Take the Lead by Alexis Daria

Take the Lead

The first book in a sizzling duology about dancers who find love from #OwnVoice's Alexis Daria.Gina Morales wants to win. It’s her fifth season on The Dance Off, a top-rated network TV celebrity dance competition, and she’s never even made it to the finals. When she meets her latest partner, she sees her chance. He's handsome, rippling with muscles, and he stars on the pop...

Title:Take the Lead
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Take the Lead Reviews

  • Xan West

    I loved this! It was completely gripping; I stayed up way too late last night because I could not put it down.

    I loved these characters so much, fell hard for them both, and particularly for Gina. I was rooting for them all the way, as a couple, as dance partners. I wanted them to get a happy ending. The obstacles and conflict felt so right, they unfolded in a beautiful way.

    The heroine is Puerto Rican, and I

    I loved this! It was completely gripping; I stayed up way too late last night because I could not put it down.

    I loved these characters so much, fell hard for them both, and particularly for Gina. I was rooting for them all the way, as a couple, as dance partners. I wanted them to get a happy ending. The obstacles and conflict felt so right, they unfolded in a beautiful way.

    The heroine is Puerto Rican, and I really appreciated how deeply culturally specific so many aspects of the story were, and really felt for Gina in her fight to push back against sexualized stereotypes of Latinas. The way that was woven into the conflict in the story was brilliant, and had me really invested in her arc.

    As a New Yorker, I also really enjoyed how much this book (and Gina) were enamored of NYC, even though so much of it happened in other places. It was lovely to read the NYC set scenes, they were swoony and full of details and just made me really happy. The Central Park scene totally had my heart.

    I liked the way the book showed the depth of Stone's discomfort with being sexually objectified and in particular, sexually harassed by one of the other contestants. These things are often excused and made light of when men are being targeted, and I liked that this story didn't do that, that we were shown how very uncomfortable he was with it.

    I absolutely adored the dancing in the story. Loved how central it was, how much it was described, it just made me so happy to read that. I got to really sink into the details of the dancing, and the arc of the competition. I also got a kick out of the reality tv aspects of the story, how much it played with the manipulation of reality tv, how that brought them together and how it created obstacles for the romance. So much drama! So much push-pull and forced proximity and intensity and internal and external conflict!

    I loved the chemistry between Gina and Stone, it was so hot, and had this lovely thread of tenderness in it too. This translated into the sex scenes, that brought so much heat, and also a lot of heart. Stone was a wonderful match for her; I really got why she fell for him. And I loved how much he adores her and admires her and gets invested in her success.

    The resolution of one of the central romantic conflicts caught me a bit by surprise, but after I sat with it for a minute, really worked for me. The other resolutions of the major arcs were extremely satisfying, and one of them around Gina's career, really got me in the feels. This felt like such an intricately woven story, and I loved the way it wrapped up.

    A masterful job of pacing and characterization, this romance was a joy to read, and is an incredible debut. I can't wait to read book 2!

    Trigger Warnings:

  • Mirjana **DTR - Down to Read**

    Loved this debut!

    Puerto Rican professional dancer + Mountain man reality star + dance competition = One happy reader!! ♥ ♥

    Gina and Stone were fantastic together. Both dealing with unwanted expectations and trying to break free from the molds the public put them in, they find comfort and so much more with each other.

    Gina has dreams. She wants to dance, sing, and act. H

    Loved this debut!

    Puerto Rican professional dancer + Mountain man reality star + dance competition = One happy reader!! ♥ ♥

    Gina and Stone were fantastic together. Both dealing with unwanted expectations and trying to break free from the molds the public put them in, they find comfort and so much more with each other.

    Gina has dreams. She wants to dance, sing, and act. Her mother gave up a potential career as a singer for a man who eventually walked away from her and his family, and Gina refuses to let history repeat itself. Being a pro dancer on the Dance-Off is fun,rewarding, and a great stepping stone in her career, but she refuses to let herself be pigeon-holed as nothing more than the sassy and sexy Latina. She's more than that and having the producers try and push an "are they or aren't they?" angle is something Gina refuses to go along with. Her career is the most important thing to her, and she won't compromise that for anything...or anyone.

