Figure skater Alex Grady has been preparing all his life for his shot at Olympic gold. Alex trains constantly and every aspect of his life is focused on preparing himself for the upcoming Olympic Games. Alex’s intensity and his lack of verbal filter tend to alienate a lot of people, but that is fine, as he has no time for outside friendships, and definitely not for romance.
Matt Savelli is part of a pairs team that trains in the same Toronto facility as Alex. Alex has dubbed him “Captain Cardboard” for his boring personality and demeanor. But as a crisis hits and Alex has a chance to get to know Matt better, he begins to realize that there is a lot more to Matt than Alex first thought. Matt is friendly and kind, not to mention sexy as hell, and totally pushes all of Alex’s buttons.
Alex knows he has no time for romance. The only way to make his dream come true is to be 100% committed to training, and that means no distractions from a boyfriend. But Alex also finds himself totally drawn to Matt. It is not just that Matt is incredibly hot and Alex is having an active sex life for the first time ever; it is also that Matt makes Alex feel safe and comforted and is the person he finds himself turning to time and again as he deals with the pressures of competition. But as the Olympics draw near, Alex needs to figure out what is more important to him: winning the gold or having the man he has grown to love.
Oh, I loved this story! I am a figure skating fan, so I was really intrigued when I saw this book, but it definitely exceeded my expectations. Keira Andrews does a wonderful job with combing the skating world with a well developed, super sexy romance.
First off, the skating elements of the story are done incredibly well. Alex is an elite athlete at the top of his sport and we really feel that throughout the book. He is intense and focused and puts incredible pressure on himself. Andrews shows us how Alex’s entire life is about skating and he is a man who rigidly controls every aspect of his life in order to meet his goals. The skating elements are wonderfully detailed and well integrated into the story. Andrews is a skating fan and well versed in the sport, and it comes through clearly here. I was impressed by just how much detail is incorporated without ever feeling like an info dump. I think you could come into this book knowing nothing about the sport and easily follow what is going on, while at the same time even those familiar with skating will not feel like they are being given a lesson in the sport. I felt so completely immersed in the skating world and it was just so wonderful done. Now admittedly, I am a figure skating fan, but I really think any reader would be impressed by the way Andrews not only incorporates so many aspects of the skating world, but also uses the details to really show us a lot about Alex.
The story is told from Alex’s first person POV, and this is really his book. Matt is a great guy and is nicely developed with his own struggles and backstory, so he is not overlooked here. But the book is really Alex’s journey as we see him start out rigidly focused on nothing but winning, and putting this unbearable pressure upon himself, to someone who can see past that to having a life that he enjoys and is more well rounded. Andrews does a great job letting us see the way Alex’s bravado is covering for his massive insecurities, and how he is at times nearly engulfed by the demands he puts on himself. Dating Matt gives Alex someone else to lean on, someone who understands his life that he can turn to for support. But also someone who can help him take a step back at times and realize that he needs to have some sort of life outside of competition, and that winning isn’t the only thing that matters. Alex still is competitive, but he learns to enjoy the journey much more.
I loved these guys together as a couple. They fit so well, even though they at first seem so different. I loved the way they quickly grow to depend on one another. And they are super sexy together as well. Alex has basically no experience with men as he spends all his time training, so being with Matt opens up lots of exciting possibilities for him.
Just a note that this version of The Next Competitor is a re-release of a story Andrews previously published under a young adult pen name. It has been expanded, revised, and adapted for an adult slant. This is definitely not a YA book any longer, as the guys are grown men and the sex hot and intense. So even if you have read the previous version, my understanding is that this one is substantially changed. (Andrews stopped by the blog and talked about some of the changes, so you can check that out here.)
Overall I found this a wonderful story and I was engaged from the very start. I loved the way that the skating world is incorporated in the book. I found the romance between Matt and Alex to be fabulous. And I really loved following along with Alex’s journey. I definitely highly recommend The Next Competitor.