Take the Lead

In the past few years, I have loved several books by Alexis Daria. After reading her Primas of Power novels—You Had Me at Hola and A Lot Like Adiós—as well as shorter works like What the Hex and Solstice Miracle, it’s safe to say she’s one of my favorites. Now, she is rereleasing her very first novel, Take the Lead, which originally came out in 2017. It’s gotten some major updates, both to the text and to its now-animated cover. The first in Alexis Daria’s Dance Off series, hopefully this will mean more rereleases of her earliest books.

Special thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC of this book!


In her four seasons as a professional dancer on The Dance Off, Gina Morales has never made it to the finals. Her career is at risk if she doesn’t make it to the finals this season, and Gina has big dreams that she’s been working towards. She hopes that her dance partner this season will be her ticket to the finals and greater heights in her career. Stone Nielson, for his part, isn’t excited to be on The Dance Off, but he’ll do anything to help his family financially. The tall survivalist—known for the Alaska-based reality show he and his family are on—is the quiet type, and he has some secrets to keep, which is hard to do on a reality dance show. Gina and Stone don’t like being set up as a “showmance” this season… yet they also can’t deny their attraction to each other. How could two such different people, with their different goals and homes, find a happily ever after together? Even with the odds against them, Gina and Stone have one whole season to get to know each other before they have to make some tough choices.


Since I read You Had Me at Hola in 2020, I’ve been working my way through Alexis Daria’s novels and short stories. I was excited to see that her first novel, Take the Lead, was getting a refresh. I hadn’t read the original publication, but this new version—with a cute new cover and updated text—fully caught my interest.

Take the Lead is set on a reality show called The Dance Off—much like the long-running show, Dancing with the Stars, which I used to love watching with my mom and sister. That may be the first thing that captured my imagination here. I loved imagining the different ballroom dances Gina and her celebrity partner Stone would work on each week. From rehearsals to the live, on-air performances, from the choreography to the music selection to the costumes, it was fun to envision such a beautiful expression of art and athleticism. Putting Gina and Stone into the reality television world, in which everything is filmed and crew are always watching, adds a unique constraint to their tentative relationship. (I may need to read more romances set on reality shows! There are plenty to choose from!)

Gina Morales is the expert dancer on the show, and she’s super professional. She has big career goals, and one step forward is ensuring she makes it to the finals on The Dance Off; in her four seasons, she’s yet to make it that far. Gina is very against having romantic or sexual entanglements with her dance partners, and she’s more than a little frustrated that her show producers are set on portraying her and Stone as a “showmance” this season. Even so, she has a hard time ignoring her attraction to Stone.

For his part, Stone is a soft-spoken and notably tall man; he’s 6’7″! He’s known as one of the seven adult children on his family’s reality show, in which they’re all survivalists living in rural Alaska, aka “the bush.” Stone has some secrets regarding his family, and he’s a truly terrible liar. But he’s committed to doing well on The Dance Off, because he needs to pay off his mom’s hip surgery and his own student loan debt… and because he wants to see Gina reach her goals.

Both characters are very likable and feel like people I’d want to be friends with. And despite their differences in lifestyle and career ambitions, they work so well together. Their mutual attraction is palpable from their first meeting, and despite Stone’s early hesitation, their time working on weekly dances together allows that chemistry to shine.

For a while, Take the Lead is about Gina and Stone fighting their attraction, eventually succumbing to it, and knowing that a long-term relationship could never work. Gina has her own reservations to overcome, but on top of that, they don’t live in the same area. How could they possibly have a future together?

Take the Lead is very steamy, but it’s also so sweet and wholesome. Gina is an ambitious, talented, and career-oriented woman; Stone is a gentle giant and total family man who likes the peaceful Alaska life. Together, they show how two people can overcome the odds to make a relationship work, in spite of cameras in your face 24/7. And the dancing? The best; they get a 100 from me.

Final Thoughts

Take the Lead is a perfect romance; I just loved everything about it. I hope Alexis Daria’s second Dance Off novel, Dance With Me, will also get a rerelease soon! There’s also a novella in the series, and word on the street is that one or two more books were planned, if not written. My hope is that we’ll be able to spend more time with this series, because Take the Lead is delightful. I’m also very much looking forward to the third Primas of Power book, Along Came Amor, out on September 5, 2023. Stay tuned for my reviews of all these books and more!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Get the Book

You can buy Take the Lead here – it’s available as a paperback or ebook.

Take the Lead by Alexis Daria
SeriesDance Off (#1)
GenreContemporary Romance
SettingLos Angeles; New York City; Alaska
Number of Pages368
Format I Readebook (NetGalley)
Rerelease Publication DateFebruary 14, 2023

Official Summary

From Alexis Daria, author of the critically acclaimed, international bestseller You Had Me at Hola, comes a fun, sexy romance set against a reality dance show.

Gina Morales wants to make it big. In her four seasons on The Dance Off, she’s never even made it to the finals. But her latest partner, the sexy star of an Alaskan wilderness show, could be her chance. Who knew the strong, silent, survivalist had moves like that? She thinks Stone Nielson is her ticket to win it all—until her producer makes it clear they’re being set up for a showmance.

Joining a celebrity dance competition is the last thing Stone wants, but he’ll endure anything to help his family, even as he fears revealing their secrets. While the fast pace of Los Angeles makes him long for peace and privacy, he can’t deny his growing attraction for his dance partner. Neither wants to fake a romance for the cameras, but the explosive chemistry that flares between them is unmistakable. As Stone and Gina heat up the dance floor, it’s only a matter of time until he feels an overwhelming urge to take the lead.

When the press catches on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy. Gina and Stone will have to choose between fame and fortune, or the chance at a future together.

About the Author

Alexis Daria

Alexis Daria is the award-winning and international bestselling author of You Had Me at HolaA Lot Like AdiósWhat the Hex, and more. Her books have been featured on several “Best of” lists from outlets like Oprah MagazineEntertainment WeeklyNPRBuzzfeed, and Washington Post, and have received starred reviews from trade publications like Publishers WeeklyKirkus Reviews, and Library Journal. A former visual artist, Alexis is a lifelong New Yorker who loves Broadway musicals and pizza. Her next release, a special edition of her debut novel Take the Lead, will be available in print for the first time in early 2023.

More Reviews of Alexis Daria’s Books

You Had Me at Hola

This summer, I started hearing great things about a new contemporary romance, You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria. I was instantly interested, in…

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A Lot Like Adiós

It was a full year ago when I read You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria, and I ended up really loving it. The first…

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What the Hex

Last September I read (and adored) You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria. It’s the first in her Primas of Power series, and I’m eagerly…

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More Books by Alexis Daria

Alexis Daria - Dance With Me (2017)
Alexis Daria - Solstice Dream
Amor Actually

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