Rating: 4.5 stars
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I have a thing for athletes – chiseled physiques, intense focus, sweaty and glistening. And Olympic athletes? Well, they take that to a whole different level. So it should be no surprise that I jumped at the chance to read about beautiful Olympians and the men that they are in a relationship with. Because a man at the top of his game athletically is sure to be at the top of his game in other aspects of his life, right?
This anthology is comprised of eight stories from eight talented authors. It includes sports from shooting to equestrian sports to swimming to soccer and many more. It highlights Olympic athletes before, during, and their competitions. It’s comprised of relationships between teammates, rivals, and Olympians and working class men. And it focuses on relationships that are new, established, and broken. There is a little bit of something for everybody within these pages.
Hot Shots by Michael P. Thomas
Beau has always dreamed of going to the Olympics, but not for the reason that you may be thinking. No. Beau has always been attracted to athletic men, and what’s better than an Olympian? Focused on his aspirations of bedding an Olympian, Beau has tried his hand at a variety of sports with no success. Then his mother informs him of his cousin in Luxembourg – a two-time Olympic medalist in shooting. Beau packs up and journeys to Luxembourg to learn the craft of shooting from his cousin Marcel. Although his focus isn’t what it should be, he does have talent. When a strange attraction forms between the pair and Beau discovers the family connection may not actually be what it seems, Beau has to decide if falling in love is worth giving up his Olympic dream.
This story is cute. Beau is a fun character. I loved his reasoning from the beginning. His aspiration of being a boy toy to an Olympian is such a different twist on Olympic dreams. It’s a very sweet story of growing up and discovering that dreams can change. I have to say that I was a little icked for a minute by the family connection, but keep in mind that everything is not always as it seems and issues were worked out and tied up with a nice little bow. All in all the storytelling was a little drawn out, but not too terribly badly. It’s still a good story. 4 stars
Into the Deep by Nico Jaye
Meeting a beautiful, red-headed bartender was hardly on John Sloane’s to do list while in London diving for the U.S. Men’s Diving team. But one glance at Blake Gallagher and John knew he had no choice. Even after Blake turned him down, John couldn’t stop thinking about him. There is something about the sexy Brit that John can’t deny, not even with the Olympic Games facing him. When a series of coincidences puts them in each other’s path again and gives them a second chance, John is sure that Blake is his destiny and, despite their differences and John’s focus on diving and his Olympic dream, he won’t let the Brit run away this time.
This is a very adorable story of destiny in the middle of chaos. I really like the realist in Blake; it makes it that much sweeter when everything that he believed in the beginning is proven wrong. Personally, I would have liked to see more of this story – the building of the relationship, in particular. I understand that it’s a short story, but I would have liked to experience that getting to know each other stage that was skipped. I did enjoy the feel good, almost fairy tale quality of this story – boy meets boy, boy is too good for boy, boys fall in love and live happily ever after anyway – but with a modern, Olympic twist. Well done. 4.5 stars
The Quad by Kelly Rand
Kevin Chamberlain, nineteen-year-old Olympic figure skater, has one problem. The quad. Kevin has landed the quad in his routine before, but he’s not confident enough with it. He’s not expecting to medal, but he wants to do his career best for the people of his hometown who helped send him to the Olympics. But with the added pressure of the Olympics, Kevin isn’t sure the quad is a possibility. When his coach’s son, Luka, convinces Kevin that all he needs is to relax and stop over thinking it, Kevin knows it’s easier said than done. But Luka has a plan, a sure fire way that Kevin couldn’t say no to even if he wanted to.
This story was okay, although I would have liked more interaction between Kevin and Luka other than sex. I didn’t really feel much of a connection between them. The intimacy felt more like a job, a strategy to help Kevin focus. I mean the kid is nineteen and pretty lonely all-around, so I can see why he would have attached to Luka so quickly, but I would have liked it to feel like more than good strategy. And the ending was just okay. Again, I didn’t feel a real connection between Kevin and Luka, so the ending just sort of fizzled for me. This is not a story that I would catch myself reading again, just for the heck of it. 3.5 stars
Lightning in a Bottle by Sarah Madison
When Jake Stanford’s lifelong trainer reveals a fight with cancer, Jake is willing to put his Olympic dreams aside to help Jim. But Jim won’t hear of it and has already lined up a new trainer for Jake – none other than Jake’s ex-boyfriend Rich Evans. Their painful past makes it hard for Jake to trust Rich again, but as time goes by, he sees glimpses of the boy he once knew, and those feelings that Jake once thought were dead start resurfacing as strong as ever. But when secrets and lies are uncovered, Jake and Rich must figure out a way to work together without harming Jake’s chance to compete in the Olympics, secure Jim’s job, and maybe find a way to love again.
