The Bride Lottery #5: Dancer by Caty Callahan is a romance about a young girl who has grown up homeless with a troupe of dancers and a young boy from a nice family who has grown up with everything he could possible imagine. It deals with all the prejudices we have about what it means to be family and how to treat others.
10 out of 10 stars. Few romances talk about what it’s like when you first get married. Your best girlfriends start to distance themselves from you because they hate it when you talk about your husband all the time. That divide gets wider when you get pregnant and become a family. In fact, unless your best friends are in the same place in life, about to get married and have kids, they have difficulty understanding you anymore. These are the same girls you used to share everything with. And that’s what this romance captures perfectly because as soon as the heroine gets married her sister and best friend disowns her.
Amelia Potts has a serious dilemma. She’s tired of being homeless. She’s tired of sleeping in the cold in winter and dealing with the grabby men who watch their troupe perform. But mostly she’s tired of being afraid. Afraid of not having food to eat, a place to sleep, shelter and warmth. She’s especially afraid for her little sister, Annabelle. Therein lies the cause of most of Amelia’s troubles.
Blake Bennett has spent years building a farm and preparing his house to get a wife. When his cousin Jack eyes up the same girl, he pretends he wants another so Amelia’s name is left for him. They are instantly attracted to each other and within a couple of days have consummated their marriage. Now they’re married for life.
When Blake finds out that Amelia is a dancer, he’s at first thrilled and then horrified. He can’t understand how a girl could be homeless. The Brennanmen, peacekeepers, place orphans in nice loving families so why would she be homeless by choice? Then Amelia explains that their only living relative was an old man who touched them in inappropriate places. That’s the flaw in the adoption system in this post-apocalyptic universe. If you have family, you can’t be adopted and therefore, become homeless. All of the kids in Amelia’s dance troupe have relatives, horrible relatives, and so they chose to stick together, perform as dancers for money, and to become each other’s family. This is the other struggle throughout this novel, for Blake and Amelia to redefine what they think family means. Does it mean the person you married and his family? Or does it mean the people you’re related to who treat you like garbage, which in this case soon becomes Annabelle?
The dance troupe is a cute little collection of misfits in every size and age. They are led by Harold who has feelings for Amelia and those feelings make him furious because she went and got herself married before he came of age (men enter the lottery at 21 while women enter at 18 so it’s not unusual for girls to enter before their male friends come of age). You can’t help but feel that he is encouraging Annabelle to be cruel to her sister Amelia.
Eventually the small arguments between Blake and Amelia about what homelessness means turn into a big argument and she leaves him, running back to the troupe. Only this time she is an outcast. Harold forces the troupe to vote on whether or not she should be allowed to rejoin, something Amelia never thought would have to be voted upon, and Annabelle is one of the ones who votes against her. Amelia feels betrayed and endures being ostracized for a long time before Blake finally comes and convinces her to come home.
My heart went out to Amelia, a young girl with her whole life ahead of her, but she’s stuck in the past because she feels responsible for her sister. It takes most of the novel and Blake’s encouragement before she realizes she is responsible for noone’s actions but her own and that Annabelle has chosen a different life, one that no longer includes Amelia.
There’s a side plot involving Blake’s cousin Jack and his obnoxious wife, the one he was stuck marrying because Blake pretended he wanted her. That was priceless and proves that you shouldn’t be marrying someone just because your smart cousin thinks she’s the best one there. Maybe you should be marrying the one that you want instead. 😉
10 out of 10 stars. The happily ever after ending was cute. Amelia gets to keep dancing, which she really loves, and changes it into something that’s not only doable, but will bring the family income. Smart girl.
This title is currently only available on the author’s membership site at threecats.org for members only.
Reviewed by Erin.