Series Review: District Ballet Company by Katherine Locke

I've loved ballet for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a ballerina, with no idea what it would take to achieve that goal, but after one year of ballet class my family couldn't afford to keep sending me and I had to let the dream go. But I still love ballet many many years later. The first romance I remember reading was a pair of ballet-themed Silhouette novels that were in my mom's collection. I actually found those two novels sold together in one book years later and snatched that baby up.  But I hadn't read a ballet novel in years. Until...

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and Alisha Rai (Zee told you about her books here) mentioned wanting to read ballet novels, to which one of her followers suggested the District Ballet Company series by Katherine Locke. Ballet, you say? I added the first one to be TBR right away. A few weeks later I was finally easing out of my Paper Swan book hangover and wanted something light, frothy, romantic, and thought that District Ballet would fit the bill. I was completely wrong.

There is nothing light or frothy about District Ballet Company. It's so much more. It's intense and painful, beautiful and amazing. I was sucked into Aly and Zed's story right from the novella. I learned what happened to them, what changed everything and I had to read on. Come with me through the jump and I'll tell you about this short (so far!) series that is unlike anything else I've read. In the best possible way.

I feel like I need to talk about the two-and-a-half books in this series as one, since they are essentially one story, So that's how I'm approaching this review--it's a series review, but, please read all three books that are available now. I know that there will be more coming about the other characters we've met, but at this point, District Ballet Company is Zed and Aly's story. And what a story!

In the prequel novella, Turning Pointe (which you can read online here), we meet a very
young Alyona Miller and Zedekiah Harrow, as they are preparing to embark on their first European tour with their ballet company. As they finally accept that they mean more to each other than just friends, we get to come along as they dance through love and passion, the novella ending before we get to see the aftermath of their world being ripped apart. It's a bloody good set up for the subsequent novels!

The real meat of the story starts in the first novel, Second Position, which opens four years after the end of Turning Pointe. Zed and Aly haven't spoken, much less seen one another, since the terrible car accident that ended Zed's ballet career, and their lives have diverged after years of being inseparable. When the two meet again their connection is palpable but understandably strained. They have to learn who the other person is now, who they are together, and decide whether the budding romance they walked away from is worth fixing now that their common ground, ballet, has been stripped away.

In the intervening years, Zed has battled alcoholism and Aly has battled anxiety and anorexia, so obviously these two broken people come back together with lots of baggage. Having walked away from one another, out of fear, pain, and grief we get to see Zed and Aly fight and love and heal as they decide what their relationship will be going forward. It's an unflinching look at the work that goes into making a successful relationship, and I really dig that. It was wonderful, in a really painful way, to see a couple keep secrets from one another, to hurt each other both accidentally and on purpose, to be brutally honest with one another, and to come through it all more in love, stronger, than ever.

These books were also amazing in their fearless look at the issues and disorders that can so often accompany the quest for perfection. Aly's struggle with depression, anxiety, and anorexia leading to her breakdown and its aftermath was written with care giving the reader a feeling of being inside her head, experiencing the fear and helplessness, the struggle to maintain control. And the way that Zed relearned Aly, learned when to push and when to give her time and space was absolutely beautiful. I adored Aly's appointments with Dr. Ham and loved that he understood precisely what Zed meant to her, his role as the centering force in her life. It was all so wonderfully gritty and real.

For me this has been a summer filled with amazing books that have a depth and intensity
that I am relishing, and while District Ballet Company was not the light and fluffy escape I was anticipating, it was so much more. So much better. A really beautiful love story about two people who have always belonged together, whose broken parts perfectly fill the holes in each other. It was lovely and awful, frustrating and inspiring, with every single thing I could possibly want in a love story. 

Wench Rating: 


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