    Stone is known as the strong and quiet one on his family's reality show. His family has built their public persona on being wilderness survivalists and all that entails, but privately, things aren't as they seem. Stone has become frustrated and tired of living a double life. Going on the Dance-Off will help his family with some of their financial issues, but he wasn't expecting to get paired with someone like Gina. Someone so full of life, fun, and energy. Someone who hurdles his carefully constructed walls easily. Someone who brings out the side of Stone he hasn't been since before his family's reality show.

    The way Alexis Daria wove this story was terrific. I was equally invested in Gina's and Stone's individual growth, their journey as a couple, and their ups and downs as competitors on the dance show.

    The instant attraction that Gina and Stone felt evolved wonderfully into so much more. Their connection was believable and the stolen quiet moments they were able to share were both heartwarming and sexy as hell.

    The pacing was a little uneven at times (zooming through scenes that I think should have been expanded to add depth or giving too much time to scenes that didn't really add anything), but even with that, it didn't pull me out of the story.

    And can I just say the dancing was awesome! I'm a fan of dance movies and watch Dancing with the Stars every season, and everything in this book hit the notes that I love. Alexis Daria showed so many different aspects of dance...how personal it could be, the commitment involved, and how it can lead you to discover sides of yourself you try to hide or didn't even know existed.

    This is a debut book by a debut author that I highly recommend.

    I can't wait to see what's in store for Natasha (Gina's best friend and fellow competitor) and Dimitri (a judge on the show).

    But more importantly, I can't wait to see what more is to come from Alexis Daria. With one book, she's got a fan in me!

  • Maria Rose

    If you’re a fan of Dancing with the Stars or other reality TV show dance competitions you are definitely going to want to pick up Take the Lead, a lively, energetic and sexy contemporary romance by début author Alexis Daria. And if you’ve never watched one of these competitions before, after reading this story you’ll likely want to add it to your viewing schedule. The plot is fresh and original, giving the reader almost a voyeuristic behind the scenes look at what makes or breaks the dancers on

    If you’re a fan of Dancing with the Stars or other reality TV show dance competitions you are definitely going to want to pick up Take the Lead, a lively, energetic and sexy contemporary romance by début author Alexis Daria. And if you’ve never watched one of these competitions before, after reading this story you’ll likely want to add it to your viewing schedule. The plot is fresh and original, giving the reader almost a voyeuristic behind the scenes look at what makes or breaks the dancers on the stage. Along the way it details the romance between a professional Puerto Rican dancer needing to make the finals or be cut from the show and her partner, an Alaskan lumberjack who’d rather be anywhere than on the stage.

    For more of this review please visit All About Romance:

    A copy of this story was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review.

  • Lisa

    Take the Lead follows Gina and Stone, two reality TV stars, as they compete with the other contenders in The Dance Off, a network-TV dance competition. Both have different reasons of joining; Gina is in it to

    win it, since it’s already her fifth season, and Stone sees the prize money as a chance to alleviate his family’s financial troubles. However, Gina realizes immediately after meeting Stone that they’re being set up for the show’s romance bait, something s

    Take the Lead follows Gina and Stone, two reality TV stars, as they compete with the other contenders in The Dance Off, a network-TV dance competition. Both have different reasons of joining; Gina is in it to

    win it, since it’s already her fifth season, and Stone sees the prize money as a chance to alleviate his family’s financial troubles. However, Gina realizes immediately after meeting Stone that they’re being set up for the show’s romance bait, something she’s been adamant with the producers that she would not do.

    What I love most about Take the Lead is the relationship between Gina and Stone. Gina is fierce about protecting her reputation. She recognizes her privilege by being Puerto Rican on a show with a nationwide audience, so she remains resolute about doing her job to the best of her abilities and not be stereotyped as another sexy Latina, which means she needs to keep things with Stone professional. She has dreams of making it big in this cutthroat business, and she will not let anything stand in her way. Stone, on the other hand, loathes the “celebrity” life. He never wanted to be a reality star, but was pulled into it due to his loyalty to the Nielson family. Stone has his own secrets, things that will affect his family and their livelihood if they become public. I love how they grew closer the more they spent time with each other, and how they became each other’s solace. Gina and Stone have strong chemistry with each other and it’s so entertaining to watch their bond shift from colleagues to lovers.

