Monday, April 8, 2019

GIVEAWAY, Review, and Interview Monday: Dance With Me by A.M. Heath (#1)



Today is release day for A.M. Heath's newest release!  I'm the first stop on the blog tour along with Debbie and Loretta (see the full tour schedule here).  Below, you'll find my review, author interview, and giveaway!  Other books I've reviewed by A.M. Heath include:


Throughout the duration of the tour, A.M. Heath's original series, the Ancient Words Series (see my reviews linked above), will be discounted!  You'll even be able to get the first book for free on Amazon!

Without further ado, let's get into the latest release!


43709090

Art of Love #1

Blurb:
"Will a new partnership tear their worlds apart … or will it be the piece they never knew was missing?

In 1959, Arleen Thatcher and Neil Fox are fierce competitors on the dance floor, so they’re the least likely pair to enter a televised competition together. But when rivaling studio owners decide to team up, the two will find a partnership they never thought possible.
Arleen’s reputation around town is reason enough for Neil to keep his distance from his new partner. But as Neil gets to know Arleen, he discovers a side of her few others have seen, one of dark family secrets and carefully-constructed facades.
God’s plan for their partnership may involve more than a single dance; it may be the key to the healing Arleen so desperately needs.

The Art of Love series is compiled of stand-alone novels where the characters tell their own stories and love means so much more than passion."


Review:
I received a copy of Dance With Me from the author, A.M. Heath.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Trigger warning: alcoholism, abusive parents

"The truth was, I knew better than to look twice at Arleen Thatcher. That gal was trouble if there ever was trouble."

1.  The characters.  In this story, two main characters take the stage, so to speak: Arleen and Neil.  They're surrounded by a moderate amount of supporting cast characters (the two owners of their respective studios, Arleen's various paramours, Arleen's mother and father, and Neil's mother).  In terms of Arleen and Neil, I loved their scenes together and because the book is dual POV (from their perspectives), I got a really great sense of their personalities.  I do wish that the other supporting characters would have been given some more page-time and had been developed a bit more.  However, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Arleen's two selves (and the reasons for those) and her dancing as well as Neil's mindset about religion and his dedication to his art form.  Heath does an excellent job of developing these characters fully and examining their motivations.  In fact, because of the characters themselves, I think this book will end up making it's way into my regular rereading rotation.

2.  The plot.  I'm not going to talk too much about this because, at it's heart, this book is a solid romance.  There's some great supporting tension brought in with the competition that drives the characters really nicely in addition to a dangerous family situation (this is where the alcoholism and abusive parent trigger warnings come it).  The author also chose to do a frame story with this narrative and it works exceptionally well.  There's the main story of Arleen and Neil in their youth which is framed by the present in which they've retired from the spotlight and are being interviewed about their legendary partnership.  This, honestly, made the entire book for me as I absolutely love seeing how character's fare after the end of a book and these types of frame narratives bring in that opportunity seamlessly.

3.  The romance.  This is where all the meat is!  Arleen and Neil have this really great slow-burn romance in which they agree to stay simply dance partners but gradually recognize that maybe they were meant for something more.  I'm absolute trash for these types of stories and this one is no exception.  There are plenty of 'aw' moments that kept me deeply invested in their relationship.  The only qualm I have is in regards to the ending.  Generally speaking, I just wanted more.  Without venturing into spoiler-y territory, I'll just say this: Arleen's worries were solved by one conversation and while I don't have personal applicable experience here, I don't think trauma like that is overcome so quickly.  Still, I found the ending adorable in every other way.

4.  The writing.  I just want to touch on a few items in this section before wrapping up.  I was very impressed by the author's ability to construct a workable atmosphere in the amount of pages she did.  This book is on the short side (210 pages) and while that worked against the author in certain circumstances, she did such a good job succinctly telling this story.  The language is generally lavender (purple while still featherlight) but erring on the side of subtlety.  Secondly, I do wish the author would have trusted the reader a bit more.  I noticed at the ends of chapters, Heath has a tendency to explain the feelings of the characters directly when I had surmised those feelings from the way the character's spoke to each other and their body language.  This is small but when reading, can provoke a superfluous feeling.

"The things I normally hid well from my dance partners, Neil saw as if I'd invited him to do so."

