Henry Sakaguchi is just months away from realizing his dream of Olympic gold in figure skating. Henry has dedicated his life to practicing and making his performances as perfect as possible and his goal is within his reach. With the Olympics in Canada, Henry even has a chance to win in front of his home country. However, now his coaches are taking on a new skater, American Theo Sullivan. Not only is Theo one of Henry’s biggest rivals for gold, Henry can’t stand the man. Despite the fact that Theo doesn’t work nearly as hard, doesn’t train with anything close to Henry’s dedication, nor does he have Henry’s skill with musicality or complex edge work, the judges love him. Theo is a jumping machine, easily landing skills that Henry must fight to achieve. And so lately, Theo has been beating Henry out for the top spot in their competitions.
Theo had no intention of switching coaches this close to the Olympics, but with his own coach seriously ill, he has no choice. Theo knows that Henry can’t stand him, though he isn’t sure why. Henry is so focused as to be almost robotic, so dedicated he comes across as cold. So Theo can’t help but want to break that icy facade, determined to befriend Henry (even if at first it’s mostly to bug him).
As the men train together, they ever so slowly begin to thaw the tension between them. And when Theo needs Henry’s support during a difficult time, the walls come down even further. Soon, Henry and Theo find themselves spending time together off the ice, with a friendship and a sexual attraction growing between them. But even as they act on their feelings, Theo and Henry know they have to keep things hidden. The two are Olympic rivals, set to compete against one another to achieve their lifelong goals. The press and both their skating federations (not to mention Theo’s overbearing mom) would go crazy if they found out the two were together. As the Olympics draw near, Theo and Henry have fallen harder for one another than either expected. But with two men vying for one medal, not to mention some complex issues in their past, it will take a lot of love and determination for the men to make it through the competition with their hearts intact.
I love figure skating and author Keira Andrews is incredibly well versed in the sport, so I was thrilled to see her new novel set in the skating world, particularly as the Olympics are around the corner. Andrews really does a wonderful job capturing the skating side of the story, from the training and diet requirements of an elite athlete, to the specifics of figure skating judging, competitions, and politics. I found myself so fully immersed in this world and just loved it. Andrews is great at the “behind-the-scenes” vibe in her books, giving the reader a sense of peeking behind the curtain, and we get that so nicely here with the skating world. I don’t think you need to be a fan of skating to enjoy this story (though skating enthusiasts should particularly love this one), but if you appreciate books that really highlight the lives and experiences of elite athletes, I think this one is going to appeal.
The story has an intense enemies-to-lovers vibe, at least on Henry’s end. Theo is a pretty happy, easy going guy, so he harbors no negative feelings toward Henry. But Henry just loathes Theo, hating the fact that Theo seems to coast along to victory while others (like himself) have to work for every point. Theo has a natural talent and a flare for performance that has allowed him to admittedly not work as hard as his rivals, and it makes Henry crazy. So it takes some time for Henry to see that Theo is actually a kind and caring guy, and one who has a lot more baggage than anyone seems to see. The story also has some fun opposites attract elements as Theo is gregarious and playful, enthusiastic and friendly to everyone. Meanwhile, Henry is much more intense and focused, coming across cold and rigid. But he expects perfection of himself and he loves nothing more than endless hours training, getting everything exactly right. Watching Henry find his softer side with Theo is so sweet, and both men sort of move toward the middle as they fall for one another. I’ll admit, I found Henry’s grunts and quirks kind of charming, and he and Theo are a great fit as two very different men who somehow make it all work.
A few other notes here. First, while this story is not listed as part of a series, we do meet Henry and Theo in Andrews’ holiday story, Only One Bed, which features Henry’s brother, Sam. This book takes place about nine months later and Sam and Etienne (as well as the Sakaguchi family) show up briefly here as well. However, while Etienne is also a skater, the stories stand alone completely from a plot standpoint and you can easily read one without the other. We also get cameos here from Dev and Misha from Andrews’ Cold War/Holding the Edge (now combined into one book called Cold War). I’ll also mention that Henry has experienced a traumatic sexual situation in his pastthat has caused him a lot of pain and anxiety, both emotionally and surrounding sex. It is discussed on page, so be aware if that is a trigger for you.
Overall, I found this one a great enemies-to-lovers, opposites-attract story with an immersive sense of the skating world. But even more, there is such a lovely warmth here that grows between Henry and Theo. I just loved them together and was thrilled to see them find their happiness as a couple. Fans of any of these tropes will want to be sure to pick up Kiss and Cry.