Reg Applewhite is a college-educated journalist who never landed a news job, so he works as a reporter for Isabelle, his sister, who runs a fashion and gossip blog. Reg lives in Milwaukee and is an out gay man, still sensitive to locker room taunts and bullying behavior from back in high school. That’s why Reg is reluctant to cover a local bodybuilding competition. But, Isabelle swears that a favorite to win, Jack Ponte, has been dating some starlet and she wants Reg to dig up dirt for the blog. Without recourse, Reg agrees, and he’s struck by how courteous and intelligent Jack is, with a killer body to match.
Jack Ponte lives a quiet, regimented life. He learned early in college that exercise could pay off. His bodybuilding won’t always pay the bills, so he models and would love to work on a fitness clothing line for muscular men like himself. He’s gay, but quiet about it. Jack and Reg make an immediate connection, though, and Jack agrees to the interview request just to have another chance to talk with the intriguing man. They live near one another, and their mutual desire to spend more time together brings Reg into the gym where Jack generally trains.
Heavy Lifting is framed as an opposites-attract love story, but I felt it was more of a “not judging a book by it’s cover” love story. Reg has a lot of preconceived notions about what a bodybuilding jock should be like, and Jack breaks all of them. He’s kind and interesting. He’s dedicated to his body and to his friends. He’s a good guy, not a recurrence of the meathead jock adolescents that made Reg’s youth terrible. I loved how Jack’s sweetness draws Reg in, and how Reg uses all of his skill to build Jack up, writing blog posts that bring him more opportunities and build their connection through mutual interests. I loved how Jack was such a sweet and patient trainer, and how Reg really enjoyed his tutoring on how to build his body strong without bulking up.
Reg is a good guy too, and when he’s backed into corners, by his sister or acquaintances, he comes out swinging. They are a good match and I enjoyed how their professional careers dovetailed for a fresh professional start for both of them as they grew closer emotionally. It’s interesting how Reg’s investigator instincts pick up on a threat Jack hadn’t noticed. That threat gets involved in the climax, allowing Reg to show off his new fitness skills, as well as his investigative acumen. Expect some low-key danger.
This is a quick, enjoyable read with two solid main characters who want more both personally and professionally. Their maturation as a couple seemed quick, but their connection felt strong from the start.