ARC Review: The Next Competitor, by Keira Andrews

Blurb:

cover-keiraandrews-thenextcompetitorIf he risks his heart, can he keep his head in the game?

To win gold, figure skater Alex Grady must train harder than the competition morning, noon, and night. He’s obsessed with mastering another quadruple jump, and due to the lack of filter between his mouth and brain, doesn’t have a lot of friends. As for a boyfriend, forget it. So what if he’s still a virgin at twenty? The Olympics are only every four years—everything else can wait. Relationships are messy and complicated anyway, and he has zero room in his life for romance.

So it’s ridiculous when Alex finds himself checking out his boring new training mate Matt Savelli. Calm, collected “Captain Cardboard” is a nice guy, but even if Alex had time to date, Matt’s so not his type. Yet beneath Matt’s wholesome surface, there’s a dirty, sexy man who awakens a desire Alex has never experienced and can’t deny…

Note: This gay romance from Keira Andrews features opposites attracting, new adult angst, sexual discovery, and of course a happy ending.

This new version has been extensively rewritten, updated, and expanded into a new adult romance with explict on-page sex.


Stats:

Published:
Publisher:
Cover Artist:
Series:
Genre:
Pairing:
Orientation:
Length:
POV:
December 6, 2016
KA Books
Dar Albert
Stand-Alone
Contemporary, New Adult, Sports-Ice Skating
M/M
Gay
246 e-book pages
1st person
See the book on Goodreads

Rating:     ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
Click for more information regarding ratings.


Review:

Not so secret secret: I love figure skating. LOVE IT. The combination of all that power and grace on such narrow blades, moving around on ICE. Lordy. I took some lessons as a kid and, for the most part, I was relatively decent at it from a beginner standpoint, despite my seriously rake-thin ankles. It must have been due in part to a few years of ballet and gymnastics and a few dashes of luck. I’d love to try it again, but I’ve also developed quite a fear of falling on my ass or face and causing irreparable harm to my person and pride. I’m perfectly content to watch from the sidelines and be a professional armchair critic.

When an ice-skating themed romance came my way? I leaped at it — quite inelegantly if truth be told. Anyone remember the movie Ice Castles? It’s from 1978, but STILL awesome. How about The Cutting Edge? One or all of them? I get sucked in any time they come on TV. Shoot, even Blades of Glory gets me pumped. It’s safe to say this book was right up my alley.

So it breaks my heart to have to say that The Next Competitor didn’t exactly do it for me.

I think, in large part, is has to do with this being a re-worked novel released as a second edition. In its first incarnation, the author tells us (on the Goodreads page for this book), it was geared toward a Young Adult audience. This second edition was extensively modified for a more adult crowd with a larger focus on the romance, some on-page sexual situations, and making some details more current.

While I sincerely appreciate the effort it took to re-craft this for a more mature audience, and I have not read the first edition for any basis for comparison, there was a lot that felt disjointed, possible retrofits to the choreography of the story that weren’t entirely smooth transitions. And, while I fumble along with ice-skating metaphors, there was a distinct imbalance between the figure skating and the romance — so much that I feel it accurate to call the romance aspects the short program and the figure skating the long program. I wish it had been the opposite.

Most disappointing for me was the absolute lack of maturity of the main character, Alex. So, while I appreciated the presence of more adult situations, I still felt as though I was reading about teenagers or a story for teenagers.

Speaking of Alex, geez this guy…Okay, so I can certainly understand an elite athlete having a monstrous ego. I can certainly understand that living, working, breathing, existing solely within the bubble of training for a competitive sport as prestigious as the Olympics might just cause some stunted skills of the interpersonal variety. But, there was barely an inkling of friendliness, kindness, humanity, humor, warmth, or any aspect that makes a person a decent human being to be found in Alex. Nada. His freaking ego was so monstrous it’s a wonder he could balance on his blades. One of the jumps Alex has a hard time mastering, the Quadruple Salchow, is mentioned a lot, (a lot a lot) as he works at it and repeatedly falls on his ass. I made a note in the book at one point that it’s no wonder he can’t land it for getting his feet tangled up in his narcissism.

To be fair, this story is told in the first person entirely from Alex’s perspective. But his inner monologues on how good he is, how brilliant a skater, better than aaaalll the rest, and how it’s unconscionable there’s even a question that he’s a contender for Olympic Gold got…tiring. There was no room for friendship much less love. There was no room for him to show kindness to his fellow skaters. It was all about Alex, all the time. And I just couldn’t find it in me to like the guy or deign from Alex’s point of view what Matt could possibly see in him even if, as he says, it was a persona he crafted around himself to keep focused on being the best. I didn’t buy it becuase that persona was as strong within as what he portrayed to the world.

As for Matt, what we got, was a guy who was nearly too good to be true — the perfect skate partner, a great friend, warm-hearted, classic caretaker cutie-pie who, in my opinion, could’ve done way better in the love department. Matt seemed like the whole package of hottie hero goodness, and I guess, if anyone were going to break through Alex’s icy fortress it would be him. But…man, he had his work cut out for him.

It might be that the story was so heavily weighted in Alex’s inner thoughts and the instances of real conversation between Alex and Matt were too few and far between, but when Matt says that he sees the real Alex, well, I had a hard time buying that. Because inside, and mostly out, Alex persisted in showing his nasty side. How exactly did Matt manage to see what was nearly impossible for the reader to see? As the story progressed, there were small instances where Alex started showing some humanity that might tally up to some emerging character growth. But for me, they were so small, so infrequent, too tied up in what Alex might get out of it for his own personal gain that I couldn’t find it in me to give him points for trying.

Matt was closeted, more so because of his family dynamic than anything. Alex wasn’t exactly closeted because he’d never had a relationship, never even had a kiss, knew he was gay and had full family support. Yet, once they’re underway as a burgeoning couple Matt’s closet becomes a shield for both of them in the world of competitive figure skating. And I…I’m not sure how I feel about that. In the sense of personal safety, public life in a world filled with bigotry, I get the secrecy, champion it even. And, of course, outing oneself should always be a personal decision at every turn. But I sensed that Alex didn’t completely respect Matt’s position with his folks, yet he had no qualms using Matt’s closet to his own advantage in the Wild World O Sports. So…this was a head-scratcher of a story arc for me.

Since the skating was such a huge factor, it’s no wonder that I ended up being less invested in the relationship aspects and far more tuned into the sport and competition. There’s no doubt Keira Andrews did some serious research and managed to pull off descriptions of skating programs with as much artistry and grace as the skaters themselves. The behind-the-scenes of competitions, early morning practices, ornery coaches and so many other fine details were done to absolute utter perfection. I swear I could almost smell the ice. And it brought back a few memories (not the competition parts…just my old memories of being on a rink). This…this is where the story excelled and exceeded all my expectations.

Redemption comes to Alex. He finally gets to a point where a decent personality shines through, and I could see a long future for him and Matt as a couple. For me, though, it came a little too late in the program, and I’m not sure he actually did enough of the work on his own to stick the landing with any consistency for a long-haul future.

I wanted to love this. And for a few reasons I did enjoy the experience. But, in the overall, it wasn’t a sweeping gold-medal victory.


Purchase Links:

 Amazon | BN

Advance Review Copy generously provided by the author via IndiGo Marketing in exchange for an honest review.blog-button-2

Tell me what you think!