The Final Verdict:
While additional page time would do wonders for the supporting characters and ending, the characters, plot, and romance, are lovely, completely lavender and engaging.
4 stars





Meet the Author

Besides being an Indie Author, I’m a wife, mother of four, children’s Sunday School teacher, sweet tea drinker, history fanatic, romantic, bubbly, lover of broccoli, and cake decorator who has a soft spot for Christmas trees, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. 
What I’m not is a laundress (or at least not one who keeps up very well), a duster, tall, or patient in a doctor’s office.

Connect:


Interview:

1.  A vast majority of the books you've written and published are historical fictions.  What's your favorite part of the genre that draws you to it?

As a reader and an author, I’ve seen first hand how historical fiction brings to life things that we once thought were dead. It’s common for me to hear from readers who say that they hated history class and didn’t expect to enjoy historical fiction, but they fell in love with it. The difference between history class and historical fiction is that in class, we normally hear the facts about history. The dates and details. But we miss the emotions. And after a while it’s easy to read about history and forget that the people experiencing it had any feelings at all.

And that’s the beauty of historical fiction. It brings the life and emotions back into the events. When you delve into the everyday life of a single person, and you get to know them and their hopes and dreams and emotions, it breathes new life into history. And without even trying, you learn a bit about the past at the same time.

My youngest memories of being wooed by history were being drawn in by their clothing. I was smitten as a young child by the medieval and Civil War era dresses. But as I’ve grown, I’ve become attached to any and all things historical.

2.  A large part of writing in historical fiction is the research.  Do you have a favorite time period to research?  Is there a time period you know a lot about already?
Oh wow! Honestly, I’m one of those junkies who love it all. I think my favorite era is whichever new era I’m delving into. It just happens that I’ve published multiple novels in the same era, kinda like in waves. I started with the Civil War, then wrote 3 in the 1950s, and I’m now writing multiple novels set in the 30s and 40s.
Because I’ve spent years in the Civil War and now the last year in the 1950s, I’ve come to learn a great deal about both. But I think the Civil War is probably my first love and the one I’m most familiar with.

3.  Your newest novel, Dance With Me, is the first in a series of books centered around art forms.  How did you decide upon dance for the first art?
When I created this novel, I had also created a novel about an actress. They were created almost at the same time, so I’m not even sure which one came first. But at the time, they were standalone stories. As I examined both plots, I saw how they were similar in theme and setting. So I decided to put them together in a series and used their art theme to connect them. Since most series has at least 3 books, I purposely set out to find another form of art and developed a third story, which features a painter.
At the time, these were plots that I was filing away and not expecting to write for a few years. Then the craziest thing happened. The characters from Dance With Me came to life as characters are known to do in their author’s head. Their story was front and center in my mind when I wasn’t expecting it. I decided to just run with it and write it on the side. Before I knew it, the first draft was complete. It wasn’t long after, I started writing the draft for Painted Memories.
Since this series is 100% standalone, it didn’t matter which one came first. And in this case, it was just a matter of being inspired by this particular story first.

4.  Do you have experience with dance?  If so, do you have a favorite dance or genre of dance?  If not, what was your research process like for Dance With Me?
I don’t have any ballroom experience. But I cheered for 9 years and there’s dance involved there. I don’t know that I have a favorite genre of dance. I simply love music and dance. I’m in awe at the creativity that goes into matching movement to the beat.
Because I’ve loved and watched dancing from my earliest memories, there was some background knowledge of dance. My years in cheerleading had taught me a lot about dance as an athlete. While watching movies or dance videos nourished my love for dance. And years of watching Dancing with the Stars had taught me some of the technical side of ballroom dancing. I had watched several seasons of DWTS before my convictions pulled me away from the show. But the Lord didn’t waste anything. Those years laid a foundation in understanding the different styles of ballroom dancing. So when it came time to write this novel, I had a general understanding. I still needed some technical details so I turned to YouTube and watched beginner videos in order to grasp the names of steps and other basic information.
5.  Did you have a favorite scene to write in Dance With Me?
There are seriously so many scenes that I loved to write. But among my favorites are the ones that show off Arleen’s attitude. One of the topics that I’ve been studying since turning to the 1930-50s eras is the speech patterns. When I’m watching old movies or tv shows, I jot down phrases and words that I hear. And I absolutely love learning about the different styles of speech from decade to decade. Here’s a sample scene that shows off the personalities and the slag of the 50s.
(To set up the scene: Arleen is known for being a bit of a flirt, and her boyfriend’s best friend just caught her flirting with another guy, so he confronts her.)

