I was provided with an advance reader copy by the author in exchange for an honest review. Any and all opinions expressed in this review are mine alone. I received no financial incentives to review this book.
Published by Harlequin KISS on July 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Source: the author
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Step up, Grant Farley…not your typical ballet student!
Football pro Grant Farley is nursing an injury and needs to get back into shape fast. Ballet wouldn't be his first or even his last choice, but he's desperate. Enter tantalizingly prim teacher Jasmine Bell one disapproving arch of her eyebrow and Grant knows he'll enjoy getting her tutu in a flutter!
But it's not only Grant's flexibility that Jasmine's pushing to the limit! He knows she feels the heat between them, so why won't she give in to it? Time to convince Jasmine that if she's brave enough to dance en pointeshe can certainly handle a fling with him!
When I first met Stefanie London at the RWA conference last year, she was as yet unpublished. But I could see the passion she had for writing and the enjoyment she derived from it, and I knew that it wouldn’t be long before she got that fabulous first call!
And here we are! Only The Brave Try Ballet released through Harlequin KISS on July 1! I first heard of this story when it was still a work-in-progress and still had its original working title. I have been eagerly awaiting the chance to read it, and I tell you now, I loved it!
Today, I not only get to review this wonderful book, I also get to bring you, my lovely readers, a chat I had with the author herself. Stefanie took some time to answer some questions for me, and I hope you enjoy reading about her journey to publication!
First cab off the rank, my chat with Stefanie:
Hi, Stefanie! Welcome to My Written Romance!
Can you give us the Cliff’s Notes version of what your book is about?
Our hero, Grant, is an ex-wild child AFL player who is trying to win back the support of the public and his footy club after an epic fall from grace. He’s also battling a persistent injury which lands him in a ballet studio as part of a new physio regime. Our heroine, Jasmine, is an ex-professional ballerina who can no longer dance en pointe due to injuries sustained in a car accident. She’s teaching ballet to pay the bills but is struggling with how to put her life back together.
This story is about two people who seem very different but actually have a lot in common. Their journey is one of healing and learning to let people in. It features a little AFL glamour, lots of steamy sexual tension and a healthy amount of Lycra.
What drew you to write this particular story?
I studied ballet for over ten years but had to quit right before the stage where one gets to wear pointe shoes. Unfortunately, I had a lot of problems with my feet and ankles. But a love of that world never left me.
Ballerinas are very dedicated, hardworking people. I needed a strong character to balance my heroine and the idea of a pro athlete coming off the back of a very public incident really appealed to me. They’re both damaged and I wanted to write a story about how love can bring people out from the holes they dig themselves.
Who do you count as your biggest writing influence?
I can’t say that I have one particular writing influence. I take inspiration and influence from across different genres and formats. I think the first writer I ever grew attached to would be Agatha Christie, whose work is very different from what I write now. But I think she inspired me to want to create captivating stories that draw the reader in and leave them satisfied at the end.
What kept you going throughout your journey to publication? What would you tell others in a similar place?
My support network. Writing is tough, getting published is even tougher. I think the constant messages of support from my husband, my family, my colleagues, all the wonderful people I meet in the romance writing community all kept me going.
My advice to people going through that journey is to ask for help when you need it. It might be as simple as a hug from a friend when it all feels a little too hard, it could be a kick up the butt when you need it. Don’t think you need to go it alone.
What would you say is the best part of what you do?
I love every single bit…well, maybe except editing haha. I think my favourite would be sitting down to start a new project, I love the thrill of the first page.
It seems like you have a busy schedule, with writing and your impending move to Canada. What do you do for yourself? How do you relax?
My favourite form of relaxation is reading. I read across quite a few genres but romance is my favourite, followed closely by thrillers/crime novels. I’m about to get started on the A Song of Fire and Ice series, just for something different.
I also love going out for brunch with friends, cooking and baking (including figuring out how to make delicious gluten free treats for my husband) and watching movies (especially zombie movies.)
What do you have up your sleeve for readers next?
My second ballerina book, Breaking the Bro Code, comes out with Harlequin KISS in October. The heroine is Elise Johnson, who appears briefly in Only the Brave Try Ballet.
Then I have a third Harlequin KISS book due out early 2015 which is part of an Australian-set continuity with three other amazing KISS authors.
I also have a novella coming out with an exciting new imprint from Entangled Publishing.
Most importantly, will we see Romance Llama at the RWA Conference this year?
Absolutely! Romance Llama will be there with bells on. He’s looking forward to meeting all the fabulous RWA Conference attendees and taking lots of photos (warning: he’s not camera-shy!)
Thank you so much for stopping by My Written Romance today, Stefanie. It’s been wonderful chatting with you!
Now, here are my thoughts on Only The Brave Try Ballet:
Put simply, I adored this book. I loved that neither Jasmine or Grant were perfect – they had flaws and secrets, and they behaved like real people would have – should they actually find themselves in that situation.
It would be terribly difficult to deal with the loss of a part of your life that you loved as dearly as Jasmine loved ballet. Having known a number of people who have been dancers, I could see a real authenticity to how Jasmine grieves for her career.
I am a mad AFL fan (go Pies!), so I love that Grant played the game I love. Not often I get to read AFL playing heroes, so thanks for that one. His journey through the heights and pitfalls of sporting glory mirrors a number of real-life athletes, and I think Stefanie has done a marvellous job of showing this and making it seem real.
As Stefanie said in our chat, these two are so dissimilar on the surface, yet they share so many common traits – both are rebuilding, both are removed from their families and let’s face it, both are rather stubborn. It was just gorgeous seeing these two work this out, and trust me when I say you’ll be willing them on to get that happiness and find each other. The chemistry and tension between them is luscious.
Now that I have read Only the Brave Try Ballet, I am really very keen to read Elise’s story when it comes out. Jasmine’s friend seems like a bunch of fun, and her story promises to be a lot of fun.
A wonderful, fun, sweet and sexy read, Only the Brave Try Ballet is most definitely one you need to read. A great debut from a fabulous new voice in Australian romance fiction!