    My only issue with the story is that the pacing felt slow in some parts and rushed towards the end, but other than that it’s a pretty solid debut, and I’ll be keeping an eye on more of this author’s works.

  • Taryn (sunlitlibrary)

    I think Take the Lead was a pretty addictive, solid debut. It has an awesome premise and pretty good relationship development, but could have been better with a little writing and pacing improvement. Nonetheless, Alexis Daria definitely has potential and so I'll definitely continue reading her books.

    You can read my full review

  • Anna Banana

    I've never watched Dancing with the Stars but after reading this book I have real admiration for the dancers on that show!

    This book was so much fun! It's fun, fresh, and very steamy I couldn't stop reading from the moment I started to read. Add in the Latinx rep and I was sold on this from the get-go.

    I loved Gina and Stone and I thought they had some really great chemistry. Stone is honestly so perfect I loved how much he cared for Gina and how he broke down her walls. I relate to Gina

    I've never watched Dancing with the Stars but after reading this book I have real admiration for the dancers on that show!

    This book was so much fun! It's fun, fresh, and very steamy I couldn't stop reading from the moment I started to read. Add in the Latinx rep and I was sold on this from the get-go.

    I loved Gina and Stone and I thought they had some really great chemistry. Stone is honestly so perfect I loved how much he cared for Gina and how he broke down her walls. I relate to Gina so much so I understood a lot of her struggles in this book and it made me love her so much for it.

    However around the 75% she also started to annoy me a bit. The conflict kind of got dragged out a bit and it really annoyed me how petty and stubborn Gina was being. However the resolution was more than worth the wait and I loved the epilogue so much.

    I highly recommend checking this book out! You won't regret it!

  • Nicola

    In the UK we call it Strictly Come Dancing, across the pond it’s Dancing With the Stars, but whatever name it goes by, if there’s glitter, sequins, fleckerls, foxtrots and fake tan involved

    . So a romance centralising around all this?

    No stranger to reality TV, gorgeous 6’7 bearded Alaskan wilderness star, Stone Nielson is more at home chopping wood than shimmying his hips. But when he’s partnered with LA based pro dancer, Gina Morales on

    , it’s not long before she coaxe

    In the UK we call it Strictly Come Dancing, across the pond it’s Dancing With the Stars, but whatever name it goes by, if there’s glitter, sequins, fleckerls, foxtrots and fake tan involved

    . So a romance centralising around all this?

    No stranger to reality TV, gorgeous 6’7 bearded Alaskan wilderness star, Stone Nielson is more at home chopping wood than shimmying his hips. But when he’s partnered with LA based pro dancer, Gina Morales on

    , it’s not long before she coaxes out the moves hiding beneath the muscle and the man-bun.

    I loved Stone. Quiet, contemplative and brooding, he’s a gentle giant and I enjoyed seeing how his confidence grew as the competition progressed. Gina was a fabulous female lead and her bright and vivacious personality complimented Stone’s perfectly. And whilst both refuse to be cornered into a

    to boost their popularity and show ratings, their attraction to one another is undeniable.

    Naturally it’s only a matter of time before Stone and Gina’s tango becomes that of a horizontal variety and trust me, all the build-up and tension towards it is seriously worth it. But what really struck me were the real and poignant nods to Gina’s personal plight and her battle against stereotype with her being Puerto Rican and a performing artist, which played an important and valuable part to the story.

    Fun and sexy with the right balance of fight and conflict,

    wasn’t flawless—at times the pacing felt a little rushed with regards to the live shows—but it is a strong, satisfying series opener and debut from Alexis Daria: I’m looking forward to reading more from her and seeing what treats lie in store when pro dancer, Natasha and show judge, Dimitri get up close and personal in

    .

  • Coral

    Mind-blowing, heart-wrenching, tear-jerker.

    Okay, I exaggerate.

    We're talking about a book on reality TV. Actually, its 2 reality TV shows. Where things are exaggerated, faked, blown totally out of proportion for the sake of ratings.

    Gina, a born dancer waiting for her big break is in danger of losing her current shot to fame by not pandering to what the tv exec wanted by playing up the stereotypes. She especially do not need an attraction to someone who is going to be a partner whom the producer

    Mind-blowing, heart-wrenching, tear-jerker.