He caught up to me and hissed at my side. “What the blazes was that?”
I scoffed. “What did it look like?” I asked, not turning to meet his study.
“You know exactly what it looked like. Why do you flirt with everyone when you already have a fella? Does it really make you feel good about yourself?”
I shot him a withering look. “Maybe it does. What’s it to you?”
“What’s it to me? You’re dating one of my best friends. And I come around the corner, and I catch you making eyes at some other creep. How am I supposed to feel about that, huh?”
I chuckled without any humor behind it. “I really don’t care how that makes you feel, Neil. I’m Albert’s girl, not yours.”
Neil returned the mirthless laugh. “And what about Albert? Does he know–”
“He knows who I am.” I jerked to a halt and faced him full on. “Don’t worry about Albert. Okay? He’s well aware of how things stand between us. He’s not going to settle me down and neither are you, so give it a rest.”
Neil shook his head, jaw twitching. “You make me sick, flirting with any man who will look twice at you.”
I stepped closer, eyes narrowed. “Let’s get one thing straight; you’re not the boss of me. I’ll flirt with anyone I please.”
I started to back away, but, when he opened his mouth, I waved my hand to stop him. “Don’t even say it. You are my dance partner and nothing more. So either shut your trap and dance with me or leave. I don’t care which. But I don’t need to hear your righteous opinion of me and how I choose to live my life. You got that?”


6.  If Dance With Me were a food, what would it be and why?
Ohhh! That is such a hard but fun question. Let’s see … I’m gonna answer but I challenge you to answer the question too. ;)
I’m gonna say the All-American plate of burger, fries, and milkshake. Maybe I’m just being influenced by the era of the story. But sadly Arleen’s story isn’t new or uncommon. There’s the idea of searching for something deeper and of straining to provide your own strength that is in the fabric of the All-American tale. But as we see in the novel, Christ is all we ever needed. Laura: I think I'm going to go with the classic ice cream sandwich! It's sweet and classic and the cream is sandwiched between two cookies which outlast the cream when it's out in the sun (the past present frame story).

7.  Are there any new novels in the works you can tell us about?
Painted Memories is the second book in the Art of Love series. This is one of those love stories that takes my breath away. It’s also set in the 1950s. It’s about a painter who is injured during the Korean War and believed to be dead. His fiance, Olivia, has finally moved on and is about to marry someone else when she finds a painting of herself that she knows only Grady could have painted. She sets out to find him and discovers he has had amnesia the past 3 years. But this is only the beginning of their tale.
I’m also kicking off a Christmas collection this year. Each year, I’ll add a new novella to the collection. The first story is titled Project Scrooge and it’s my retelling of A Christmas Carol. I’m a huge fan of the original, so I’m super excited about releasing this one.



Giveaway:




And that's all she wrote!  Have you ever read anything by A.M. Heath?  How do you feel about frame stories?  Let me know down below and be sure to enter in the giveaway and grab a copy of Where Can I Flee!

8 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing Dance With Me with your followers! I always enjoy your detailed reviews.
    Ice Cream Sandwich! That's a great answer! :)

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    1. It's always a pleasure :) That answer came half from my intellectual opinion and half from my sudden craving for an ice cream sandwich in two in the morning!

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  2. I'm not normally one for pure romance reads, but I'm glad you enjoyed this one and also glad that it's a slow burn!

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    1. I'm not either but somehow, I always enjoy her books :) Maybe it's just that I try to keep my pure romance consumption to a minimum so I don't get worn out by a few here and there. Still, I have been wanting to balance out my genre reading lately (I'm trending towards fantasy and science fiction) so maybe I should just start with romance. Thanks for stopping by, Di!

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  3. I've read all of her books, and I've been privileged to be a spotter for all of them except her very first one! "Dance With Me" has quickly become one of my favorites, although the Civil War books will always be in the top spots!

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    1. I also have a soft spot for her Civil War books! They've made it into my rereading rotation and I'm thinking this one will ask well. Thanks for stopping by, Kim!

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    2. Awww, shucks!! Thanks both of you!! That means a lot to me.

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