Phoebe Matthews just graduated college and is beginning her first season as a professional soccer player in New Orleans. It’s honestly the first time Grace has lived even more than a couple of hours from home, and she’s so jazzed to get her life going. She’s also a bit starry-eyed to be rostered with her long-time idol, Grace Henderson. Grace is just a few years older, but has been playing pro-soccer since her mid-teens. Grace has also made the World Cup team, more than once.
Phoebe is outgoing and fun-loving. Both women are meticulous on the field, but Phoebe’s a hot mess in her personal life. She’s late all the time, working extra jobs to make her budget happen, and this “unprofessional” behavior ticks Grace right off – though she’s not sure if Phoebe’s charming or just ingratiating when she’s meeting Grace for extra workouts and claiming she wants to build a friendship. Grace has been burned by former lovers and doesn’t want to be either public with her sex life, or attracted to her new, beautiful teammate.
I love sports romance and, even if I’m not a soccer fan, per se, I really dug this story. From the outset, I could see that Grace was the buttoned up type of character who needed to break out of the shell she’d built around herself. Those walls were keeping everyone out, and trapping her in misery. Phoebe was just a delight. She’s so assertive on the outside, but having an honest internal struggle that really gave her an interesting vulnerability. Her sex-positive attitude was fun and refreshing, and it was charming how it shook Grace’s stoic foundation. There’s some drama when Grace gets medically sidelined, but I really appreciated how she finally looked inward in those times, delving into her true desires and how to achieve the happiness that she’s long expected but never quite captured.
All the team camaraderie and World Cup tension added an awesome high-stakes backdrop for this fledgling love story. For a person who really doesn’t follow soccer at all, I felt deeply engaged in the politics and relationships of both teams, for Phoebe and Grace. The soccer bits were super well-written and didn’t overtake the story. It takes a while for Phoebe to convince Grace to let her in, to let her love Grace the way she deserves, but Phenom Phoebe is nothing if not persistent. The love scenes are smoking, but I loved the quiet moments equally well, especially when I was in Grace’s POV and felt her “A-ha” experiences. And, wow, I was pleasantly surprised when reading about Phoebe’s experiences with New Orleans sights and food–she had me wishing I’d get back there again for a visit.
This one is highly recommend for fans of sports romance, soccer, New Orleans, or queer love stories with female leads.