Thursday, October 13, 2016

Enjoy the Dance by Heidi Cullinan Blog Tour

Dance with your heart, and love will follow.

Kindergarten teacher Spenser Harris has carved a quiet, stable future out of his tumultuous past, but his world turns upside down the night a homeless teen appears on his doorstep—a boy whose story mirrors the one Spenser has worked so hard to overcome. The decision to shelter Duon is easy. What’s tricky is juggling the network of caregivers in Duon’s life, especially Tomás Jimenez.

Tomás wouldn’t have hesitated to take Duon in, but his plate is already full working three jobs to support his family. Though Spenser’s carefully constructed walls are clearly designed to keep the world at bay, Tomás pushes past Spenser’s defenses, determined to ensure the man is worthy of his charge. As the two of them grow closer, Tomás dares to dream of a life beyond his responsibilities, and Spenser begins to believe he might finally find a home of his own after all.

But Spenser and Tomás’s world is poised to crash around their ears. Duon’s grandmother isn’t sure she wants him to be raised by a gay man and challenges Spenser’s custody. Tomás’s undocumented parents could be deported at any time, and all the while the state of Minnesota votes on a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and the US Supreme Court debates whether or not Spenser and Tomás get a happily ever after. All they can do is hold tight to their love, hope for a better future…and remind each other to enjoy the dance.

Add to Goodreads

Book 2
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
ARe  ~  B&N  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo  ~  Smashwords

Fast Facts – Foster Care in the US Part One

In Enjoy the Dance, the two main characters develop a relationship while taking care of a youth in crisis, and one of the possibilities for that youth is that he be placed in foster care. A lot of people know foster care exists, but beyond that things get hazy. You learn a little about foster care in the novel, but I wanted to give additional detail and some sources where you could find out even more. Part one of this series is here, and you can find part two at Books for Fun.

  • There are approximately 415,000 children in foster care in the US. In 2014, over 650,000 children spent time in foster care.
  • Not all children in foster care are waiting for adoption. The goal of foster care is, as often as possible, family reunification.
  • On average, children remain in state care for nearly two years and seven percent of children in foster care remain there for five or more years.
  • The average age of kids in care is 9.
  • In 2014, more than half of children entering the US foster care system were young people of color.
  • 14% of foster care children live in group homes, not family settings.
  • In 2014 more than 60,000 children were waiting for adoption.
  • In 2014 more than 22,000 young people aged out of foster care without permanent families, meaning they will be statistically more likely than the general population to experience homelessness, be unemployed, or incarcerated as adults.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is another wonderful story from Heidi Cullinan. Gentler than some of her books and definitely less raunchy than most, this is a very tender, sweet romance.

A former foster kid inadvertently turned foster carer, Spenser is an inspiring kindergarten teacher and a wonderfully gentle man. Tomás, his neighbour across the hall, is a worthy partner. He works three jobs to support his parents and his sister’s children, leaving very little time for himself.

I’m a foster carer myself and I read this book during an especially difficult week. Spenser’s experiences as a carer were familiar and completely believable. Spenser’s desperate early research, his fear of doing the wrong thing, and his delicate joy when fostering fledgling attachments were beautifully and realistically written. Duon might be a little too good to be true, but this story captures a carer’s fears and joys very honestly.

Even though there is very little sex in this story, the chemistry between Tomás and Spenser is fantastic. I loved the cautious, slow burn relationship and I loved the quiet, tender romance between these two.

The supporting characters in this book are brilliantly crafted – I loved Tomás’ family and I loved the families the two men created for themselves.

A tiny part of me wonders if this book needed to have such a clear political agenda. I share Heidi Cullinan’s political beliefs and I donate to and campaign for many of the same causes, but at times this book became more political commentary than love story. Reading this as a Canadian living in Europe, it was hard for me to believe how current the American fight for LGBT equality is. In that sense, this story is an important reminder to all of us to value our hard won freedoms.

Avid Reader☆☆☆☆
M/M Romance
Triggers: DHS system (foster care)

This was a fairly feel good story. There was a lot going on, but I think that it all fit well within the story.

Spenser is kind of existing – he's not really living. While he's technically not out at work, he is out in life. What that really means is that he goes to work, loves what he does and is not willing to let the school he works for bully him in to being someone he isn't. However, I think that's exactly what he's doing. He's allowing the school's "rules" mandate how he acts at school.

With the political climate at an all-time high for the LGBT community, Spenser needs to pick his battles. When a scared kiddo comes and plops on his doorstep, Spenser can't help but want to help. Duon is a kiddo who is scared, angry, and is looking to his friend, Tomás, to help him in his desperate time. Who he finds is Spenser.

