Dorian has been working his whole life towards his goal of making the Olympic gymnastics team and dreams of coming home with the all-around gold medal. As the youngest, shortest, and most socially awkward team member, Dorian faces bullying from his team members, especially former Olympic bronze medalist and object of his teenage crush, Jules Gardner.
Jules and his personal coach, Coach Harper, know that Dorian is Jules’ biggest competition for the all-around gold individual medal at the games. So while they may be teammates, they are also competitors at this level of elite sportsmanship. When Jules sets out to seduce Dorian in an attempt to get Dorian off his game, the two of them form an unlikely bond with one another.
But when Coach Harper begins pushing Jules past the boundaries of good sportsmanship, Dorian is the only one who can rescue Jules’ gymnastic career.
I will admit, I thoroughly enjoy watching the Olympic Games, so when I had the opportunity to read this book, I jumped at the chance! In this first book of the Olympic Passions series, readers are given a backstage pass to the Olympic training centers and venues and quickly realize that those athletes we see on our television cheering on and praising their teammates might be nothing more than a façade for what is really going on.
This story is told in a dual POV, which I loved because I got to see how each of the main characters viewed what was happening. I will warn readers that initially you probably aren’t going to like either of the main characters much at all. As the story unfolds, though, we can see why these two are like they are and how they mature over the course of the book.
Dorian is a perfectionist and won’t be happy with anything less than taking home a gold medal. Arriving at the 2008 Olympics as the youngest member of the male gymnastics team, he is so focused on doing what it takes to win that he isn’t interested in enjoying the Olympic experience – despite the pleas from his personal coach and family. His personal goals coupled with his lack of social skills quickly lead to the other members of the team teasing/bullying him.
Jules has already had one Olympics under his belt and is back for his second when the story unfolds. Though Jules is more laid back than Dorian and manages to enjoy a life outside of competition, he is driven by his need to please his coach. As his story is revealed, he becomes the more likeable character as we understand why he is the way that he is.
The plot of this story is that the two of these young men meet each other after Dorian wins the World Championships and is given a spot on the Olympic team. The first half of the story focuses on the Dorian and Jules as they prepare for competition, both as teammates and individuals, through the Olympic games, and the immediate aftermath of those games. The story then jumps ahead three years as one of the characters is preparing for the World Championships while the other is heading overseas to experience being an observer rather than a competitor. When the win at any cost lack of sportsmanship arises and threatens to destroy a career, the other steps forward to save him.
As a love story, it wasn’t until the second half of the book that I felt as if there may really be something real there between the two of these young men. In the first half of the story, there was this whole bullying issue going on and though they say there is a fine line between love and hate, it made for a very uncomfortable sex scene, at least initially. While the sex was consensual, it just didn’t sit right with me how it occurred and the feelings one of the parties had afterwards. Granted, as the story continued to unfold, I realized that those feelings of disgust had little to do with what happened or with who it had happened, but instead was the fact that he had allowed himself to momentarily lose focus on his obsession to win.
My biggest complaint about this story was that had I not liked the premise, I may have lost interest in the book before getting to the second half of the story where the main characters became more likeable. Dorian just rubbed me the wrong way in the first part of the book– whiny, obsessed with perfection, unable to relax and enjoy where he was, and so focused on winning – whereas in the second half of the story he has matured somewhat and is more likable (he still has his moments that grated on me, but he was tolerable).
My second complaint is that I want it spelled out in big bold capital letters at the start of a chapter that there is a change in time. Whether this is separating the book into Part I and Part II, or just noting that we are now three years in the future before I start the chapter, I need some guidance about the time frame.
Overall, this was a well written story that kept me engaged from start to finish. I can’t wait for the next in the series. If you like sports-themed stories, you might want to check this one out!