Nothing Tony Thomas has ever done is good enough for his father. So, even though he is on the Olympic team and the proud owner of a silver medal, his father is unhappy it’s not gold and makes it his business to tell him so. When Tony pushes back, he learns the truth about something that hurt Tony’s best friend and fellow gymnast, Sol. Tony is crushed with guilt and decides then and there to get away from everyone and strike out on his own. He turns to extreme sport to feed his adrenaline rush and leaves all thoughts of pursuing anything with Sol behind, even though it breaks his heart.
There have been two constants in Sol’s life since he was young—gymnastics with his best friend Tony, and type 1 diabetes. One he has learned to control, the other he is in love with and unable to pin down—particularly since the decision to tell Tony he likes him is taken out of his hands by the guy literally disappearing right after the Olympics. But life goes on and now the 2020 Olympics are here and Sol is determined to make the team and stand with them on the medal podium. That’s the goal, until a familiar face enters the gym also looking to score a spot and the world falls out from under Sol’s feet. Sol may be angry at Tony, but the attraction he has for the guy still simmers right below the surface. Now the two of them must come to terms with the past so that they can be part of a united U.S. team and take the Olympics by storm.
E.J. Russell’s sports-themed romance, The Thomas Flair, gives us a taste of some delicious young athletes and their attempt to put others first before their own needs. Tony and Sol have been friends since they were young and as time has passed, their relationship has changed. What neither knows is they both feel more than just friendship for each other, but before they can act on it, the world comes tumbling down around Tony, bringing with it shame and a desperate need to run from the idea that he has taken away Sol’s chance at getting a medal. Four years later both men have changed, but their feelings haven’t.
If sports romances are your thing, then this story is bound to be one you will enjoy. I know that the interplay between all the guys who make the team, as well as Sol and Tony, is really quite entertaining. These are college-aged men and the author writes their voices so well. Russell never makes them too mature and keeps their focus tight on their sport. It makes the characters that much more realistic. Other than the initial problem with Tony finding out the truth about his father’s actions, there really isn’t a great deal of angst. However, there is some real drama in this novel and lots of action on the mats, making the story really fly off the page.
Much of the focus of this story is the lead up to the actual games, with the team getting tighter and the various coaches guiding their athletes. It is fascinating to watch Sol and Tony’s relationship morph into one that both always wanted and how they decide to keep it under wraps until after the games so that the focus remains on the team and not on them. I enjoyed taking that time to get to know these guys and, honestly, there was so much to like about both of them.
The Thomas Flair is all about second chances on and off the medal stand and learning just what is important in your life. If there’s ever a novel that solidifies that old adage, “there’s no I in the word team” this novel is it.