A Stella Review: The Storm Before The Calm by Cate Ashwood

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

StormBeforeTheCalm[The]FSCharlie has one passion in life: dancing. It’s his salvation when it feels like the world is swallowing him whole. When his mom secretly secures him a spot in the summer intensive at the Free Rein Dance Company in New York, he is thrilled. He knows that once the summer ends, he’ll have to return to Beacon to get a job and help support his family, but for those two months, he can spread his wings.

In New York he meets Max, a junior instructor who is everything Charlie wishes he could be. Bold and self-assured, Max radiates pride in who he is. As they spend time together, Max shows Charlie what life can be like past the walls of his closed-minded home town. But Charlie doesn’t know if he’s ready to show the world who he truly is when standing in the spotlight is the last thing he wants.

I think I became a Cate Ashwood fan since the first time I read one of her books called Keeping Sweet and I can say that she hasn’t once disappointed me. The Storm Before The Calm was another winner. Simply beautiful and perfect. I highly recommend it! It’s a positive book, light, sweet, full of emotions. Exactly what I love to read!

The story between Charlie, just graduated from high school and Max, a twenty-one years old dance instructor, was a joy to read. The chemistry between them was explosive. They were good for each other. In a safe place and with a safe and right person, Charlie was finally able to be himself, he simply flourished. I usually tend to prefer stories with older MCs, but Max and Charlie were mature in their youth, solid in their feelings and career.

I was in love with Charlie’s mom. She was so sweet. I loved their relationship. It’s how I imagine a family should be. She raised him alone, she’s the greatest supporter of Charlie’s passion, dancing. She paid for his lessons even when they didn’t have much money. She’s the one to book him a summer internship in a dance company in New York.

Dancing is not just a passion to Charlie, it’s his lifeline, the only thing that saved his life in his worse days at high school. Days spent to be bullied and with no one to step by his side. Days spent feeling dirty. The same days spent in the beautiful world the dance is.

“When I reached my bathroom, I closed the door, locking it behind me. My mom wasn’t home, but shutting out the world made me feel better somehow. I stripped off my clothes and stepped into the shower, turned on the water and stood under the spray. It was so hot I almost couldn’t stand it, but I needed as much heat as possible to melt away the muck that clung to me. I scrubbed at my skin until it was red and raw, then stepped forward, bracing my hand against the wall as I let my head fall under the water. My tears mixed with the spray from the shower, and I could almost pretend they weren’t there at all. I let them fall freely, sobs shaking my body. All the frustration and anger and hurt I’d bottled up during the day spilled out of me. Dylan would never see me cry. Never. In this place, locked away, it was safe to let go.”

The first couple of chapters were a little hard to read to me. Charlie broke my heart in more than one scene. I was afraid to have stepped in an heavy story, full of angst, something good but at the same time depressing, you know what I mean?

Fortunately, apart for a dozen of tears I shed at the start, this book was light and sweet. The story was good, the writing perfect and the characters amazing. I couldn’t have asked for more! And the title is right, exactly what the book is about.
5 full stars!

Cover art by Anna Sikorska. Beautiful cover! The icing on the cake.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe)  |  Amazon  |  Buy It Here

Book Details:

Published June 5th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ebook, 200 pages
ISBN13 9781634760867
Edition language English

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AMAZON http://www.amazon.com/Storm-Before-Calm-Cate-Ashwood-ebook/dp/B00YHHHJZ6

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In the Book Spotlight: The Storm Before The Calm by Cate Ashwood (Author interview and giveaway)

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StormBeforeTheCalm[The]FS

The Storm Before The Calm by Cate Ashwood
Release Date: June 5, 2015

STRW In The Spotlight Header

Goodreads Link
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska

Sales Links at Dreamspinner Press
E-book – Paperback

My Interview with Cate Ashwood!

1. Dancing is so very sexual. Is that what made you make it a central component of your story?
Partly. I wanted the guys dancing together because there is such an intimate connection between partners when they’re dancing together. A lot of the time it can be sexual, but it goes beyond that too. There’s a level of trust needed for lifts, a certain amount of connection needed to know where your partner is at all times, even without looking at him. I wanted all that for Charlie and Max. And since dance is such an explicit form of expression, I needed Charlie to be able to come into who he was through something he loved.

2. When I think of dancers, I think of people totally at home in their skin. What is it about dancers that made you want to make it a passion for your characters?
That was a huge part of it! Dance was the one place that Charlie felt safe to be himself, even if he wasn’t able to admit out loud who he was. It was an outlet for him as it is for so many kids (and was for me, too, which makes it very close to my heart).

3. I can think of several of my favorite movies with dancing at its heart. From The Red Shoes to Dirty Dancing to The Turning Point, even today those movies take me to another place. Do you have any favorites? Or favorite dancers?
Oh God. So many! Of course the classics like Dirty Dancing and Strictly Ballroom. One of my favourites of all time is Singin’ in the Rain (which of course isn’t a movie about dancing, but there’s enough in it to make me giddy). And I’ll admit to loving the cheesier ones too, like Center Stage (which was huge for me when I was a kid), Step Up, and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.

4. What was the inspiration behind this title and characters?
The title comes from the song that I imagined them dancing to. “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” by John Mayer. I love the song and I saw a video of a dance choreographed to it that lit a spark for Charlie and Max. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk9-qH5fyTU
When I heard that line of lyrics, I knew it was perfect for Charlie. It’s exactly his path–the storm is within him but eventually he finds his happily ever after.
Charlie came first. To a certain degree, he’s a very exaggerated picture of me when I was younger. Thankfully, I never went through anything close to what Charlie endured, but I knew people who did. The world can be an ugly place sometimes, and often people can’t even see it. Max was created for Charlie, not only to give him the love he deserved, but to help be the catalyst for Charlie to discover who he was.

