Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams by Sue Watson

Title - Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams
Author - Sue Watson
Publication Date - July 3rd 201
Publisher - Bookouture
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided via NetGalley)
Pages - 308

Dance like nobody's watching. Love like you'll never get hurt...

Laura Watkin's heart isn't broken, she's just forgotten how to use it.

After years on her own, the highlight of single mum Laura's week is watching Strictly Come Dancing with a glass of Pinot Grigio and a large helping of imagination. 

With her daughter Sophie going travelling, Laura knows the time is right to do something for herself for a change. One disastrous Zumba class later and Laura ends up at the feet (literally) of gorgeous dance instructor Tony Hernandez.

A natural dancer and inspiring teacher, Tony rekindles in Laura a passion she inherited from her ballroom dancer father - and with it comes a dream... to make him proud.

But when Tony enters them to perform at the National Dance Festival, can Laura's new-found confidence survive the test? And with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn Flamenco in Spain, could Laura truly learn to dance like nobody's watching... and love like she'll never get hurt?

I knew it. I just absolutely knew it. What I knew was that, whatever Sue Watson provided her readers with next, it was going to be top-notch, hilariously funny and ultimately, a lesson learnt, whether that be in love or life. Having read two of Sue's gorgeous novels prior to her latest Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams, I have been waiting with baited breath for exciting book news from the author, and I could barely contain my excitement when Sue's cover and title were revealed. Love, Lies and Lemon Cake and Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake were both awarded my top rating of five cupcakes, so without meaning to put too much pressure on Sue, I really had high expectations for Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams.

And oh my word, were those expectations exceeded! If I thought I'd been witness to Sue's twinkly story-telling abilities previously, then I was completely starstruck this time round. The author truly pulled out all of the stops within this novel and I couldn't hold myself back from racing through the pages, unattractively desperate to see what would happen next. I completely fell in love with Sue's style during reading her two previous novels, but I believe Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams seduced me that much more.

Sue opens Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams with a dramatic scene involving her daughter Sophie who has just been ditched at the altar. As she perches on the church steps beside a sniffling and understandably traumatised Sophie, Laura is taken aback when Sophie declares that she doesn't want a life like her mother's, sat on the couch each night with a glass of wine, staring at the stars dreamily during an episode of Strictly Come Dancing. It's then that Laura realises that Sophie is perhaps right. I'll be honest here, I instantly felt sympathetic towards Laura and wanted to give her a big squeeze because no matter who tells you so, being told you have dismal, uneventful life hurts, even if the person saying so is your daughter. It was obvious that Laura cared incredibly deeply about her daughter, as mothers do. She'd spent so much money on the approaching wedding, if only to try and impress her no-longer-son-in-law-to-be's parents. What I also realised was that Laura had done so because she wanted her daughter Sophie to have a life which she'd never had. Full of excitement and luxury and comfort. I think with this opening, Sue did such a perfect job of introducing Laura's character to us, and Sue continues to do so right the way through the novel. Rather than revealing everything to the reader all at once, even when nearing the end, I was still learning about Laura's tragic past and the circumstances surrounding her dear parents. Sue hints towards something awful having happened but doesn't actually reveal the details for a while, and I loved this aspect because it spurred me on to figure out the rest of Laura and her family's past. When Sophie comments on the dullness of her mother's life, I felt so incredibly bad for Laura but, looking back now, perhaps if Sophie hadn't of brought the subject into the spotlight, Laura might never have made the decision to do something about it, and without that decision, this novel wouldn't have been as special as it was. And it was special. Beautifully special.

 As Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams progresses, we see Laura grow in a million ways. I guess you could say that her journey is sparked first by Sophie's comment, and then by a Zumba dance-class, which she attends alongside her best mate Carole who she knows from their dull and unexciting place of work Bilston's. These two seriously had a cracking relationship and had me in fits of giggles numerous times throughout, and Carole really gave Laura someone to confide in too, which is what every woman needs I think. It also allowed the reader another insight into how Laura was feeling about certain things as her circumstances change. I adored their relationship, especially the times when Carole would peep out from behind the stacked cans of baked beans at work to speak to Laura while she was glued to her checkout. Sue achieved such a real image of how Laura felt about her job, scanning through cat food, toilet rolls and cereal. It was dismal, it was repetitive, and it made Laura miserable, that much was clear. But of course when you're a mother and you have a mortgage to pay off, you have to suck it up and get on with it, whether you like it or not. So, I was glad that Laura had Carole around to keep her company, and entertain and amuse her. But the character who truly brings Laura out of her shell is Tony. Oh, I adored this man so freaking much. He was everything that Laura needed to become a bigger person, and seemed to arrive at just the right time too. After Tony invites her to his dance-class having seen her stumble through Zumba, Laura's fire inside is sparked and suddenly, it's burning away like nobody's business. 

