Today was a day that I most certainly did not want to watch anything on TV. I didn’t even want to be on a channel adjacent to one that might be showing the inauguration. So, I decided to protest in my own way.
I turned off the TV, cuddled up with a blanket and my cats, and I read a book. A book written by a woman. A book about women. A book about (*gasp*) lesbians.
Today, I wanted a love story. I wanted a happy ending. I wanted it to last.
I chose First Position by Melissa Brayden (Bold Strokes Books). I’ve had the book for a while and hadn’t gotten around to it quite yet. I thought today was a good day to read it. A lesbian romance. Yeah, that’s what I needed.
Anastasia Mikhelson is the rising star of the New York City Ballet. She’s sacrificed creature comforts, a social life, as well as her own physical well-being for perfection in dance. Even her reputation as The Ice Queen doesn’t faze her. Though Ana’s at the peak of her career, competition from a new and noteworthy dancer puts all she’s worked for in jeopardy.
While Natalie Frederico has shown herself to be a prodigy when it comes to ballet, she much prefers modern dance and living on her own terms. Life is too short for anything else. However, when the opportunity to dance with the New York City Ballet is thrust upon her, it’s not like she could say no. Dealing with the company’s uptight lead is another story, however. When the two are forced to work side-by-side, sparks begin to fly onstage and off.
I think this just might be Brayden’s best work to date. If you’ve read my reviews of her previous work, you know that I enjoy Brayden’s novels. I think she is one of our most prominent voices in Lesbian Romance. But First Position has gone to a new level.
I love the characters in this book. Ana and Natalie are delightfully different. One uptight, one laid back. One who is a technical perfectionist, one who dances what she feels. One introverted and focused, one extroverted and kind of winging it. Real opposites. But, as the saying goes, opposites attract. What’s really delightful, though, is that this is a “slow burn” attraction. They don’t hit it off right away. They aren’t secretly lusting after each other right away. Brayden allows the relationship time to build and grow. They find a path from grudging respect to friendship to attraction. As they travel that path, they also grow as individuals. Brayden really upped her character development game here.
As always, the secondary characters are just as richly developed and used well to advance the story. I admit that I wanted a bit more resolution for Jason. Without giving anything away, let’s just say that I wanted to know more about where he landed at the end of the novel. This was not a big thing, certainly not a deal-breaker. But he was the one character about whom I thought, “Where is he now?”
Overall, First Position was tightly written and sharply edited. I noticed a real honing of the language. Favorite words and phrasings were significantly reduced when compared with Brayden’s previous novels. But Brayden’s unique voice as an author was not lost in any way. Instead, I think it was more clearly revealed. I think there is still room to improve with future books, but, again, this was in no way a deal-breaker. Character voices were distinct, the narrative was clean, and the dialogue was crisp. All-in-all, excellent.
I’ve become quite the fan of audiobooks. So, I listened to First Position as I read along. I studied and practiced the performance of literature when I was in college – undergraduate and graduate schools. So, it’s something that’s pretty deeply set in me and close to my heart. While there is definitely a big part of me that likes to just sit back and listen, there is another part of me that likes to “see” the narrator’s performance choices. Reading and listening at the same time let’s me do this.
In my review of Firework, I praised Kristin Barnes as the narrator. I said that she was one of the best narrators I’ve heard to that point. I hold to that review. But, I’ve got to say, Katrina Holmes really hit this one out of the ballpark! Holmes brought life to the narration in wonderful ways. Each character was distinct without being a caricature (my pet peeve). Sure, she missed a word or two here and there. But it did not change the meaning of Brayden’s writing. Overall, it was spot-on narration. Now I think she and Barnes should just take turns narrating for Brayden.
So, whether you like to read or listen, you’re not going to go wrong with First Position.