Alex broke Reece’s heart four years ago when the men were teenagers blissfully in love. The boys were walking home from school one day when Reece had to veer off to go to the gym for gymnastics practice. They stopped to part ways, shared a kiss, and made plans to study at Alex’s house that evening. But when Reece arrived, Alex very cruelly told him he never wanted to see him again and never gave him a reason why.
Now, Alex is a fledgling reporter at the local newspaper where he is assigned his first solo article — a human interest story featuring the two local male gymnasts headed to the World Championships, one of whom is Reece. To pass up the assignment would be career suicide, but Alex briefly considers it knowing that seeing Reece again will force him to not only confront the man he never got over, but face the demons behind the breakup, as well.
Reece agonized over the breakup, but has never stopped loving Alex. He’s shocked to see him at the gym when Alex comes to conduct the interviews. The men gradually begin to spend more time together and mend their hearts.
Meanwhile, Reece and his teammate, Garrett, have spent years training to be elite athletes with the Olympics as their ultimate goal. The results at the upcoming World Championships will determine their Olympic eligibility. Now Reece has both love and his career on the line.
Hold Me Up, the first in the Chasing Gold series, is an innocuous story with likeable characters, but it’s too underdeveloped to earn an unqualified recommendation from me. The problems are threefold: the characterization of the protagonists is severely lacking; it’s hard to maintain interest; and the world-building is inadequate.
Although they are likeable – which is the saving grace of this book – Alex, and to a greater extent Reece, are one-dimensional characters. Reece carries the strength of forgiveness, and is caring, patient, and compassionate, but he has literally no backstory. He’s a gymnast and Alex’s boyfriend, that’s it. We know nothing about his family and the fact that they don’t even show up at the Worlds, less than two hours away by air, is never even addressed. Alex is a sympathetic character for all he’s suffered and for how hard he’s finally working to recover. His healing is portrayed realistically; he knows there will be no overnight cure for his complex fears. But again, there’s not much more to him. The new job would’ve been the ideal opportunity to expand on the character.
The pace lags after the first few chapters. It becomes monotonous reading over and over again about Alex’s fears, including that he’s not, and never will be, good enough for Reece, while the ever-patient Reece comforts him through his panic attacks and his fear of intimacy.
As the story builds up to the World Championships, I was genuinely anxious for the athletes: would they fall, sustain an injury, deliver a mediocre performance, or have the event of their lives and qualify for the Olympics? I didn’t know which direction author Colette Davison would take. The book falls flat and loses steam, though, just when the tension should spike. The author is far less descriptive with the competition than she is with some of the practices. The opportunity to build up the anticipation for both characters was lost – Alex as a spectator/journalist/boyfriend could be watching the clock, biting his nails, and taking notes about the crowd, the music, the mood of the various teams. And Reece as the competitor could be described in detail waiting his turn, for example, with a furrowed brow or sweating, running through the routine in his head, stretching his muscles, chalking his hands, running down the mat for his opening tumbling run, and limitless other scenarios that could be used to create vivid imagery to show the most important day of Reece’s life. This should have been the ultimate “show” moment, but instead it was a perfunctory “tell” moment.
A pet peeve: I appreciate Davison’s research into gymnastics and the authenticity it provides, but all the technical terminology, when not explained, is off-putting. I don’t want to have to consult Wikipedia to know what a Double Arabian is or a Japanese handstand. And podium training? It can’t possibly refer to training for how to stand on the podium to receive a medal, can it?
Overall, Hold Me Up has a good premise and Alex and Reece are amiable characters. If gymnastics is your jam and you’re seeking a sweet romance between two young lovers AND you’re not bothered by the points above, this might be a good choice for you. I say go for it. Without an interest in gymnastics, though, you’re probably better off taking a pass.