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Moving In Rhythm is an m/m romance, but I might almost classify it as a novel. Not that the love story or love scenes are disappointing, but the story is largely about the personal emotional journey of one person, Mark, as he struggles with debilitating social anxiety and with coming out.

Mark has never been able to have a relationship or even tell his closest family members that he’s gay; a female friend has been his unwitting beard for years. (His guilt over her is yet another thing for Mark to feel bad about.) As the book opens, Mark is having one more meaningless encounter with an uncaring stranger, which is such a joyless, soul-killing experience, he decides he’s better off being celibate.

When Mark’s brother Pete is deployed, Mark is called on to stay with his pregnant sister-in-law, Lisa. At her zumba class he meets two people who will be very important to him: Claire, a lesbian who’s familiar with the pains of being closeted, and Seth, the very attractive teacher of the class.  Mistaken for Lisa’s husband at first, Mark is able to relax a little with Seth, since nothing could possibly happen between them. But Mark’s mixed signals towards Seth inevitably lead to the truth, and to the cautious forming of a relationship, while Claire helps him take the first steps towards honesty and pride.

Moving In Rhythm left me with an impression of great tenderness. Although it’s an emotional story, I wouldn’t call it angsty; the writing style is low-key and realistic, rather than sharply dramatic. At some points, I’d say it’s even too low-key, with a lack of tension in the dialogue and between the characters.  But I was caught up in Mark’s painful inner life, and enchanted by the sweetness and generosity of Seth, who comes up with some very creative ways to get around Mark’s paralyzing anxiety. (These really keep the sex scenes fun.) It reminded me in some ways of mainstream romances in which the hero has to gently woo the frightened heroine, and it was interesting to see how the author made this work, so I didn’t wonder, “why on earth doesn’t he just give up on this guy?”  It might have been nice to have seen some of the book from Seth’s point of view, since he’s such an attractive character, but it wasn’t really necessary.

I wasn’t entirely thrilled with how anxiety, as an issue, is portrayed here. Although Mark is in therapy, he’s reluctant to try any anti-anxiety medications, because he’s worried about the side-effects. Not all medications cause side-effects for every person, and there are also non-medication treatments for anxiety, none of which he seemed to explore. I love that Mark found the right person for him, but true love isn’t generally a cure-all for mental or emotional disorders. But since it tends to be seen as one in 95% of the other romance out there, I can’t really make a big stink about it here. And coming out to his family is also shown as being very important to Mark’s healing, which I can certainly buy.

I’m tempted to grade the book down a bit for the lack of tension, but I really did enjoy reading it nonetheless, so I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars. Thanks to netGalley for providing me with a review copy. It’s not currently available in print format but can be found in audio or for Kindle here.

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