Months and months ago, I was contacted by “recovering” professional ballroom dancer Alana Albertson about two books she had written, set in the ballroom world. She graciously offered me the opportunity to read and review her books. I accepted, but I have been terrible in allowing other things to get in the way of me completing the reviews I promised her! No more delays! Here is my review of the first one I read (even though it is Book 2 of Ms. Albertson’s Dancing Under the Stars series).
Waltz on the Wild Side
Waltz on the Wild Side is a chick lit-esque romance novel that follows two professional ballroom dancers, Salomé and Viktoria. The point of view switches between the characters as you move from chapter to chapter. Both women have made sacrifices in their personal lives to advance their ballroom careers, but they start to reconsider their paths as they compete against each other in a Dancing with the Stars-like reality television show.
The beginning of the book gives you a bit of an inside look at the professional competitive ballroom world. We meet Salomé while she and her two friends are watching Viktoria accept an Emmy award for Outstanding Choreography for a routine she performed with her celebrity partner on the fictional television hit Dancing Under the Stars. The kicker is the choreography that earned the award was actually Salomé’s. The two used to be best friends, but now they hate each other.
The first chapter from Viktoria’s perspective follows her as she dodges the advances of her retirement-age husband, who also happens to be one of the most well-known ballroom judges in the business, and prepares for a prestigious ballroom competition. The pre-competition “beauty” regiment she puts herself through is intense and is a great example of the lengths women will go to in order to meet the expectations of how a professional ballroom dancer should appear.
The two women dance against each other at the competition and end up also competing on the subsequent season of Dancing Under the Stars, along with other professional dancer characters with whom each or both have some kind of history. So naturally, there is drama, and old feelings are stirred up and brought back to the surface.
I actually read this book twice. I wasn’t sure what approach I wanted to take with the review, so after I read it just to read it, I decided I had to read it again but this time take notes, so I could do a thorough analysis.
Oddly enough, I liked it less the second time.
So I threw my previous review ideas out the window and decided to focus on my reactions.
Whether or not you like ballroom dancing or are a fan of Dancing with the Stars, I think the book is a decent poolside/beach read. The book provides an escape with all the drama you would expect in a romance novel. I’ll be honest; I’m not a big fan of the romance genre. But I’ll read any story about ballroom dancers.
Of course, I identified more with Salomé since her character didn’t fit the typical mold for a ballroom dancer. She is the character that seems to focus most on her love of dance, but of course she has her own share of drama. It was hard for me to relate or even sympathize with Viktoria. She is a professional dancer married to a rich judge, and I found myself thinking “oh boo hoo” reading about the difficulties in her life, while she also passes judgment on everyone around her and has clearly taken full advantage of the perks to her current position in life. So I found her chapters harder to get through.
Ultimately, I think the reason I didn’t like the story is the acceptance/embracing of the aspects of the ballroom world that rub me the wrong way. The nepotism, the emphasis on image, the flaunting of wealth (whether you actually have it or not), and the selfish egos. But unfortunately, that is reality. I am “breaking rules” by refusing to tan or get a manicure or hide my tattoos for my own ballroom competitions. None of these things make you a better or worse dancer (shocking, I know), but they are still accepted as things you just do if you’re going to be a ballroom dancer. I guess I’m just a rebel.
So for me, I would have liked to have gone deeper into the characters’ core beings rather than be told what expensive brand of shoes or bag they were wearing. If their past “struggles” left any scars, the characters don’t share them with the reader. Those experiences seem to be brought up only as their excuses to be selfish and vain in the present. But then again, you could say that’s ballroom and reality television for you.
I think others will enjoy this book with its sneak peeks into what might go on behind the scenes of a reality show about celebrities learning and competing in ballroom dance. It’s entertaining when it’s just fiction and not something you have to deal with in your own life. So in the end, I say it is worth sticking in your bag with your beach towel!
“As much as a dancer’s life can break you, it also is the very air we breathe.”