Dancing in the Dark focuses on the lives of four adults. At the center is Dr. Harry Salinger, a psychotherapist who regularly pushes the limits of professional ethics.
As the novel opens, Salinger awaits the arrival of long-time patient Jennifer Slater, for whom he harbors a sexual attraction. The 58-year-old widower understands his feelings for what they are: a natural reaction to a beautiful young woman. Whether he acts upon those feelings remains to be seen, and it’s one of the questions that pull the reader along.
Meanwhile, outside the office, he is growing increasingly attracted to Amanda, a former student of his who is now a therapist. Salinger’s life is soon complicated as he finds himself the therapist to Slater’s new beau, Jacques, and falling in love with Amanda, a relationship that is taboo in professional circles.
Author Bob Strauss identifies himself as a psychotherapist, and his knowledge of psychology makes for an intelligent read as his protagonist guides patients – and himself – through life’s daily challenges, exploring their behaviors and the motives behind them. The story is well thought out, consistent and evenly paced.
But while Strauss’ real-life knowledge is one of the book’s strong points, it can also be a weakness, as the author too often falls into therapist-speak, using language that feels unnatural or doesn’t fit the character. For example, in one passage, Jennifer doesn’t merely wish something, but “expressed a wish.” In another, Jacques is made ill by the thought of Slater “fornicating” with another man. While this language may be natural to Strauss, it wouldn’t necessarily be so for other characters and is likely to give the average reader pause.
That aside, this is a professionally written and edited story, one that will appeal to a wide range of intelligent readers.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.