I really liked how Spenser was able to comfort Duon while he was in his state of crisis. You got to see a part of him that he hid from everyone else. You learn that Spenser's past is similar to Duon’s and that Spenser feels a sense of loyalty to him.

Tomás is working his tail off to support his family. He has a passion, but because of his family's situation, he has to take on far more than he should, and, in the process, put his dreams on hold. But, he has found a way to work in his passion too and with the help of friends, friends who own the studio where Tomás works, Tomás can help kids find their passion. Duon is one of those kids, and he and Tomás find a connection through dance that allows them to speak a language all their own.

The relationship that develops between Spenser and Tomás gives each character the boost in their self-esteem. Despite the fact that neither was really looking for a relationship – they found one in each other. Whether they are willing to work with their budding relationship – circumstances make it so that they learn to lean on each other, work together, and love Duon together.

Within this story, you get to see two family structures – they are different and yet, they both contain so much love that melding them is easy. The families want to support each other and grow, and while it might not be the traditional family structure, it works for them.

I like the resolution for Spenser – there was a lot up in the air for his life and he was able to resolve his feelings and family situation. Then Tomás' family was resolved in a great way too. I like how it wasn't all the sister's fault – that would have been too easy.

Overall, this was a sweet story.

I was late to the Heidi Cullinan party, so the first time I read Dance with Me, it was the revised edition almost a year ago to the day. Having fallen in love with Laurie and Ed, hoping that they would make an appearance in Enjoy the Dance, and because I enjoy Cullinan’s writing immensely, I jumped at the chance to read this book. Now that I’ve finished it, my only complaint is that it’s over. Just as book one left me wanting more Ed and Laurie, book two has left me wanting more Spenser, Tomás, and Duon. Yes, the family that Spenser manages to create for himself, first with Duon, then later with Tomás and Tomás’s family, is a beautiful one that I wasn’t ready to leave.

The beginning of Enjoy the Dance sucked me in immediately. At first, I didn’t realize who Duon was until I looked him up in book one. Truth be told, it didn’t matter that I’d already met him because it was Spenser’s immediate reaction to Duon’s presence, his willingness to help out someone he didn’t know, that hooked me and made my heart swell for both Spenser and Duon – and that was before I even learned why Spenser was driven to help Duon. Once Spenser offers Duon a place for the night with the intention of providing him a home long-term should Duon feel comfortable with it, explaining to Duon exactly why he’s willing to do this for someone he doesn’t know, I was gone for Spenser and I knew Tomás didn’t have a chance in Hades of resisting him. And I was right; however, I underestimated just how thin Tomás was stretched in his efforts to keep his parents in America, his nieces and nephews safe, and a roof over all their heads. Although not in the same way that it was for Ed and Laurie, dance helped bring Spenser and Tomás together. Watching Spenser strive to give Duon a safe place to call home and continued dance lessons was great, and it was made even better when Spenser was willing to sacrifice a bit of his own pride and face his own fears by agreeing to dance as well.

Novels like this are why I love reading romance. Cullinan is able to craft a tale that contains many obstacles along the way, including some that seem insurmountable, and in the end, she is able to pen a resolution that is perfect for the characters involved. In this case, it wasn’t just Spenser and Tomás who got a happy ending, but Duon, Tomás’s family, and those close to them. I loved the final chapter, how it showed how big Spenser’s family had grown, how large of a network of friends he now had, how bridges were being mended even as discriminatory laws went down in flames. The backyard celebration was a perfect way to end Enjoy the Dance – with everyone dancing with joy and love. It is my understanding that the author has another book planned to give Duon his chance to find love and I, for one, cannot wait to revisit this group of friends and witness Duon’s dance.

This is the second in the series, and if you have not yet read Dance with Me, then you really should, it was beautiful. Some of the characters feature here, and we get to see how Ed and Laurie are now.

Spenser is a good man, one who has been done many wrongs, and who would do anything to prevent that repeating itself if he can. He is also struggling with the political issues at work. When Duon is the potential beneficiary of his permanent care and attention, he gets to spend more time with Tomás. As they juggle a myriad of problems, mostly relating to Tomás's family, and the politics surrounding gay marriage in Minnesota, they also find each other. Dancing remains an escape and a medium of expression, but in a different way than for Ed and Laurie.

This is a really heartwarming romance, with two men who are fighting for family, for rights, and ultimately, for each other.

Also Available in the Dancing Series

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
ARe  ~  B&N  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo  ~  Smashwords

For reviews & more info, check out our Dance With Me post.

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi on her website.

Connect with Heidi

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Enjoy the Dance (Dancing #2) by Heidi Cullinan to read and review for this tour.

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