📖Freestyle (Academy of Stardom Book 1) by Bea Paige

Dance is in my blood. It’s what keeps me sane, out of trouble.
It used to keep them out of trouble too.
A group of boys I grew up with. Xeno, York, Zayn and Dax.
We were a crew once and we ruled the clubs. Separate we were insanely good, together we were unbeatable.
F*&ing on fire.
I was their girl and they were my Breakers.
Until they did something they promised they never would; break my heart.
We were seventeen when they left me. You see, for kids like us, dance was all we had. Growing up in a rundown housing estate in London with no prospects can make you view the world differently. It can make you choose the wrong path.
I chose dance, and they chose crime.
Three years later I’ve won a scholarship to Stardom Academy. I try to forget my past.
But how can I do that when the four boys who hurt me are back? And this time they’re following in my footsteps and joining the academy too.

Let me tell you, I have never run to a book so quickly in my life! This was another TikTok recommendation – a ‘spicy book’ if you will.

I started reading it last night, I’d made it halfway through the book before I realised it was nearing midnight. I was so engrossed in the passion and the fire behind the words. I even cried at one point; I was so emotionally invested.

I’ve never been a fan of enemies-to friends-to lovers before. I usually find that scenario overrated and predicable. So, I took a chance that this book could surprise me and boy…did it!

I’m writing this as I’ve literally just finished the book and my head feels like its swimming in emotion and my heart which has been pumped with adrenaline feels heavy and sluggish. There are 4 books in the series, and you can bet your arse I already have the second book in my Kindle library. All 4 books are available on Kindle Unlimited.

So, the book is set in London but really it could be taking place anywhere. The main character ‘Pen’ is a dancer. Dancing is her escape and it’s her dream. We follow her story as she gets accepted into a dance academy. Then there are Zayn, Dax, York, & Xeno. The four boys turned men. Friends turned enemies.

Running alongside the main story you get snippets of the past. What once was between the five of them and what happened to take them to where they are at the beginning of this book.

There is bad language, reference to drug business, violence, and unsavoury references to rape and abuse. It’s not a happy go lucky story, so if you are likely to be triggered by any of these things, this book is probably not for you.

Now, I have read a lot of books that are set in an ‘academy’ of sorts with the usual predicable players. The bitchy girl, the sexy girl, the best friend, the quiet guy, etc. So, that part of the story at least isn’t new or impressive.

I think that the relationships between the top five character being so complicated adds an extra layer of reading. I felt more passion when I was reading this and more connected to the characters than I should have been in book 1.

Pen is feisty because she has to be. To rise out of her beginnings she has put everything forward into getting out of where she is, and she sees dance as that opening. Through the book we learn just what happened in the past and just how tied up she is in the present. Book characters can always go through more pain than us in real life. What would have broken me early on merely taught Pen to fight for her life and push forward.

The dynamics between the 5 are unpleasant. It’s easy to see the many layers at play within the book and how the characters will need time to sort through everything before they can move from their hate filled emotions into something nicer. While we learned about what led Pen to this moment in the book, we’ve yet to hear what led Zayn, York, Dax, and Xeno to the place we meet them in this book.

I can understand why this is a four-book series because to do the characters justice they need the space to grow and evolve. There was a good flow to this book and a good sense of time. I’ve found in previous smutty romance books that you either get porn without plot or you get good character but it’s the plot itself that remains underdeveloped. I didn’t feel that when I was reading this. I felt that the characters and the plot worked cohesively well together.

This book ended on a cliffhanger, and I was expecting it to end that way. It seemed the right fit for where the plot was heading. There are a lot of characters on the board at the moment. While I am interested in understanding and learning of the lives of Zayn, York, Dax, and Xeno, the less savoury characters I could do without. I know they are there for a reason and you can’t have fire without smoke. I did have to remind myself a few times while reading that just because I didn’t like the characters didn’t mean I could skip over reading about them.

With crime books I always hope that the ending will be a climatic reveal of the killer and that my theories will be proved right or wrong. With a smutty romance book, I hope that the ending satisfies the characters and that they gain what they were searching for. From reading this book it seems very unlikely that they will get their prize, but there are three books left so I reserve my judgement for now.

I give this book: ✨✨✨✨✨

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