Friday, June 29, 2007

Dream Dancing

Dream Dancing by J. J. Lair
(iUniverse / 0-595-41208-4 / February 2007 / 220 pages / $15.95)

Who cares about a doughnut deliveryman? He can arrive with the milkman and we can all have breakfast! You will begin to care more and more as this steamy little potboiler unrolls its sweet little story of blue-collar romance with a serial killer backbeat thundering through the strip club. Never-married, thirty-something, doughnut dealing Mark Winston dreads the lengthy phone calls from his mom. She revels in constantly reminding him of the successes of his brother, while questioning Mark's lifestyle choices. After arising long before dawn each day to see that his customers receive their daily sugar fix, his only consolation prize to himself seems to be the lazy evenings he spends in front of the exotic dancers at the local strip club. He has even attempted to date a few of these denizens of disrobe, but his success rate has never even surpassed his satisfaction with his delivery truck. Abby Broughton has fled her abusive, sleazebucket boyfriend in Las Vegas to enter the nonstop action of a small New Jersey town. Stir in a serial killer on the loose and let the working class romance begin.

J. J. Lair has apparently released previous works in a similar romance genre. A 1999 book shows up at Amazon and the back-cover blurb from Dream Dancing mentions a 2004 play. This is his first iUniverse book, and I hope it is not his last. Like Mark Winston, the author seems to be the type of working man who relentlessly pushes himself toward his goal. He is a man who is comfortable in his lifestyle, a man who knows where he is going and how he is going to get there. The average number of typos for an iU book are present. The cover is nothing special, and the marketing blurb may not produce much inspiration for the potential buyer, but the story within is first-class. Dream Dancing is a slowly simmering potboiler. The characters of an obviously trashy profession and lifestyle develop three-dimensional depth as the plot unfolds. You begin to root for these down-on-their-luck or misguided personalities who spend much of their time at two bars the local citizens would just as soon go elsewhere. It becomes very easy to picture in your mind exactly how these people wound up in such a downward spiral as you come to realize how much you care that they succeed at bettering their lives.

Dream Dancing is a well-designed, quiet little morality play. The mystery element added by the presence of an unidentified serial killer of exotic dancers helps keep the storyline from reading like a snooze, but ultimately, it is the development of the characters that floats Dream Dancing to the top. J. J. Laird has been working at his craft for a while, and it shows.

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