5. I have always loved the “truthfulness” you seem to bring out of every situation in your stories when it comes to exploring a person’s growing aware of their sexuality. what do you think makes your scenes stand out with such authenticity and realness?
Wow. Thank you so much! I try to write as close to real life as I can. I know there’s a certain fantasy element that’s required when it comes to writing romance, but I always strive to make my characters as authentic as I can. I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was a bit of me in all of them, but I think that’s true for all authors. It’s impossible to create someone else without leaving traces of yourself within them.

In terms of sexuality, that’s difficult for me. I was raised in a very open household (I was taught about the birds and the bees at age 4) and my parents were always very supportive and welcoming of conversation and discussion if ever I had questions. Despite it all, I’ve always been borderline prudish when it came to talking about sex. I had a hard time telling my parents that my husband and I were going to have a baby because it would mean admitting that I wasn’t a virgin (which was ridiculous, I know). So for me, writing about characters coming to terms with themselves as sexual beings and expressing those emotions and that desire is liberating because I had such a difficult time with it myself.

6. What’s next for Cate Ashwood?
Lots! I have a book coming out at the end of the month that I co-wrote with L.J. LaBarthe called Brick by Brick. That one drops on the 29th.
On the 15th of July, the second book in the Newport Boys series (Keeping Sweets was the first) comes out. This one is Colt’s story!

I have a novel in edits right now called Tasting Notes. It’s the first in a new series and it’s about a venture capitalist who one day realizes that he has money but not happiness, so he takes off for California to spread his grandfather’s ashes and take a step back from work. He arrives and buys a winery on a whim, and then meets the son of the original owners who is none too happy about him taking over his parents’ legacy.

There are a few more books in the works, as well–I am set to finish the first book in yet another series in the next few days. This one is about emergency service personnel. The first book follows a paramedic and a forensic pathologist. I also have two more co-writes that will hopefully be finished soon, one with Skylar Cates, and the other with LJ. And then eventually finishing up all the series with a few standalones thrown in for good measure. It’s going to be a busy year!

STRW Author BookSynopsis

Charlie has one passion in life: dancing. It’s his salvation when it feels like the world is swallowing him whole. When his mom secretly secures him a spot in the summer intensive at the Free Rein Dance Company in New York, he is thrilled. He knows that once the summer ends, he’ll have to return to Beacon to get a job and help support his family, but for those two months, he can spread his wings.

In New York he meets Max, a junior instructor who is everything Charlie wishes he could be. Bold and self-assured, Max radiates pride in who he is. As they spend time together, Max shows Charlie what life can be like past the walls of his closed-minded home town. But Charlie doesn’t know if he’s ready to show the world who he truly is when standing in the spotlight is the last thing he wants.

Pages or Words: 62,000 words

Categories: Contemporary, Gay fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt

My fingers tugged at the edge of the cardboard cozy wrapped around the cup as I waited for him to speak. The silence between us felt heavy, and the awkwardness settled in around me as he stared at me, his mouth quirked in a playful expression.

“What?” I asked finally.

“Nothing,” he replied, smiling. “So I guess we should get started.”

“Sure.”

“I think maybe just one, two songs at most. The festival isn’t until the end of the summer, so we have lots of time.”

“What festival is it again?” I asked.

“OutShine,” he responded.

“What kind of festival is that?” I asked.

“It’s a big arts festival that takes place throughout the city, mostly in parks. There are exhibits and performances, and a huge celebration at the end. It was started a few years ago to raise awareness and money for gay rights.”

“Oh. Are you… I mean….”

“Gay?” Max supplied.

“Yeah.”

“Yes. Are you?”

“I… no, uh I…,” I stuttered. I was stunned by how nonchalant and completely unapologetic he’d been about his sexuality, as though admitting to me he was gay was the most ordinary thing in the whole world. A part of me wished I could do that. I could nod and say the words like it was as natural as telling him I was blond or I liked chocolate ice cream.

“It’s okay, Charlie. No big deal. You don’t have to be gay to participate. Originally, all the artists were gay, but it has grown and evolved now to include everyone, which is how it should be,” Max said, shooting me an understanding look.

I should have corrected him. I should have told him, but I’d never said the words out loud. Hell, it was hard enough for me to form that three-word sentence in my head. Even as I sat there, my brain rebelled, doing its own version of sticking its fingers in its ears and humming. So instead of being honest with him about who I was, I let him assume I was something else.

 

RC

 

STRW Author Bio and Contacts

Cate Ashwood wrote her very first story in a hot-pink binder when she was in the second grade and found her passion for writing. Her first successful foray into romance writing came five years later when she wrote her best friend, who was experiencing a case of unrequited love, her own happily ever after.
Cate’s life has taken a number of different and adventurous roads. She now lives a stone’s throw from the ocean, just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband, her brand new little boy, and her two cats. Her life is filled with family and friends, travel, and, of course, books.

Where to find the author:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cate.ashwood
Facebook Author Page
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cateashwood
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/cateashwood/
Other: http://www.cateashwood.com

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Giveaway: Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Link and prizes provided by the author and Pride Promotions. Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: E-copy of ‘The Storm Before the Calm’ by Cate Ashwood.

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