One Last Dance
by Mardo Williams
Calliope Press

"He laughed to himself. Who'd ever believe the best things that ever happened to him happened at age 90."

Few male writers have shone in the romance genre. Majority of highly acclaimed romance writers are female with the exception of Nicholas Sparks. This is not to politicize gender divide, but to point that it takes courage for a man to write a romance novel with a touch of social realism. Age 92, at that! This is what sets Williams and his first novel apart from other romance literature and writers.

One Last Dance is a story about Aubrey Bryce Morgan, 89, and Dixie Valentine, 79. By contemplating on moving in to Whispering Pines, a retirement center, the 89-year-old who hails from Chicago met Dixie, an Ohioan who is also a staff in the aforesaid nursing home. While the characters' meeting took place in the retirement center, their love story unfolds in the latter's home—a beautiful house with an elegant lawn in an upper-middle class neighborhood. From there, readers are given a peek on the protagonists' journey prior the fateful meeting in the retirement center.

More often, romance novels are creations elevated from day-to-day lives. Sparks, for instance, plots many of his books around off-the-wall arrangements. His iconic, purely romantic slant transports his readers to a world of hope and bliss resurrecting that desire for the ideal buried deep in every human being’s subconscious. In A Walk To Remember, his totally opposite teenage protagonists shared a love Romeo-and-Juliet style. In The Notebook, the two aging lovers share a passionate affection enduring and thriving amid the challenges of Alzheimer. They are long shots from Williams’ characters embroiled in debts after a divorce and a death leading to a subsistence retirement budget and struggle with credit cards and mortgage debts.

One Last Dance is a love story tad with history, realism, allegory, and humor. Dixie and Morgan’s romance is not the usual love-at-first-sight type. It's like a layered Jell-O: every tier has its own color and issues, but together, they make a perfect, pleasant-looking creation. Bright yellow invades the first layer signifying unsettled emotions. It is a mixture of bumps, control, and dispute. Both unyielding, Dixie and Morgan would be furious at each other from time to time. The third layer is subjugated by the shades of blue suggestive of calm and relaxed atmosphere as both protagonists learned to adjust and laugh together. The fifth layer is plagued with hues of lavender as Dixie and Morgan gain clarity of emotions and a sense of sensuality. In between layers are pinkish tiers of fear and uncertainty as family and health issues put their relationship to test.

Though opposite in approach, Williams' has the same innate strength as Sparks'. His is realistic but is never short of optimism. While Williams impels readers to face reality and the challenges of life cycle, he convinces them that retirement is not retirement at all. Baby boomers are reminded that they have a choice to make retirement stage adventurous and fulfilling as possible. They are reminded that actual and imagined events are not two separate sets. They are actually two lines coming from opposite directions intersecting each other.

Human's psyche has always been a combination of two opposites: the analytic and creative, the objective and subjective, and the intuition and logic. They occupy certain facet in every stage of development. For Morgan and Dixie, these opposites never vanish until old age. They remain and nurture the core of humanity—the desire to love and be loved and be secured in the company of the person that is capable to bring the most joy and sorrow. For Morgan and Dixie, that desire carries them through before the altar, once again, with certainty and finality that it will be the last time they'll say, "till death do us part."


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