Review – Lead and Follow by Katie Porter

Lead and Follow cover image
Publisher: Samhain
Publish Date: Jan 8th
How I got this book: ARC from the author

Lizzie Maynes’s torn ACL threatens more than her career as an international Latin ballroom champion. During her lengthy recovery, her longtime professional partner, Dima Turgenev, has been dancing at the Chelsea District’s most notorious burlesque, Club Devant. More than just dancing, he’s been experimenting with shocking new moves that make her want to pull him off stage and get back on tour as soon as possible—the better to keep their successful friendship safe.

Dima knows all about safety, and the lack thereof, because he blames himself for Lizzie’s injury. Far from the pressures of competition, Club Devant is the perfect creative venue to rebuild his rattled confidence. He’d love for Lizzie to join him and revel in the club’s intoxicating freedoms. By exploring the new sensual energy simmering between them, they could become more than friends.

Paul Reeves, a recently divorced Texan starting over in the Big Apple, is all for joining the dancers as they blaze through sexual boundaries. But he also knows their sizzling trio won’t last. Lizzie and Dima belong together. Before the last sparks fade, he plans to transform two stubborn friends into lasting lovers—one raunchy lesson at a time.

Warning: Burlesque meets ballroom in this f***ing sexy book when a smoldering Russian dance god and a blonde firecracker with hips possessed by the devil share a sunny, filthy-minded Texan—for just a dance or two.

This blurb came from the authors’ website.

I have enjoyed Porter’s books since their debut about extremely hot fighter pilots and the men and women who love them, so I was excited to see that Porter has started a new series revolving around a burlesque club. I enjoy watching ballroom dancing so I was very curious about the combination of ballroom dancing and burlesque along with what seems to be a Porter trademark of intense sexual scenes. While Porter provided all of that in Lead and Follow, it just did not work as well for me as I had hoped.

Lizzie and Dima have been together as dance partners for years, competing in Latin-style ballroom dancing. Their relationship was so close that even when they were no longer forced to live together due to finances, they remained roommates. They shared everything except for a sexual relationship, appearing to sublimate that between their dancing and outside sexual partners yet that precarious balance was under noticeable strain for at least the six months since Lizzie’s injury. That strain became immediately evident through both Lizzie and Dima’s thoughts during the initial scenes. Both individuals were emotionally hurting, so in an attempt to demonstrate their lack of caring they ended up deliberately inflicting emotional pain on the other. I think one of my issues with this story was the fact that as close as Dima and Lizzie had been, both were remarkably blind about certain aspects.

Lizzie struck me as rather immature. She appeared unable to actually have a conversation with Dima that did not include hurting him unless they were dancing together. Granted, she wasn’t usually trying to hurt him but her lack of self-confidence in anything other than dance made her word choice and phrasing very aggressive. I did not like how she treated Paul, even if it was with his consent. I thought she viewed him as a tool and not an individual with feelings. I did end up liking how Lizzie grew up towards the end and made a bold statement to Dima about her wishes for their future.

Dima really was the strong too silent type. He was haunted by the specter of his parents and their inability to deal with disappointment so he refuses to speak up about his dreams. I liked how he didn’t desert Lizzie after her injury even though I thought he really needed to improve his verbal communication skills. He thinks that if he plans and leads, Lizzie will follow just like she does on the dance floor and it will all come out the way he wants it. However, Lizzie isn’t exactly following and some of her comments/actions towards Dima made him rethink his plans. Dima seemed to understand that most of Lizzie’s words and action were generated by her fear but he was also dealing with his own combination of guilt and fear about their future.

Paul. I think Paul was the reason this book didn’t work for me. For some reason I had the feeling that while he provided advice and a way to bridge the gap, he was being used. Neither Lizzie nor Dima seemed to really care about him as a person – Paul was just a means to feel better for the moment by taking the focus off of the underlying issue between Lizzie and Dima. I couldn’t shake the impression that Dima and Lizzie were cheating on each other with Paul even when they were all together at the same time. Intellectually I understood that Paul was in it for fun and a chance to try to recover from his painful divorce but I still wanted him to have a HEA or at least a HFN.

Overall I enjoyed the dancing aspect and how it can be formal and sensual at the same time. Both Lizzie and Dima had to grow emotionally but I thought that if the two of them had bothered talking to each other about more than dance moves their problem would have been solved. They did not need Paul but I did wonder that since Dima is bisexual will he be satisfied with only Lizzie or will they continue to find an occasional third? Like I said initially, Lead and Follow just did not work as well for me as I had wanted. I like the idea of the burlesque club and I look forward to finding out what happens next with the club employees and the club owner…but this installment isn’t my favorite.

I give Lead and Follow a B-

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