While on a school ice skating trip, history teacher Iestyn Jones literally falls at the feet of rugby player Dan Morgan. All of the students know who the famous sportsman is, but Iestyn, not so much. An instant attraction has an impulsive Dan giving Iestyn his phone number.
Iestyn considers himself an ordinary guy and can’t really understand why the younger Dan wants to go out with him. For Dan, being an out gay athlete comes with its own set of unique problems and finding love is complicated. Iestyn lives a quiet life and likes to take it slow with relationships. When the paparazzi and press catch on to a new man in Dan’s life, everyone’s life is turned upside down. With scandalous stories being published and pressures from the team mounting, dating a famous athlete may just pose one too many obstacles for the men to overcome.
This is the debut novel for the author, and a story about a reserved history teacher and a good looking, professional athlete sounds like a winning combination. While there is some good to find in the story, there are many structural areas that made the connection to the characters more difficult for me. This is not going to be about piling on what did not work out, but will touch on why the style of the story did not work well for me.
There is a meet-cute scenario to start off with, but Iestyn is on a school field trip. Dan gives Iestyn his card in front of all of the students and there is a brief conversation with the students and Iestyn talking about Iestyn’s dating life which struck me as inappropriate. Not to mention that Iestyn goes into the story of his birth at this very first accidental meeting.
Moving on from there, we see Iestyn as the one all of his friends come and talk to, yet they come down pretty hard on him. From criticizing his looks and his clothes, to discussing that they don’t know what Dan could possibly see in Iestyn. The largest hurdle is the incredible amount of detail in the story that does not have to do with the MCs. There are a number of secondary characters and side stories that are offered at times in painstaking detail. From Iestyn’s family home, to his relatives, to the schedule of Christmas Day, to the relationships of his friends, there are pages of details. There is a death and we are invited to the table for the discussion with the funeral director. Dan and Iestyn’s first date is somewhat awkward and Dan’s internal dialogue offers full details on a comparison of Iestyn to Dan’s ex.
Iestyn wants a relationship with Dan, but is very hesitant to agree to plans when Dan invites him out. In order to have a relationship, the men would have to spend some time together. I can appreciate what the author is doing. Parts of the story attempt to emulate real life and there is a time to get to know someone. But, it’s one thing to live it and quite another to read all about it. The story moved slowly and there was not enough to hold on to my interest.
The guys do not spend that much time together, they start off slow, and then there are complications. And, when they are together they certainly need a lot of sleep. At the end of the book, a brand new character is mentioned and it is certainly not clear why there is an introduction of a new character at almost the end of the book. While the epilogue offers closure for the men, it also opens up a completely new side to Dan’s personality that would have been way fun to explore much earlier on.
As the story concluded, I would have preferred a lot more focus on the men as a couple with the vast array of details and side stories streamlined somewhat. The story does offer a professional athlete and a teacher and if this style of story with lots of details on secondary characters and side stories is to your liking, Sporting Chance may then work for you.