Review: Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer

Synopsis

Jeremy Reeve is one of the best divers in the world, and he’s worked hard to get where he is. He intends to keep pushing himself with one very clear goal in mind: winning gold at the Summer Olympics in two years. That medal might be the only way to earn his father’s respect as an athlete.

Brandon Evans is everything Jeremy isn’t: carefree, outgoing, and openly gay. With his bright-blue eyes and dramatic tattoos, he’s a temptation that Jeremy refuses to acknowledge. But Jeremy can’t ignore how talented Brandon is—or that Brandon has no interest in using his diving skills to compete.

They’re opposites who are forced to work together as teammates, but Jeremy’s fear of his own sexuality and Brandon’s disinterest in anything “not fun” may end their partnership before it begins. Until a single moment changes everything, and they help each other discover that “team” can also mean family and love.

The Finer Details

Publication Date:  May 29, 2017
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Editor:  Carole-ann Galloway
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow Website
Sequence: Standalone
Length: Novel:  366 paperback pages
POV: 1st Person Alternating
Tense: Present
Pairing(s): Male/Male
Identities: Gay, Demisexual
Age Range(s): 18-21, 22-25
Genre(s): Contemporary, New Adult, Sports
Sports: Olympic Contender, Diving
Tropes & Tags: athlete, closeted, opposites attract, reluctant love, slow burn, virgin
Setting/Locale: Ohio
Ending: HEA

Rating

4 Stars

4 Stars

Rating Info

Ratings stick closely to the GoodReads standards. Occasionally I’ll make note of half-star ratings and will typically round up on GoodReads reviews and other sites where I may cross-post.
Stars Goodreads  What this means to me
5 AMAZING This totally knocked my socks off, and I might end up a crazed fan (from a respectable distance).
4 Really Liked This was truly enjoyable, and I’d recommend it.
3 Liked It was good, and I’m glad I read it, but I may have had some issues.
2 It was okay I finished it & kept hoping for improvement. I definitely had issues.
1 Didn't like I read the whole thing but....
1 DNF Didn't like I read past 50% (at least) before giving up.
0 DNF No Rating I couldn't even make it to 50%, but I still feel the need to share my thoughts.

Review

FOUR VERY IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES:

  1. I received this book for free at RT2017 directly from the publisher during the Blogger Conference with ZERO expectation of a review. (I met Elyse there too! She’s DELIGHTFUL. We talked quite a bit on several occasions, and you bet your ass I had her sign my copy.)
  2. I’m a water rat. I’ve been swimming since I was 5 months old. When I was nine, I decided I wanted to be a platform diver. But there weren’t any pools nearby that offered diving. Also, I was prone to busting my eardrums just diving off the regular low springboard, so it probably wouldn’t have been a wise pursuit.
  3. This was the first paper book I’ve read in four years. For a minute I forgot that I had to keep a light on to read in bed. (Yes, literally I turned OFF the light on my nightstand then picked up the book and said well, shit out loud.) Also, my habit of highlighting text and making little notes was thwarted because I won’t write or color in a book that’s not specifically meant for those purposes.
  4. Back in April, well before RT, I got it in my head that I needed a queer romance book with a swimming sports theme, be it competitive swimming, diving, water polo, whatever — I didn’t care. I just knew I needed it to kick off my summer in the best way possible. TA-Fucking-DA!

Okay. Real Talk. Or, more on-topic talk, as it were.

This ticked so many of my boxes, not even counting the water sports. Mind outta the gutter, my friends. We’re talking about THE SPORT OF DIVING INTO POOLS OF WATER. Stay focused, please.

In some ways this followed in a similar vein to other Competitive Sports books I’ve read where characters were Olympics-bound with the steadfast focus, lacking some basic social skills, no time for love, sheltered from the ways of the world and general things like vegging in front of the TV or knowing how to have some actual fun outside of their sport — or even within their sport because they’re so hyper-committed.

And I expected that. So it’s definitely not a dig because it’s very much the reality of elite athletes who’ve been training since they were, like, two, for the Big Huge Event that will prove they’re the best on the planet.

What I didn’t expect was to LIKE Jeremy as much as I did — to want and need him to find some freaking joy. Not just because his intense focus on that gold medal, but because his family life was jacked, and because of that his self-image (with the exception of his diving) was also seriously messed up.

Brandon, an Adonis of a diving savant (whose background I wanted more of), was the perfect counterpoint to everything Jeremy. Of course, it took a while for Brandon to get under Jeremy’s skin just the right way. And for Jeremy to take it down a notch or two and really see Brandon for who he was.

For those who aren’t all sporty or don’t give a kitty about swimming and diving, it is a major theme in this book. There are details that told me the author is either a water rat herself or immersed herself in some serious research. The athletic aspects of practice and competition and general life of an athlete were supremely spot-on and entertaining and did not bog down the romance.

The romance was a slooow burn. Seriously slow burn. And that made it believable because of who Jeremy is and his skewed world-view of gay not being okay. Brandon’s patience and persistence were gorgeous with healthy doses of his overall happy demeanor.

The pacing. Well, sometimes this felt odd. The story spans about two years. And there’s a whole lot of rigorous training time with a few competitive events sprinkled in. I can’t pinpoint pacing problems with jumps in the timeline because honestly, there’s just so much training I want to read about before it starts getting monotonous. I also wasn’t looking for there to be more or fewer events, because that wouldn’t have felt authentic. And, I’m not sure the timeline could have been condensed because it wouldn’t have felt genuine to Jeremy’s character; this could not have been a quick romance for him. So…I don’t know. I can’t explain it or pinpoint the where and why I had an issue. Just that some fast-forwards left me wondering WHAT HAPPENED I NEED TO KNOW. But then, I’m afraid it would have dragged — and I definitely didn’t want that.

These characters were so beautifully well-crafted with tons of nuance. Even the side characters of Andrej the coach, Val, Jeremy’s only friend, and Aaron, Brandon’s ex-but-still-BFF, and excepting Jeremy’s wholly one-dimensional awful family. God, that family was a bunch of miserable assholes.

Heels over Head was a thoroughly enjoyable read and the perfect book to kick off the summer.

Purchase Links

Riptide | Amazon-US | Barnes&Noble | iBooksKOBO | Smashwords
add the book to goodreads

About the Author

Elyse is an author and world-traveler, whose unique life experiences have helped to shape the stories that she wants to tell. She writes romances with LGBTQIA+ characters and relationships, and believes that every person deserves a Happily Ever After. When she’s not staring futilely at her computer screen, Elyse spends her time adding stamps to her passport, catching up on her terrifying TBR list, and learning to be a better adult.

Connect:

Website LinkNewsletter LinkTwitter LinkGoodreads Link

Tell me what you think!