Rating: 4 stars
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U.S. pairs skater Dev Avira and his partner Bailey Robinson have been working for years toward their dream of winning Olympic gold. Their biggest hurdle remains the Russian team of Kisa Kostina and Mikhail Reznikov. It seems no matter how well Dev and Bailey do, the Russians are always rewarded with the win. And Mikhail and Kisa’s cold, reserved attitude only makes the rivalry more intense.
When Mikhail and Dev get in an argument in the locker room of the last pre-Olympic international competition, Dev is shocked when the fight turns into a hot hookup. He has always found Mikhail physically attractive, but never thought anything would happen between them. Dev doesn’t even really like Mikhail. But somehow that encounter is one Dev can’t forget, even as he should be focusing on his Olympic preparations.
When they arrive in France for the Olympics, Dev hopes he has Mikhail out of his system. But seeing the man again fuels all that lust and attraction again, and once more Dev finds himself hooking up with Mikhail. As Dev learns more about Mikhail’s life in Russia, he starts to see him as a real person and not just a soulless robot as before. He can’t help but be distracted by the handsome Russian he is starting to care for. But this is the most important competition of Dev’s life, and he must focus completely on his goals. With his Olympic performance around the corner, Dev must find a way to keep his focus on his dream, while not losing the man he is growing to care about.
I have always been a figure skating fan so I was eager to check out this story, especially so close the Olympic Games. Andrews herself is a huge skating fan and incredibly knowledgable about the sport, and that really shows in this story. There is great detail about elements of pairs skating and various aspects of competition that really makes it all come to life. I especially loved the behind the scenes details about the Olympic Village, the practices, and the politics. The skating aspects really elevate the story and I found it all very interesting.
I also loved Dev and his partner Bailey. I have always found pairs skating so interesting since it is a partnered sport. The two athletes’ success rises and falls with their partner and they need to be incredibly in sync and are mutually dependent on one another. The love and closeness between these two friends is so clear, and the support and affection they have for one another is really lovely. We see so clearly how when Dev starts to lose focus, it affects Bailey as well, and how important it is for both of them to put their partnership first. I also loved the spunky Bailey who is outspoken and bold and a lot of fun.
For me the biggest issue in this story is really the relationship between Mikhail and Dev. It just felt overshadowed by both the skating elements and the partnership of Bailey and Dev. First off, their first two encounters are literally just sex. They barely even speak to one another at all. Now, I am totally fine with lust-filled hookups in my romance, but that is all they are. The men have had barely any relationship at all up until this point, mostly just cordial coolness. So these encounters really just felt like casual sex. By the third time they get together, they do talk a bit and it humanizes Mikhail in Dev’s eyes. But again, this is one conversation. So while I can accept that Dev is hot for Mikhail, and even that he feels sympathy and warmth for the man, it was hard to see where the emotions and feelings were coming from, really until the epilogue.
I think this is heightened by the fact that there were times I just wanted to yell at Dev to focus on his skating. Olympic gold is something he has been dreaming about for 20+ years. He has worked tirelessly to become an elite athlete at this level. The focus and dedication required to make it the Olympics is mind boggling. The idea that he is so casual with his hookups just days before he is due to skate seemed hard to believe. And when we see how it is risking Bailey as well, I found myself sort of annoyed with him. So it made it even harder for me to really root for these guys at this point in the story.
That said, the story rolls out nicely and differently than I was expecting. I really liked the way it all turns out and I think the epilogue connects us to their relationship in a way I didn’t completely feel during the story itself. Things still felt awfully rushed given the limited time for their relationship to develop, but it had a nice warm fuzzy feel to it all.
So I think this was an enjoyable story, especially if you are a skating fan like I am. I especially enjoyed the glimpse into the skating world and the partnership between Dev and Bailey. I wished for some more development in the relationship between Dev and Mikhail, but it ended sweetly and had me rooting for them.