This was slated to be my favorite story of the bunch, and then it ended…just ended. Jake and Rich are wonderful characters. Both are damaged and have been lied to and manipulated into the loneliness they’ve both suffered for the past four years. Their story is one of rediscovery and trust. It’s a great story with a good plot, fabulous secondary characters, lovable animals, and even a Pinky and the Brain reference. I mean, come on. It’s got a little bit of everything. It would have been a 5-star read if not for the abrupt ending. I have so many questions. What happened with Jake’s dad? What about Jim? What about the Olympics? It could have been my favorite story, and it does still rate up there within this anthology, but I really wish it would have been just a little bit longer and the story completed with no unanswered questions. 4 stars
Swimming the Distance by Annabeth Albert
Brohden Petrov, Olympic distance swimmer, is favored to win the 1500 meter freestyle swim in London. But he wouldn’t have even made it to London without the love and support of his boyfriend, Kyle. If only he could tell the world that. Under the pretense of protecting Kyle from the media, Brohden has denied having anyone special in his life and has gone as far as denying being gay at all. But in reality, Brohden isn’t sure if he’s ready to come out to the world. Kyle is tired of hiding, tired of waiting, and he’s not sure if he can handle the secrets and lies of Brohden’s professional life. Will the Olympics be a time to celebrate or will it be Brohden and Kyle’s downfall?
Swimming the Distance is a wonderful story of love, dedication, secrets, lies, and confusion. Brohden and Kyle are a wonderful couple with problems that follow them to the biggest competition of Brohden’s life. Brohden’s personal life creeps into his professional life and tough decisions have to be made. I love that Brohden is a world class athlete who still gets nervous and stumbles over his words when interviewed. It makes him all the more real. I love that Kyle is supportive, but still has his own beliefs and goals. And the journey to self-acceptance is an uplifting one. Swimming the Distance is all around a great short. 5 stars
Shoot for Gold by Whitley Gray
Matt Justice is at the top of his game and favored to win gold in London in the shooting events. But an unfortunate accident involving lack of concentration, rain, and scaffolding puts his chances in jeopardy. Lucky for him, Levi Wolf, M.D. was nearby when Matt injured himself. Patching Matt’s face up and relieving the tension in his neck put was only the beginning for this pair. The immediate connection between them gives way to a night of passion that gives Matt hope that something may come of their tentative relationship. But Levi’s past haunts him and has for the past three years. Levi has to decide if he can leave the past behind him in order to move on before he loses any chance he may have had with Matt.
I really liked this story. For one, both characters are in their mid to late thirties so they have experience, maturity, and painful pasts. Matt and Levi’s story is one of risk. Taking a leap of faith to see what may or may not happen and risk gaining everything or losing it all. For such a short story, I thought the character building was superb. I really felt a connection between both MCs and liked Norm, Matt’s roommate, who was hilarious, by the way. The story was a little angsty, believable, and so sweet. Overall, it’s one of my favorites of this anthology. 5 stars
An Olympic Goal by K-lee Klein
Soccer teammates in their everyday public life, lovers behind closed doors, and rivals on opposing Olympic teams, Swiss native Sebastian Fehr and Spanish native Fernando Marquez are facing off in the semi-finals, competing for Olympic glory and personal bragging rights. When Sebastian is injured on the field Fernando wants nothing more than to comfort his boyfriend, but he must remain unaffected in order to keep their secret. But when Sebastian doesn’t return to the field, fear and worry battle for Fernando’s attention as he tries to focus on winning a game that will put him a step closer to Olympic glory.
This is an okay story. I liked Sebastian and Fernando a lot. And I love the author’s knowledge of soccer. It’s a cute story of an established couple who are forced to remain in the closet due to their chosen profession and the trials they face for that very reason. It’s a good story, but I think I would have liked some conflict. There were a couple times where jealousy could have played a role, but they both fizzled out. It is a sweet story with no conflict, no angst, and is tied up with a nice, neat bow at the end. I just would have liked something…more added into the mix of this one. 3.75 stars
Tumbling Dreams by Kaje Harper
Tyler Bannichek has dreamed of going to the Olympics for as long as he can remember, and now that he’s made the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Team, he can’t let anything stand in his way. Not even a spinal cord compression. Working through the pain is second nature. But when his best friend and roommate, Eli Nelson, announces that he’s moving out and he won’t sit by and watch Tyler abuse himself and possibly end up paralyzed, Tyler finds himself at a loss. It’s an impossible choice to have to choose between his lifelong dream and the man that he has grown to love as more than a best friend. As training gets more intense and Tyler struggles with excruciating pain daily, he has to decide if his decision to compete in the Games in London is worth further injury and losing out on a possibility of more with Eli.
Save the best for last, and that’s saying something because this anthology is full of great stories. But Tumbling Dreams is my favorite of the bunch. The writing is engaging from the very beginning. Tyler and Eli are lovely. This is mostly Tyler’s story and his struggle between his dreams, his health, and his love for Eli. I love their friendship – the love and support at a time where they are both obviously struggling between anger and fear. In just a few short pages, Kaje Harper creates a roller coaster ride of fear, anticipation, love, and acceptance. I absolutely adore this tale of friends to lovers and all the angst in between. 5 stars
All in all, this anthology has been a joy to read. For one, I love the Olympics and have a tendency to watch every chance I get. Second, the variety of sports played throughout each story is fun and interesting. And finally, the authors did a great job bringing each character to life in such a short amount of time. These stories were all good, some great. If you are a lover of the Olympic Games, if you love sports, if you just love the men who play sports, this anthology is for you.
P.S. Two copies of this anthology have been donated to our Jock Week giveaway, one by MLR Press and one by E.M. Lynley. So be sure to stop by and check it out!