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Review: On Pointe by Shelly Ellis

This contemporary novella, set in DC sets up the MacLaine Girls series.

Bina MacClaine is the daughter of the founder who can’t convince her mother that the business is in trouble. She teaches lessons and acts as the business manager. The book opens with her meeting up with her ex, his offering to buy her mother’s dance studio on behalf of a client, and her dumping her coffee over his fuckboy head. (More of this, please. Can this be a romance trope?) She is furious when she returns to work that day only to find out her mother has hired another teacher, when they can barely afford the teachers they have (and not for much longer).

Maurice is a back up dancer and choreographer from Atlanta who grew up in DC taking lessons at MacLaine. He came back to get away from some things and a specific someone. Mo always had a crush on Bee when he was a teen but she didn’t know he existed beyond as a student. He’s all grown up, and still crushing on the older woman. Can he convince her to see that he’s not a kid anymore? Will his past threaten his new life?

Bina’s mother Yvonne,who discovers that she had stage 3 cervical cancer and keeps it a secret, is the third “main” character in that there are sections written from her point of view. Her illness serves to flesh her out, as does her burning desire to keep the academy afloat no matter what. She’s had the chance to sell in the past and refuses to do so. However, there’s a lot of room for expansion, and I wonder if we’ll continue to get her point of view in future books, or if her inclusion was largely to help set up the future books.

I like that the age difference between Bina and Maurice and more to the point their former student /teacher dynamic is a big obstacle. It is made very clear that there was never any attraction on Bee’s side. Their slow burn of their sexual tension is well crafted and hot. They are an easy couple to root for.

There’s not a lot of time spent getting to know more about the academy and the other teachers/dancers there or their dynamic with Bee/Mo/Yvonne, and I would’ve liked to see more (I’m guessing that will play a larger part of future books). Gentrification and the consequences of that play out as part of the book, and the pressure on the business is really well done. We don’t see that addressed very often in romance, and I liked seeing it, perhaps in part because I live in Silicon Valley where gentrification and displacement because of it are a reality of my community. We see the role that the school has played in the community and that it has produced several powerhouse performers. If it shutters, it will have real consequences for the community.

Buy On Pointe at Amazon

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