It was published a couple months after the twenty-second novel Affliction, but it chronologically takes place before it.
Vampire hunter Anita Blake leaps into uncharted territory in the all-new novella from #1 New York Times bestselling author Laurell K. Hamilton.
For most people, summer barbecues are nothing to be afraid of. But Anita isn’t exactly plain vanilla—and neither is her love life. So it takes a special kind of courage to attend a barbecue thrown by her friend Sergeant Zerbrowski. Walking into a backyard full of cops and their families with wereleopards Micah and Nathaniel both looking gorgeous on her arm won’t be easy, even with almost-four-year-old Matthew Vespucci to break the ice…
Anita is determined to have a good time with her family, just like everyone else. But it doesn’t take long for tensions to rise among the adults and kids. And Anita will learn that gossip and innuendo can be just as dangerous as anything the undead can throw at her…
Includes a preview of Affliction, the new Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novel.
Zerbrowski and his wife Katie hold an annual barbecue for all the cops who can come, and this year it falls on late August. Usually Anita avoids the event because she doesn't enjoy social situations like that, but this time Nathaniel has volunteered to help Katie with the food, so Anita has to go too, and Micah gets included by proxy. They are looking after Matthew that week because his mother is on another business trip, so he gets taken along as well.
The party doesn't go quite without a hitch, although at first they have a nice time with Zerbrowski and Katie in the kitchen and tell stories how they all met (heavily sanitized, in Anita's case). Katie manages to sour the mood by reminding Anita, Nathaniel, and Micah to not be quite so affectionate out there among the Bible belt cops, but Zerbrowski is quick to point out and they are not in public yet and can cuddle all they want while among friends. They do have to brave the back yard eventually, though.
Anita hates trying to socialize with the wives, and the wives like Nathaniel a bit too much. The biggest problem a group of five women who saw him at a bachelorette party a bit more than a year ago where he gave the bride a lap dance completely nude. One of the bride's friends, Elise, who is one of the five most aggressive oglers, had tried to pay Nathaniel to have sex with her, and once he refused she spread rumors about him. She even convinced the bride that more than the lap dance had happened and she'd just forgotten about it because she'd been drinking too much. Elise has been tormenting the bride, Crystal, with the story ever since, and now tells Crystal's husband, Clint, that the stripper she fucked is at the party.
Clint tries to beat up Nathaniel, but Anita steps between them before Clint can reach him, and Zerbrowski talks him down by blackmailing him with the story from Clint's bachelor party that hints Clint actually may have had sex with his stripper. Eventually both Clint and Crystal believe it when Nathaniel swears them nothing happened beyond the lap dance. They come to the conclusion that Elise is just mean and a liar, and has a habit of propositioning men despite being married herself. She's beautiful enough that she may not be accustomed of getting turned down, either. Anita has reason suspect that Clint may be one of those men who didn't turn Elise down, but doesn't say anything.
Meanwhile Matthew has some issues with the other boys making fun of him for being in dance instead of martial arts or something else 'manly', but the little girls are very taken with him since almost all of them dance as well and there's always a lack of boys in dance groups. He makes friends with Becky and Jeannette, who are both a year older than him. Cyrus, who is bigger than Matthew but not necessarily older, has a crush on Jeannette, and resents Matthew for the attention he's getting. When Jeannette kisses Matthew's cheek in the kiddie table it's the last straw. Cyrus attacks Matthew over the table, but Zerbrowski's son, Greg, cools off the situation by dumping a glassful of ice water on the scuffling boys. Cyrus is made to apologize to Becky and Matthew, but doesn't sound very sincere about it.
Nathaniel and Zerbrowski's daughter, Kaitlin, set up an impromptu dancing area in the living room, and after a small performance of their own guide the other kids through some ballet moves. They not only manage to get some of the boys to assist the girls in their dancing (Cyrus included), but impress them enough with how physically demanding the dancing is that several of them ask for dance lessons of the own afterwards. Even one of the oldest boys, a 16-year-old footballer, considers joining the dance school where the ballerina he helped to perform goes. Likewise does Greg Zerbrowski, who impressed his partner despite being three years younger and having no dance background. Since Zerbrowski bet Nathaniel earlier in the evening that he wouldn't get any other boy than Matthew to dance, Zerbrowski gets to do the remaining dishes at the end of the evening, although he doesn't mind because seeing Kaitlin so happy is worth it.
After ballet they continue with ballroom dancing, which Zerbrowski does very well with Katie, and even Anita gets pulled along. Several of the other adults join in, as well as many of the kid pairs, and she is surprised that Elise doesn't turn up to try to dance with Nathaniel. When Anita asks Zerbrowski about it, he tells her Clint and Crystal had confronted Elise about the lies in front of Elise's husband. It had triggered a huge row between the two of them, and they had left. The rest of the evening goes without incident, and Anita's group stays behind to help the Zerbrowskis clean up. The kids are all asleep by the time Anita's group leaves, Matthew carried by Nathaniel, and Micah drives them all home.
- "This year was unreasonably cool, so August was the date."
- "It still wasn't the usual August hot, but it still wasn't as cool as most of the country."
- Time since previous novels:
- Three months after Kiss the Dead (May), since this story is set in August. Matthew is now four years old, and he was three in Kiss the Dead, so this is within 15 months of Kiss the Dead; it hasn't been an entire year since the story is also set before Affliction, so it's been three months.
