When I was growing up, you had to look hard to find a little girl who didn’t harbor dreams of becoming a ballerina one day. While mine may have been more low-key than that of most girls, I did have pretty wallpaper with chubby ballerinas on it in multi-coloured costumes in a plethora of positions. When a belief that I was clumsy put the binders on my ballerina dreams, my love for dance went undercover. I devoured any movie prominently featuring dance and lived vicariously through Ballet Shoes. It’s no wonder I couldn’t resist reading Elizabeth White’s Christian ballerina romance Tour de Force.
White drops her Christian ballerina smack-dab in the center of a profession well known for it’s cut-throat competitiveness, sexual immorality and the fanatical dedication of its dancers (even to the point of self-harm). Gillian Kincade (Gilly) is a talented young dancer who has just made soloist with Ballet New York. When Jacob Ferrar, the artistic director of the Birmingham Ballet Theatre sees her dance, the seed of an entirely new Christian ballet is formed in his mind.
As Gilly and Jacob brainstorm the new project at a distance, a tender romance begins to bloom between them. When a disastrous first performance of a scene from the new ballet for Jacob’s board of directors casts everything into doubt, both Gilly’s career and the growing feelings between the pair reach an impasse.
Tour de Force is a fairly straightforward, sweet romance that remains rather straight-laced despite the risqué profession it portrays. The moral pitfalls of the ballet world are clearly presented while never becoming explicit. Jacob’s own sin-filled past as an unbeliever are present in guardedness and caution in his character and Gilly’s interactions with her unbelieving fellow dancers are both gentle and grace-filled while standing uncompromisingly for God’s standards.
Readers familiar with White’s previous novels will recognize members of Gilly’s family from Off the Record. Tour de Force is without question a stand-alone title, but meeting familiar characters in new places is always fun. The frequent play on southern manners, customs, and hospitality in White’s novels provides a humorous edge to the story as well.
While there was some vital action taking place off-page, and some confusing jumps in time at the beginning of the novel, the story is generally well developed and engaging. I stayed up far too late reading it into the night. White pleasantly weaves the threads of family togetherness, faith, and appreciation for the arts together along with the achingly sweet characters she’s developed. While it’s true that both Gilly and Jacob have their flaws; fierce independence and a marred past respectively, they both come across rather idyllically, both too good to be true. While both spiritually struggle through the difficulties and valleys placed in their lives, this is the sort of novel where you just feel like everything will be fine from early on.
Gilly and Jacob’s story is ultimately one of hope, both for their future, and for the salvation of those around them as they live out Christian lives in the midst of the world. While it’s not profound or extraordinarily thought -provoking, it does provide a comfy read if you need a shot of romance, or if, like me, you couldn’t resist the ballerinas.