It’s 1981. Twenty-four-year-old Julia Nash has recently arrived in Manhattan, where she works as a publisher’s assistant. She dreams of becoming an editor with her own stable of bestselling authors—but it is hard to get promoted in the recession-clobbered book biz. Julia blows off steam by going dancing downtown with her best friend, Vicky. One night, a hot British guitarist invites them into his VIP section. Despite an entourage of models and groupies, Jack chooses Julia as his girl for the evening—and when Jack Kipling picks you, you go with it. The trouble is … he’s never met a girl like her before. And she resists being just one in a long line.
Jack exposes her to new experiences, from exclusive nightclubs in SoHo to the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood; from mind-bending recording sessions to wild backstage parties. Yet Julia is afraid to fall for him. Past relationships have left her fragile; one more betrayal just might break her.
Come on sister, have yourself a ball.
Don't be afraid to come dancing,
It's only natural.
- The Kinks
COME DANCING is a nostalgic visit to 1981 when the denizens of the Big Apple simply go dancing even as disco faded away. For Julia Nash, dancing with the girls is a weekend escape from her underpaid and overwhelming job as a publisher's assistant. As she absorbs the music, Julia attracts the attention of rock star Jack Kipling. At first she keeps him at bay but finally gives into her lust. She is a fan of his music after all. Clearly Julia and Jack have something special, along with a mutual appreciation of blues. But the music industry was caught up in destructive behavior in the early 80s - sex, drugs, and rock and roll - challenging the magic between them.
COME DANCING is pure escapism to follow Julia through a once-in-a-lifetime chance to live that jet set lifestyle while trying to balance her independence. This book grabbed me from page one and kept my attention to the end. True to the 80s, COME DANCING is stocked with sex scenes - Julia and Jack are twenty something singles after all (and abstinence was not yet a buzzword in the wake of AIDS). In fact, Julia takes advantage of her new found confidence to explore her sensuality with Jack, who is happy to oblige. But the sex scenes are not any steamier than other contemporary romance I have read (and certainly do not approach erotic romance). Likewise, COME DANCING includes casual references to Jack's indulgences in alcohol and drugs - most rock stars did from that era. As Jack falls in love in Julie, he comes to rely less on vices and more on his heart in building a relationship with his bookworm.
COME DANCING offers a predictable plot with likable characters. Wells throws in a dash of social issues (divorce and dyslexia) to add depth to the storyline. The author added nuances that made me smile - Julia triumphs at work ala Melanie Griffith's fast talking elevator scene in WORKING GIRL (let's see how many of your remember that!) I also appreciate the subtle hints of things to come. Julia covers her typewriter before leaving the office and lugging home 400 page manuscripts - contraptions that will give way to the laptop and digital format. Jack comments that he met someone who was building a portable phone and bemoans that he doesn't want to be contacted 24/7. Julia meets a doctor at a party who attended patients with a "wasting disease" that would soon be identified as AIDS. Jack is scheduled for an interview on a fledgling cable show called MTV.
Wells includes a heartfelt acknowledgement in the novel to why she wrote a book about the 1980s. She herself arrived on the scene in NYC in 1979 for graduate school then book publishing, starting in the same low paying overwhelming position as publisher's assistant. COME DANCING includes a few jabs at the industry with a groping boss, literary snob, and an author diva.
COME DANCING is just as the Kinks sang, "come have a ball." It will appeal to readers who remember the 80s (as I rocked to Van Halen and danced to Madonna). COME DANCING will also entertain fans of New Adult ... with a throw back twist!
I received a print copy from the author for an honest review.
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Aloha Spirit in Charm City