Jeremy Reeve is a world class diver and has been working towards his Olympic dreams for 15 years. With only two years to go until the Games, Jeremy dedicates his entire life to training, spending countless hours at practice and giving up almost everything else in life to make sure he is the best possible diver he can be. Jeremy is sure that if he can win at the Olympics, he can finally prove to his father and his brothers that he is not weak and earn their respect.
Jeremy is not happy when a new diver shows up to work with his coach, especially since Brandon Evans has virtually no formal training. Brandon was cliff diving recreationally for years until some folks within USA Diving saw his videos and realized his untapped potential. Now Brandon has been brought in to work with Jeremy’s coach, Andrey, to see if they can turn his raw skills into a competitive diver. But not only is Brandon taking time away from Jeremy’s training with Andrey, but everything about him drives Jeremy crazy. Brandon is clear that he dives for fun, and has none of the discipline or competitive drive that governs every aspect of Jeremy’s life. Plus, Brandon is full of movement and energy and lives life loudly and Jeremy doesn’t have any idea how to relate to this man who is so opposite of his controlled, rigid self.
At first Jeremy makes it clear he wants nothing to do with Brandon. Despite Brandon’s efforts, Jeremy pushes away even Brandon’s attempts at friendship. But the men spend long hours together every day and an attraction begins to bloom between them. Brandon would love to act on it, but Jeremy is clearly terrified. He is so far in the closet he can’t even contemplate taking things further. But slowly, Jeremy begins to come out of his shell, to relax and enjoy his friendship with Brandon, and eventually to open himself up to more with him. The men begin a relationship and Jeremy slowly begins to accept his feelings, even as he still can’t really admit that he is gay. But as the Games draw closer and the pressure mounts, Jeremy’s fears and insecurities come roaring back. Now he has to decide if he is willing to live for himself and reach for what he wants with Brandon, or if he is going to let other people’s judgements get in the way of his happiness with the man he has grown to love.
Oh, I loved everything about this story. Seriously, there is so much of my personal catnip, it is a wonder I didn’t explode! Enemies to lovers, opposites attract, virgin hero, elite athlete, young love… So I’ll admit that this story is pretty much tailor made for me, but I really think Elyse Springer has done a wonderful job with this story and there is so much to love in this book.
While I can kind of take or leave books about athletes in general, there is something about a story featuring an elite athlete at the highest levels of competition that I just love. There is something so incredible about people who dedicate their lives to the pursuit of a goal with such intensity and conviction. To be able to give up so many of life’s joys in order to singularly focus on a goal requires such dedication and internal strength that I find it fascinating. And Springer does a really wonderful job with the diving aspects of this story. We can see so clearly the sheer amount of time and effort these men (along with their teammate Val) spend training. It is hours at the gym working out, dry land training, diving over and over (and over), all while attending college. They must be rigorous in their diet and pretty much every aspect of their lives. And all of this to compete in a series of split second dives that will determine if all their work pays off. We also get a wonderful sense of the sport in general, how the scoring works, what competition is like, and all the little details that really made it come alive. I found it quite fascinating, though I’ll admit, I am a fan of diving. But I really think Springer brings the diving world to life here and it makes a wonderful backdrop to Jeremy and Brandon’s story.
I also loved the opposites attract/enemies to lovers vibe here. What is really interesting is the way Springer juxtaposes these two men and their approaches to diving. Jeremy has been training his whole life for this one moment, the Olympic stage. He has dedicated his entire life, rigidly controlled every aspect, in order to achieve his goals. Jeremy knows no other way to be, and has long accepted that any sacrifice is worth it to reach his dream of winning Olympic gold. It is not only his own dream and a sport he loves, but also what he hopes is a way to earn the respect of his family. Jeremy can’t even begin to understand Brandon, as while Brandon loves diving, he doesn’t care at all about winning. He got into competitive diving as a way to get out of Texas and to have some financial support for college. He works hard and listens to his coach, but he doesn’t have the drive or discipline that Jeremy does, and Brandon is totally ok with that. He would rather have time to enjoy his life and to find his happiness rather than put all of that aside to pursue nothing but winning. So they are such an interesting contrast. Not only do their different approaches cause conflict between them, but they also really serve as a great way to help the reader understand these men and what drives them. I love how over the course of the story, Brandon and Jeremy begin to slowly move toward the middle in their viewpoints, but at the same time, they stay true to themselves throughout the book.
I really loved these guys together. Yes, it takes a while for Jeremy to soften. We can tell he is hot for Brandon almost from the start, but he won’t let himself even think in that direction. But once he finally lets go, it is so rewarding to see Jeremy realize that maybe he can have his dream and other ways to find happiness too. That he doesn’t have to give up every shred of himself in order to win. I loved how Brandon pushes Jeremy just enough. He accepts Jeremy for who he is and understands that Jeremy needs the control over his life, but he gives him just those little nudges along the way. But Jeremy is there for Brandon too. Brandon has been on his own for years and is used to being self sufficient. He needs Jeremy to help him see that he has a family among their team, people who will be there for him and care about him and he doesn’t have to go it all alone.
There is so much here I could talk about as this story has a lot of depth and these characters are so well developed. I loved the sense of family these men build along with Val and Andrey. I loved the way they support one another and learn from each other. I was completely engrossed in the diving world and think Springer incorporates it just perfectly into the book. And I just adored Jeremy and Brandon’s love story. They are fun, and sexy, and at times fiery, and often incredibly sweet. I was drawn into this book from the very start and it was a story I could hardly bear to put down until I was done. So I can highly recommend Heels Over Head and hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.