Stefanie London continues her Bad Bachelors series with Bad Reputation, a romance between a ballerina who fears vulnerability and a man struggling to establish independence from his family.
Remi Drysdale has given up on dancing. She had a promising career in the Melbourne Ballet Company that ended in scandal and a heartbreaking miscarriage. After getting involved with a fellow dancer and getting pregnant, she was ousted from the company while her lover chose his career over whatever feelings he had for Remi. Now, she lives in New York, teaching barre classes. Ballet is a thing of the past until Wes Evans walks into the studio with his niece.
Wes is the son of dancing royalty, and his parents currently own one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the country. But he wants to do more than just get by on his family’s name and influence. He wants something for himself. Wes has lofty ideas for a show that combines modern ballet, audience participation and other forms of dance. There’s just one thing he’s missing: his lead ballerina. To complicate matters, the money his investors are willing to provide is jeopardized when a dating app begins publicizing his . . . gifts in the bedroom, granting him the nickname “Anaconda.”
It takes some convincing for Remi to partner with Wes, and she makes it clear that she won’t be mixing business with pleasure. She made that mistake before and refuses to make it again, though it’s clear that Wes and Remi’s chemistry transcends more than just a working relationship. Remi is a woman whose experiences have left her broken. She hasn’t danced professionally in years, and it’s incredibly sad to see her be so hard on herself. Meanwhile, Wes is just doing his best to get out from his parents’ thumb. His mother, in particular, isn’t too fond of his idea to strike out on his own and do something in opposition to her traditional ballet teaching.
But it is because he grew up in a family that puts such a focus on dance that he knows a good performer when he sees one. Wes is able to recognize Remi’s fear, hesitancy and the slew of complicated emotions that prevent her from being the magnificent dancer he knows she is. With each page and each practice, Remi gets better and more confident, building herself back into the beautiful, confident dancer she once was. It’s a Cinderella story in pointe shoes.
London deftly balances light-hearted, smile-inducing, shameless flirting with explorations into relatable and deep-rooted insecurities: Am I good enough or just an imposter? Am I more than just my family name or my shameful past? How far will I go to reach my dreams? What if I fail?
Bad Reputation is sweet. It’s sexy. It’s full of heart. The dance nerdery is just a bonus.