Book Review: Dance Away with Me by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Book Review: Dance Away With Me
By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips 
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Release Date: 6/9/2020
ISBN: 9780062973054
Genre: Contemporary Romance /Women's Fiction
Rating: 3 Heart Review

TW: Traumatic birth scenes, Mother death, Miscarriage, Depression, Baby kidnapping, Child abuse mentions

Run, run, as fast as you can!

When life throws her one setback too many, midwife and young widow Tess Hartsong takes off for Runaway Mountain. In this small town high in the Tennessee mountains, surrounded by nature, she hopes to outrun her heartbreak and find the solace she needs to heal. 

But instead of peace and quiet, she encounters an enigmatic artist with a craving for solitude, a fairy-tale sprite with too many secrets, a helpless infant, a passel of curious teens, and a town suspicious of outsiders, especially one as headstrong as Tess. Just as headstrong is Ian North, a difficult, gifted man with a tortured soul—a man who makes Tess question everything. 

In running away to this new life, Tess wonders— Has she lost herself . . . or has she found her future? 

Cheeky Thoughts: 

While I've know for awhile that more and more romance writers were starting to try to crossover to women's fiction, this is the second review in a row now that I feel is more women's fiction than it is romance. I totally get it, it expands your readership and fan base, but it leaves romance lovers at a disadvantage when the story isn't what we expected. It just didn't give me enough of the romance side of the story I was hoping for. 

If I had gone into this book with less knowledge of Susan Elizabeth Phillips' work in romance, I might have enjoyed it more, but I will admit this might be my least favorite of her books I've read. Even if this was classified as women's fiction, there were areas of the story that bothered me. 

I will try to keep my promise of no spoilers, but it's hard to speak to what didn't work for me in this story without doing so. But I will try. 

While I did like the characters of Tess and Ian, I was left constantly wondering why Ian wasn't pushing Tess to get help for her very obvious mental health issues. From the very beginning of the story, it's clear that time has not helped her with her grief over the loss of her husband. Yes, grief is different for everyone but the level of dismay and anxious/manic dancing that opens the book speaks to a need for more help than just a visit to nature. 

There is another major plot point of the story where Tess acts in a completely unhinged way and instead of taking that as a sign that Tess needs professional help, Ian feeds into her mania and even aids her in continuing with making unhealthy and illegal actions.  

I just couldn't get past the need for Tess to get true mental health help from a professional. The story was perfectly set up to talk about mental health and to explore important issues, but instead chose to leave two main characters to their own devices and not show either getting better. 

Yes, the story showed some progress for both characters becoming more balanced, but only after completely acting like a MAJOR manic plot point decision - which should not have turned out okay - turned out not okay but also like it was completely fine and meant to be. It just kept reading thinking, the shoe has to drop. There has to be the next extreme action or decision that will lead to professional help. But no, it never happened.  

The depth of character and interesting storyline were enough to keep me reading and made for a solid read, but not one that I can see myself revisiting with the other issues I mentioned. I really had been in the mood for an amazing SEP romance and if you are to, I suggest revisiting her backlist. 

If you are looking for s story more in line with women's fiction and can overlook mental health flags throughout the story, this might be a much better read for you than it was for me. I really struggled with what rating to give this book and went back and forth between a 2.5 and a 3 heart rating. I went with 3 because the writing is obviously stellar, but the story itself just didn't work for me. 


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