I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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This story is the 2nd book in the Dancing series, and picks up after Dance With Me concludes, which means it takes place toward the end of 2012 and the beginning/middle of 2013.
During this time, Minnesota, where Spenser and Tomas (and Ed and Laurie) live, had a Marriage Amendment on the ballot, which would, as a state constitutional amendment, banned same-sex marriage in the state. DOMA is also still in place when this book begins.
We first meet Spenser when he comes home to his apartment to find a young man slumped in the hallway, clearly showing signs of having been in some kind of fight. He's bleeding and hurt, and looking for Tomas, who lives with his parents in the apartment across from Spenser and is a dance instructor at Laurie's studio, among other jobs.
Spenser is an elementary school teacher, and he wastes no time in coaxing the young man into his apartment to take care of the wounds and offer him a shower, while they wait for Tomas to come home.
The young man is Duon, whom you might remember as one of Laurie's students from the first book.
While the romance that develops between Spenser and Tomas doesn't exactly take a backseat to the rest of the plot in this book, it is quiet and subdued, but provides the backbone to everything else that happens within.
Tomas' parents are illegal immigrants, and while Tomas and his sister were born in the US, his parents could theoretically be deported. Tomas' sister also tends to dump her children at her parents place while she runs off living her life, which has Tomas working multiple jobs to make ends meet. There's not a lot of time for him to date, but after he sees Spenser take care of Duon, and then apply to be the young man's guardian/foster parent, a spark begins a slow-burning, smoldering fire.
Spenser knows what it's like to be in the foster system, having grown up in it, and he has built a bunch of walls around himself, to avoid being hurt. He had two foster mothers, with whom he lived after aging out of the system, and while one has passed on, the other is still somewhat prominent in his life, an anchor of sorts, someone he knows he can rely on if he needs it. He immediately jumps in when it's clear that Duon cannot return to his grandmother's house, not wanting the boy to be sent to a group home.
The book has a very political overtone, considering that DOMA is still in place, a state amendment banning same-sex marriage is on the ballot, and they're still four years away from the SCOTUS decision in the Obergefell case. Even though Laurie and Ed are married, their marriage might not be valid in Minnesota if the amendment passes. (Spoiler alert: It doesn't) The author also makes a point of showing the lack of funding and resources that plague many Social Services departments, as well as the difficulty in securing citizenship for illegal immigrants.
The romance is by design slow-burn, and not front and center in this book, but it is there, smoldering and providing warmth. There are some hot as hell scenes too, when Spenser and Tomas finally get it on, and boy, oh boy, Tomas talking dirty is super sexy.
Both Spenser and Tomas are givers. They care so much about the people in their lives, and find joy in helping others, in being there for each other, in doing little things to make the other's life easier. I enjoyed that part of their romance so much, because it showed me how much they truly care about each other. Tomas draws Spenser out of his shell, and Spenser is a safe harbor for Tomas to cast his anchor. They meshed so well, despite their differences, and it was a joy to read their story.
While this surely isn't your typical Heidi Cullinan romance, I would still recommend you read this book. And keep dancing.
** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A positive review was not promised in return. **