it's one more reason why I so enjoy her books. I love seeing couples find pleasure in various ways, not just the expected final step (intercourse). Regardless of how these two get each other off, the scenes all but scorch your Kindle --- though you'll never, ever hear me complain. Here's a little peek:

"Need . . . fuck . . . I need skin. Want to feel you."

"Oh yeah." Reaching down, I shoved my boxers off, and rolled so he could do the same. I kind of expected him to push me the rest of the way down and climb on top, so I was a bit startled when he tugged me back over him.

"Ahhh," he groaned when I settled myself back between his legs, our dicks lining up.

"Fuck." I rocked my hips, instinctively, and he brought his knees up around my hips.

"Kiss me," he demanded.

I claimed his mouth a bit roughly, desire making me clumsy. But it seemed like my lack of finesse only inflamed him, made him buck beneath me. His dick rutted against my stomach.

"Kendall," he panted. "God, Kendall, I'm close."

"Yeah, that's it, sweetheart. Go for it." My lips founds the spot behind his ear that made him moan.

"Never came like this before, but god, kissing you is so good."

"Come on." I rocked my hips harder against him, getting a hand on his hip to pull him closer against me. "That's right. You come for me."

"Kendall. Kendall. Kendall," he chanted as his whole body shook. "Kiss me. God, please kiss me."

My lips found his again, tongue fucking his mouth, which seemed to drive more moans from him.

Of course neither wants to speak up about wanting to try for more, wanting to try having an actual relationship rather than a friends-with-benefits kind of set up. And of course this leads to the miscommunication moment and resulting distance/break up, though it's resolved by (gasp!) taking a chance and actually talking things out. Oh, and great make up sex. Because of course.

We hadn't said a lot of words that needed saying, but I was more at peace than I'd been in weeks, and I snuggled into his embrace, let go of the last of my anger. And it wasn't because of the fuck, good as it had been. It was the look in his eyes, even now, half-asleep. He saw me, really saw me, and wasn't running.

Note: Told in alternating 1st POV (one chapter from Todd, one from Kendall)

Overall, a story with as much heart and sweet as fire and heat. It's a fairly quick read (about 160 pages) but doesn't feel at all rushed or incomplete. I loved these two, loved that Albert continues to give us quite a diverse range of M/M romances to enjoy. All of this is why she's been an auto-buy for me from the start. From what I understand this is the last in this particular series, but there's a new series starting this summer, also set in Oregon. I cannot wait to see what she has planned for us next!

4 1/2 STARS! 

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I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.

*Note: The quotes used belong to Annabeth Albert; TBQ's Book Palace does not claim them. Any mistakes or typos in the quotes are my own fault.

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If you haven't tried Albert yet, you really, really should. Check out the reviews linked above; she has quite a few different types of series and I recommend them all!

Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on March 30th for a chance to WIN an ecopy of your own!


Until Next Time,


  *TBQ's Book Palace is a member of both the Amazon and Barnes and Nobles affiliates program. By using the links provided to buy products from either website, I receive a very small percentage of the order. To read my full disclosure on the matter, please see this post!

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