- Three years since Narcissus in Chains. "I was three years and counting with Micah and Nathaniel..."
- Prior to Affliction. The developments in Affliction seem to have not yet taken place, most notably that Micah and Nathaniel are still Anita's boyfriends and not her fiancés. This places "Dancing" chronologically before Affliction, even though it was published later.
Other time-related information:
- Matthew Vespucci is 4 years old. He was 3 in Kiss the Dead (May), so it seems his birthday is sometime between May and August.
- Anita has been with Nathaniel and Micah for 3 years.
- Anita has been with Jean-Claude for 6 years.
Main and recurring characters
- Anita Blake
- Nathaniel Graison
- Micah Callahan
- Matthew Vespucci
- Katie Zerbrowski
- Greg and Kaitlin Zerbrowski
Elise - a tall and graceful woman with salt-and-pepper hair, flawless make-up and beautiful bone structure. Anita can't tell if Elise is in her forties or fifties, but either way it surprises Anita that Elise has only been married for five years. She sleeps around and takes it personally if someone turns her down, and spreads nasty gossip and lies about friends and strangers alike. When her husband in turn learns from Crystal that Elise has tried to have sex with Nathaniel they have an almighty row and leave the party.
Crystal Rosetti - Elise's friend, who has been convinced that more happened at her bachelorette party a bit over a year ago than she remembers. A thin, petite blonde woman.
Clint Jefferson - Crystal's husband, whom Elise has also infected with her gossip. Large man, six feet tall, broad-shouldered, overall big. Hasn't told his wife what happened at his own bachelor's party, but Zerbrowski knows. Has possibly slept with Elise, too.
Jamie Appleton - Another friend of Elise and Crystal who ogles Nathaniel too aggressively until she realizes he's with Anita. Wears brown hair in pigtails, halter top and shorts to the barbecue. Mother of Becky and wife of Kevin, who is looking to transfer to homicide or preternatural after spending five years in vice, which Anita suspects is the real reason Jamie comes to apologize about her earlier behavior.
Becky - A little girl of 5 years old, who gets accidentally kicked in the face when Cyrus attacks Matthew over the kiddie table. She wears her brown hair in braided pigtails. She's more quiet than her friend Jeannette, and not quite as graceful dancer.
Jeannette - A little girl of 5 years old, who takes dancing lessons and thinks a world of Matthew defending her against Cyrus (even if that didn't really happen, and she may have provoked him on purpose). Has blonde and curly hair and blue eyes, and chats happily with Matthew before the incident. Daughter of Jean, who is also blonde and blue-eyed and thinks women should be protected, and Detective Mitchell Forbes, who is big, strong, and commanding, and has lost most of his hair but is in good shape and except for the hair looks to be in his early thirties at most. He met his then-future wife by saving him from a man in a bar.
Cyrus - A little boy who has a crush on Jeannette, and gets jealous when she kisses Matthew's cheek. He's larger than Matthew but not necessarily older, and has straight, dark hair and an olive complexion. There's a strong resemblance to his father, although Cyrus has brown eyes where the father's eyes are pale gray. Both the father and son are prejudiced against homosexuals. Jeannette drags Cyrus to the dance floor later, and persuades him to help her perform, and later to do ballroom dancing with her despite his lack of enthusiasm.
Several other cops, wives, and kids.
People from Micah and Nathaniel's pasts and around the time they met Anita, no names mentioned, but at least Chimera, Gabriel and Nathaniel's brother's murder referenced.
- This is said to be the first time Micah and Nathaniel attend a bigger event at the Zerbrowski's, but in Kiss the Dead they are said to have been at a RPIT barbecue the previous summer. This can't be the same event, because the guest list isn't limited to RPIT, and Matthew was only three at the time of KtD. It's possible that the RPIT barbecue is what is referenced here as a previous 'cop cookout' with a handpicked guest list for people who would deal better with Anita coming with two men, although it would be weird to call it a RPIT barbecue if the whole RPIT wasn't invited, and if the whole RPIT was invited it would be weird to say that the guest list was handpicked.
|Anita Blake Series|
01. Guilty Pleasures • 02. The Laughing Corpse • 03. Circus of the Damned • 04. The Lunatic Cafe • 05. Bloody Bones • 06. The Killing Dance • 07. Burnt Offerings • 08. Blue Moon • 09. Obsidian Butterfly • 10. Narcissus in Chains • 11. Cerulean Sins • 12. Incubus Dreams • 13. Micah • 14. Danse Macabre • 15. The Harlequin • 16. Blood Noir • 17. Skin Trade • 18. Flirt • 19. Bullet • 20. Hit List • 21. Kiss the Dead • 22. Affliction • 23. Jason • 24. Dead Ice • 25. Crimson Death • 26. Serpentine • 27. Sucker Punch (novel) • 28. Rafael
|Short Stories||Magic Like Heat Across My Skin • Blood Upon My Lips • The Girl who was Infatuated with Death • Those Who Seek Forgiveness • Selling Houses • Beauty • Dancing • Shutdown • A Girl, a Goat, and a Zombie • Wounded • Sweet Seduction|
|Comics||The First Death • Guilty Pleasures & Handbook • The Laughing Corpse • Circus of the Damned|