Something that enchanted me was the dance history of Laura's parents. God, Sue's descriptions of Laura's childhood, the chips covered in salt and vinegar, walking along the seafront in Blackpool, the dresses, the dancing, the heady atmosphere and not forgetting the glitter ball... I felt as if I were there, watching it all happen from the sidelines. Despite Laura's childhood having been so sequin-sparkly and something that had stayed with her for all of her life, it was obvious from the tone with which Sue wrote that it hadn't been as pretty as it had looked, and this was confirmed when Laura heads into the attic of her mother's home and begins to sift through the bin liners, attempting to clear everything out in the present day. It is at this moment when Laura accidentally finds a letter, written from her father to her mother. Within this letter are lines which mystify Laura because she can't figure out who or what her father is referring to as he writes. It becomes obvious that something happened between her parents all those years ago, and with her mother so adamant about leaving the past to rest each time Laura attempts to talk about it, the past suddenly seems so much more intriguing that it had ever been before. If Laura's own personal journey wasn't enough to ensure I continued reading, then this sudden appearance of a hidden secret made it all the more important for me to carry on. As I mentioned above, Sue's descriptions were just sheer perfection. How she recalled those evenings from her childhood had me spellbound and utterly caught up and swept away, and just the thought of those dance shows, dresses and music had me enthralled completely. It wasn't just the visual imagery that caught me though, it was the smells, the feel of the materials and how Laura felt as that little girl watching her parents whip up a frenzy, completely and utterly in love with each other as they took to the floor. It was such a gorgeous aspect to have in this novel, and I'm not sure whether Sue has experience of dance herself, but within this novel, she came across as a complete expert. I felt as if I, as a reader, were being taught a lesson in the history and culture of dance and it was wonderful.

Laura's life really takes a turn as the novel continues, and all at once she's transported from the checkout in Bilston's to the hot and humid birthplace of Flamenco, Spain. Again, similar to the dresses and the music, Sue's descriptions of this brand new place were impossible to ignore. They were stunning, completely captivating, and Sue whisked me away to join Laura on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn Flamenco, which had always been a dream of her father's. Alongside a hot, passionate holiday romance (which reminded me of the one and only Shirley Valentine, in a good way!), Laura takes classes to learn the Flamenco like a native. She grows in confidence, completely at ease with her new firm dancer's body, and the transition of her character from beginning to end was mind-blowing. What mattered to me most was that Laura grew to love herself, and this is such an important message in today's society! Too often we focus on what we dislike about ourselves, the bad parts that we try to hide, but this novel opened my eyes to how harsh we are to ourselves and that, really, we need to treat ourselves with kindness rather than negativity, and that there really isn't anything wrong with loving ourselves. It's important. 

In true Sue Watson style, the author whips up a frenzy throughout her novel, tugging me along through a series of Dirty Dancing style lifts, whirling spins and dramatic drops. This novel was exciting, an experience in itself, following one woman on a journey that she never before had the confidence to take, alongside true, full-of-faith friends and a dream to feel that fire inside once more. It was thrilling, ultimately moving, and with yet another lesson from the fabulous Sue that emphasises beautifully how we should never be afraid to take chances and go after our dreams. No matter how old we are, no matter what we look like, there's no discrimination in chasing your dream and claiming it as your own. It's never too late, in Laura's case, and damn what a woman she is!

Becca's Books is awarding Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams by Sue Watson with FIVE SCRUMMY CUPCAKES! I completely and utterly adored how wrapped up and involved I felt within Laura's story. The characters, the settings, the dreams and the chasing of them. It was perfect in every way, the writing fluid and smooth, Sue's descriptions clouding my mind until I picture nothing else, just them alone. I would gladly, with pleasure, read this novel again and again and again, just to feel the way the author made me feel while doing so. Sue Watson is a bit like a flamenco dancer in the bookish world, stomping away, whipping her skirts and taking me prisoner with her show of words each and every time. I just love her and her writing, and if there was a way for me to sign-up for every single book to come from this author, I'd do so without a moment's hesitation. I cannot wait to read her next novel. I'm sure I said the same thing at the end of my other two reviews but when an author makes you feel like that every single time, then you know you've found something special in them that resonates with you beautifully.

*Special thanks to Sue Watson and Bookouture for providing me with a digital copy of Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams in exchange for a fair and honest review*


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