Keep Dancing by Leslie Wells
In Keep Dancing Leslie Wells continues the story of New York book editor Julia Nash and her whirlwind relationship with British rock star Jack Kipling in the early 1980s.
When last readers met with Jack and Julia in Leslie Wells’s Come Dancing they were deep in the throes of a rollercoaster love affair after misunderstandings and meddling enemies had threatened to tear them apart. In her new follow-up novel, Keep Dancing, the author takes readers back to the tumultuous world of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll in New York’s glittering 1980s. We follow Jack and Julia through the end of 1981, when the British rocker sweeps Julia away to England to meet his imposing family; but as 1982 dawns, new challenges and old adversaries once again test Jack and Julia’s relationship. British rock star Jack is set for a multi-city tour across the States while book editor Julia is on the rise at a fabulous new job, but as their newly-minted living situation seems to be paving the way for a lasting relationship, the stresses from both of their jobs will put them to the test. Add to the mix a screaming nephew, a screeching smoke detector, a wily puppy, and a penthouse full of praying mantises and Julia will find herself at wit’s end. Struggling to balance her career aspirations with her newly-domesticated home life, she’ll also have to face her uncertain trust as Jack flies off on a star-studded, drug-laden rock tour with his raucous bandmates and a raving horde of devoted groupies at their disposal.
Keep Dancing hits many of the same notes as Wells’s terrific first novel, with a full cast of charming characters, steamy romance, and writing that strikes as both humorous and poignant. While it could certainly be read as a standalone novel, Keep Dancing reads at its best following up the story of Jack and Julia’s first meeting. The duo get caught in some of the same dangerous webs this time around as high tempers and fragile trust threaten to derail their relationship, while Jack’s meddlesome manager Mary Jo and the band’s conniving lead singer Patrick both try to sabotage what Jack and Julia have built together. Through this novel, though, Jack and Julia have had a chance to grow through their past challenges. As a result, they’re both looking at their relationship – and Julia her career – with mature new eyes. Jack wants to start a family, a sentiment readers see brought to life through his devoted interactions with his sweet-but-destructive nephew Oliver; Julia, meanwhile, sees a glimmer of her own fame in the distance as she strives to take on a posh literary author in her new editing job. As Jack’s want of domestic bliss and Julia’s craving for career achievements draw tension between them, Wells once again allows her characters to grow through the ups and downs of their love for each other.
One of the highlights of the novel is Julia’s alternately fabulous and heartbreaking experience as she accompanies Jack and the band on a leg of their cross-country tour. In these scenes, Wells is able to fully utilize her skill for capturing all the opulence and scandal of the 1980s rock scene, complete with devious gossip headlines and outrageous backstage antics. The other members of Jack’s entourage – southern boy Sammy, unpredictable Mark, and Mark’s patience wife Suzanne – come to life with renewed vigor, entertaining the reader at every turn of the page.
Meanwhile, Wells turns from the glitz of the rock star life to more serious, heartfelt matters as Julia’s search for her father takes her into all manner of uncharted emotional territory. And for Julia, an altogether new feeling of vulnerability befalls her when her rocky relationship with Jack leaves her feeling particularly isolated from everything she thought she knew. With grace, humor, and sparkling imagination, Keep Dancing is a worthy second chapter in a smart new adult series.