Four Dazzling Stars for Danced Close by Annabeth Albert

reviewed by: timncalifornia

Annabeth Albert gets romance right in Danced Close, the sixth book in her Portland Heat series.  This is the first book I’ve read from this author and the story and writing impressed on several levels.  Firstly, Danced Close features a genderqueer main character and secondly, that character is realistically portrayed without undue angst or drama.  Kendall (preferred pronouns “he/him”) fully embraces his gender fluid identity and does so with major style and panache.

Style and panache are exactly what catches the interest of Todd who works at a bakery Kendall, an in-demand wedding planner, frequents with his clients.  Todd is living sober and working on building a stable life for himself after a downward spiral into addiction in his teens and early twenties.  Both Todd and Kendall profess they are not looking for a serious relationship but neither of them can help flirting with one another.  Flirting leads to dating and before they know it they are in a relationship that neither of them knows quite how to define.  Together they need to figure out what they want for their futures and what that means for them as a couple.

Albert does justice to both Kendall and Todd in this book; they each are complex in their own way and are working through what they want (and deserve) in life and in relationships.   One of the strongest points in the book was Albert’s seamless weaving of the lived genderqueer experience, from pronouns, to being treated as “a caricature” instead of “a person”, to navigating corporate – not queer – environs, Albert shows the challenges and celebrations someone like Kendall experiences.

The story is written in alternating first person with each chapter swapping Todd’s and Kendall’s point of view.  While not necessarily a bad way to tell their story, the voice of each character was too similar for this to be fully effective.  It hardly felt like the person speaking changed at all between some of the chapters and because of that, it was sometimes hard to get immersed in the plot. The author’s voice didn’t fully disappear.

Nonetheless, Danced Close really impressed.  If you are looking for a romance with a little sizzle and characters who charm, delve into the sweet Portland Heat series by Annabeth Albert.  Four Dazzling Stars!

Thanks to Netgalley for the free copy in exchange for an honest review. The ebook will be available on March 14.

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