Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. It’s designed as an opportunity to share old favourites as well as books that we’ve finally got around to reading that were published over a year ago. If you decide to take part, please link back to It’s Book Talk.
Today I’m revisiting a book I read in 2017, The Winner by Erin Bomboy. Set in the competitive world of professional ballroom dancing, it would be perfect for those longing for their next fix of Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing WithThe Stars.
Erin’s latest novel, The Pas de Deux: A Classical Ballet Novel, explores the relationship between a ballerina at the end of her career and the much-younger dancer with whom she falls in love. Taking the shape of a traditional pas de deux, it was published in February 2018.
About the Book
The most prestigious ballroom dance competition in the United States. Two dancers need to win. Only one can.
Nina Fortunova wasn’t supposed to end up almost thirty, divorced, with her dreams of winning shattered. When she teams up with Jorge Gonzalez, a Latin dancer, to reinvent the flashy Smooth style, Nina must decide how far she will go to win – even if it means losing Jorge.
Carly Martindale is doing everything she’s been taught not to do – placing her happiness first by dancing with Trey Devereux, the former three-time champion who’s returned to competition for mysterious reasons. How far will Carly sacrifice herself so Trey and she can win?
Co-workers, then friends, and now arch competitors, Nina and Carly face off to determine who will be the winner – in love and in dancing.
Format: ebook, paperback (328 pp.) Publisher: Curtain Call Press
Published: 20th December 2016 Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Find The Winner on Goodreads
I’m a huge fan of Strictly Come Dancing (the format known as Dancing With The Stars in the US) but watching it on TV gives you little indication of the real life drama, the graft, and the travelling that is integral to the competitive ballroom dancing circuit. The Winner lifts the lid on this and gives you privileged access to the lives of the dancers, and to what goes on before and during competitions. As well as being a fascinating story about ballroom dancing, The Winner is also a terrifically engaging story about two really interesting female characters.
Nina is disappointed in love, thwarted in her dance ambitions, starting to feel the physical effects of her dancing career but conscious of all her mother has sacrificed to enable her to chase her dream of winning. Carly is a perfectionist, seeking escape from a home dominated by the needs of her brother who is low-level autistic, all the time battling her guilt at pursuing her dream when she is needed at home. Nina and Carly, may be at different points in their careers but they are equally in love with dancing – and equally determined to win the top prize in ballroom dancing.
Then there are the men: Jorge – driven, passionate but too finding his body starting to let him down; Trey – handsome, enigmatic, self-contained, guarded, on the comeback trail for reasons of his own.
The author does a great job of conveying the fierce competition, the hard work and the economic realities of competitive ballroom dancing. It’s an environment where winning can bring great financial rewards and an illustrious career in coaching or judging but losing brings nothing.
‘Competition was what was happening right now, right here. It was Darwinian, survival of the fittest, the fleetest, the fastest thinker.’
I really admired how the author managed to communicate the intricacies of dancing and those small elements of technique that separate the good from the great. What comes across is her admiration for the craft of dancing when done really well – the musicality, timing, connection between the couples and the artistry displayed in the various dances.
‘I spotted the winners in the first round…Their technique was strong, but that wasn’t enough to win. This couple had brilliant musicality…This couple toyed with the music, two frisky mice that teased the old tomcat. Holding here, hastening there, they arrived everywhere almost, but not quite, late. They used their bodies the way award-winning actors use speech – meaning forged through pacing.’
I really enjoyed The Winner although, for me, the ending slightly let it down because it covered a period of years in a few chapters and I missed the intensity of earlier in the book. I felt happy for how things turned out for Nina but less so for Carly, although this just proves how much the author managed to engage me in their stories!
I received a review copy courtesy of the author and iRead Book Tours in return for an honest and unbiased review.
In three words: Compelling, realistic, dramatic
About the Author
A native of Richmond, Virginia, Erin Bomboy trained as a classical ballet dancer before spending a decade as a professional competitive ballroom dancer. She holds an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from New York University Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter where she works as a writer, editor, and teacher in the dance field. In her free time, Erin enjoys bacon, books, cats, and wine.
She is the author of The Piece: A Contemporary Ballet Novel, The Winner: A Ballroom Dance Novel and The Pas de Deux: A Classical Ballet Novel.
Connect with Erin