    Okay, I exaggerate.

    We're talking about a book on reality TV. Actually, its 2 reality TV shows. Where things are exaggerated, faked, blown totally out of proportion for the sake of ratings.

    Gina, a born dancer waiting for her big break is in danger of losing her current shot to fame by not pandering to what the tv exec wanted by playing up the stereotypes. She especially do not need an attraction to someone who is going to be a partner whom the producer wants her to play a romance with.

    Stone is tired of faking it for reality TV but his family depends on the income. Where he's usually portrayed as the strong, silent one in his family show because of his inability to lie convincingly, he is now trusted into the limelight and has to depend on Gina on how to navigate the dance show world.

    By the forth chapter, I had my heart out for Stone. He has to carry the burden of so many secrets which he is not comfortable with for his family. With Gina's insistence that they keep their relationship secret, he gets more and more stressed keeping the secrets.

    I was initially annoyed with Gina with her constant push and pull with Stone, with her stubborn insistent of keeping their relationship secret because in her view it will only affect her professional reputation. But I realise later on, it is her masking her real worries about what happens when the show is over and when Stone leaves her. Its her first time falling in love and she doesn't know how to handle it.

    I love how the author sticks to using the dance competition each week as catalyst for each change in the relationship and the interactions with other competitors are kept to a minimum, only when it affects the main characters.

    I'm surprised to note that this is the author's debut novel. I'm eagerly waiting for other goodies from her.

    Plot: 4.5/5

    Characterisation: 4.5/5

    Prose: 4/5

    How much I enjoyed it: 5/5

  • Saly

    Thank you so much Coral for reviewing this book, if it wasn't for you I would not have read this. First of all a brilliant premise, a dance reality TV show. Second I loved the heroine, she was ambitious and passionate about dancing and didn't want to take shortcuts or do something that would compromise her image in front of her family even if it would ease her way. I liked that about her, even if I felt she was worrying way too much about it later.

    I loved the hero too, he was a saint to give up

    Thank you so much Coral for reviewing this book, if it wasn't for you I would not have read this. First of all a brilliant premise, a dance reality TV show. Second I loved the heroine, she was ambitious and passionate about dancing and didn't want to take shortcuts or do something that would compromise her image in front of her family even if it would ease her way. I liked that about her, even if I felt she was worrying way too much about it later.

    I loved the hero too, he was a saint to give up so much for his family. I felt his family was selfish but well what do you do you love them anyway right? Then, why the 4 stars, well I felt the conflict about them wanting different lives was resolved too quickly and hero's new thing just came out of the left field but bravo for a lady who gives no apologies for wanting to be successful. I will be reading this author again for sure.

  • Liv (Stories For Coffee)

    I really enjoyed reading this novel because I love dance competitions, so this book really won me over. I also enjoyed the Puerto Rican culture that’s woven into the story since Gina is a Puerto Rican main character whose ethnicity and culture is very important to her. Her drive to break stereotypes placed on Latinas was like a breath of fresh air to me because I related so hard to her character and everything she stood for which was hard work, perseverance, and dedication.

    Stone was also an ado

    I really enjoyed reading this novel because I love dance competitions, so this book really won me over. I also enjoyed the Puerto Rican culture that’s woven into the story since Gina is a Puerto Rican main character whose ethnicity and culture is very important to her. Her drive to break stereotypes placed on Latinas was like a breath of fresh air to me because I related so hard to her character and everything she stood for which was hard work, perseverance, and dedication.

    Stone was also an adorable character to get to know along the way, as well. His gruff demeanor contrasted perfectly with Gina’s personality. Their dynamic was so unique because their relationship blossomed on screen for this reality show, so it was interesting to see how they were pushed together by their producers and their own desire to be together. I loved how healthy and cute their relationship was and I rooted for them to not only win the competition but to win over each other’s hearts at the end of the novel.

    While this story was written in a pace that was a bit too fast for me to fully enjoy the characters and their growing relationships, I still enjoyed this story overall for its diversity, well-written dance scenes, and quirkiness that comes along with reality shows. If you love anything to do with dance, a steamy forbidden romance, and a strong-willed female lead, you’ll love Take the Lead.


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