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Dance Away with Me


Dance Away with Me

DANCE AWAY WITH ME is not one of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ light, humor-filled romances featuring sassy women and sexy athletes. Her latest novel delves into issues about loss and grief, family values, teenage pregnancy, child abuse and what it takes to do the right thing.

Tess Hartsong has run away to a cabin in the aptly named Runaway Mountain to heal from her husband’s death two years ago. Tess and Travis were schoolmates before they were lovers, and now that he has died tragically young, she can’t seem to recover. She wallows in her grief and hopes that wildly dancing outside to loud music will help, imagining that only the neighboring animals will hear it.
Tess quickly learns that is not the case when her tall, handsome, unkempt neighbor, Ian North, comes storming across the rickety bridge next to her cabin screaming that he can’t work with all the racket. After him comes Bianca, a beautiful, pregnant woman who befriends Tess. Ian, who is actually a famous street artist, is overprotective of Bianca, who had been a top model in her teens.

"DANCE AWAY WITH ME is the ultimate beach read, although it just might make readers want to find their own secluded spot on a mountain in Tennessee and not on the sand."

At this point, readers who have looked at the book summary or even just the flap know that Tess and Ian are the romance in the story. It seems horrible that this pregnant lady married to Ian will somehow disappear to allow Tess to become the love interest. How can this possibly work?
Well, Phillips makes it work fascinatingly well. Something terrible happens when Tess is forced to deliver the baby intent on arriving into the world early, and, because of that tragedy, she can’t imagine ever going back to work as a nurse midwife. Instead, she takes a job at the local cafe where she is abused by the female relatives of the owner who also are employed there.

There are a plethora of characters and a number of “causes” that Tess champions. She insists on offering birth control openly to teenagers at the cafe against the wishes of the owner. She wants to help the survivalist family whose mother is suffering from depression, but they don’t believe in doctors or standard medicine. She also seems to take on the marital problems of others, all the while still grieving for her husband and developing an attraction to Ian.
Ian has his own problems. He hasn’t painted in a while and seems to be at an impasse. We learn why he just can’t seem to create anything that pleases him or meets his artistic standards. He believes that being in a relationship makes it impossible for him to do his job and that he’s at his most creative when he’s alone and angry about life. That doesn’t appear very promising for a character in a romance novel, except that readers of the genre know that the stormy, brooding types can often be the most passionate --- on paper at least.
Perhaps because of the unusual backstory --- Tess being a fairly recent widow and Ian living with Bianca --- there isn’t a lot of deep insight into the relationship that ultimately comes to fruition. While at first we learn about Travis’ wonderful qualities and how much Tess loved him, only after she and Ian begin to become involved romantically do we learn about Travis’ less-than-stellar attributes. Phillips might have done that intentionally to make it appear easier for Tess to get over Travis’ death as she remembers all the negative aspects of their marriage. But it feels a bit insensitive; rather than denigrate his memory, we would like to see Tess just move on.
That’s a minor complaint in a book that reads quickly and is thoroughly enjoyable. DANCE AWAY WITH ME is the ultimate beach read, although it just might make readers want to find their own secluded spot on a mountain in Tennessee and not on the sand. As with all romances, especially Phillips’ stories, the ending is fairy-tale perfect. We assume that they all will live happily ever after.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on June 12, 2020

Dance Away with Me
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

  • Publication Date: January 26, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Avon
  • ISBN-10: 006297307X
  • ISBN-13: 9780062973078