Ryan is a distance swimmer, specializing in the 1650 yard freestyle: sixty-six laps of a twenty-five yard pool. Ryan is a member of the Chippewa College Men’s Swim Team, having won one of the prestigious scholarships to the school in Minnesota, a huge change from having grown up on a farm.
Ryan is not ashamed of the fact that he is gay, though he does not flaunt it in front of his fellow teammates and friends; plus, he thinks that they are all heterosexual. This is until Blake Gossens transfers to the swim team at Chippewa and Ryan is paired with him for cross-training. This is at the same time as Ryan begins receiving messages on BroLuv from a new local profile, ManMan 57.
Despite Blake’s insistence that he is straight, Ryan becomes infatuated with him whilst a flirty friendship develops between them. Yet, when the swim team finds themselves stranded in an ice storm after a swim meet, Blake shows his true colors and Ryan’s eyes are opened to the opportunity of first love.
Distant Swimmer is an enjoyable and short new adult gay romance. Jacob Cheyenne is successful in creating a protagonist with whom his audience can associate. Ryan is not arrogant or even strikingly beautiful, he is merely doing his best to study to pass his Agricultural Science major and to be a success on the swim team.
In some ways Cheyenne has avoided certain stereotypes with Ryan’s character; he is an athlete and a farmer. However, tropes also hit the reader in abundance throughout Distant Swimmer. Ryan is the virgin protagonist with the female best friend, whose naivety and desperation really contribute to his undoing in the story. Ryan has had one forgettable sexual experience with a guy. Although I could acknowledge Blake’s hotness and the fact that Ryan falls for him, I also wanted to be able to smack Ryan over the head for his stupidity! However, this is also a positive indicator about Cheyenne’s writing. I often find it difficult to care about those in novellas because of abridged characterization, but clearly Cheyenne does a great job with Ryan to make me react this strongly!
Much of Distant Swimmer obviously features swimming and even for a non-athlete like me, this was not at all boring. Not only does Cheyenne build the physical imagery of Ryan’s teammates for the reader, but the feeling of camaraderie he creates is also very strong. This extends to the fun of the whole team wearing their Speedos under any party outfit so they can cause mischief streaking through town. Cheyenne communicates a sense of belonging for Ryan and this gives a boost to his confidence and I think this is a significant part of Ryan’s story.
Almost miraculously, Ryan felt himself being lifted up from the pool by his teammates, water pouring from his backside. He struggled to land his feet on the tiles, only to feel the crush of his team surrounding him – a dozen fun, friendly male bodies pressing into him with warmth and pride.
It is difficult to write a review of Distant Swimmer without spoilers, but let’s just say there is some romantic misdirection involved. I enjoyed this because it felt like I was involved in Ryan’s journey of self-discovery, although it does mean that Ryan’s romance feels like insta-love, which I am not keen on.
Cheyenne carefully balances Ryan’s sporting commitments with his friendships and emotional and sexual maturation in Distant Swimmer and I would recommend this novella to fans of similar new adult gay fiction.