Fantastic, new-adult, sports romance
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: April 1, 2019
Pages: 231 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Twenty-five-year-old Ryan Harding is an Olympic-caliber runner who is the top American distance runner. His father is a famous, University of Colorado running coach, and Ryan is following in his father’s footsteps, creating a brand-new running team in the fictional small city, Brockton, Colorado, near Denver, where Ryan has lived the past eight years since his senior year in high school. With his father’s input and support, Ryan has brought together a small, tightly knit team of young, elite runners whose members live together in a big house. All of the members are coached by Ryan in order to achieve their ambitious running goals.
Twenty-two-year-old Indigo Adams (Indy) did not start running until her freshman year at Pittsburgh State University (PSU), which is a late start for a runner with professional ambitions. But even though, in the year since she graduated from college, she has been on her own, acting as her own coach, Indy has made amazing progress.
Ryan spots Indy running her first half marathon and is immensely impressed by her energy and power. She’s running as fast in that race as Pepper Jones who, like Ryan, is an Olympic-quality runner. Indy locks in a qualifying time for the Olympic Trials and wins a sizeable monetary prize. Ryan is equal parts impressed with her win and attracted to her as a vital, lovely woman.
Indy spots Ryan at the marathon and is blown away by how gorgeous and charismatic he is in person. She’s been following his running career the past five years and has had a fangirl crush on him all that time. Indy is stunned when Ryan approaches her, gives her his card and invites her to consider joining his newly formed, elite, running team in Brockton. Overcome with awed disbelief at such an impossibly prestigious offer for a nobody like her, instead of hanging around to make connections with potential running sponsors, which might have enabled her to quit her menial job at a coffee shop and run full time, Indy flees back home to the fictional town of Hamden, Pennsylvania. She lives there with her single mother in the double-wide mobile home she grew up in. Her hard-working mother, who is a young-looking, attractive 42-year-old, is kind, affectionate and very supportive of Indy’s running. Indy is very grateful for how hard her mother worked to support Indy and her sister after their father died of an undiagnosed heart defect when Indy was four and her older sister, Candy, was six. Indy is extremely close to her mother and sister, and though she would desperately like to accept Ryan’s astounding offer, she believes it would be very wrong of her to do so, because she assumes that her mother would be heartbroken if Indy moved away and left her behind.
Unfortunately, an unpleasant feature of life in Hamden is Liam Hood, Indy’s ex-boyfriend, who is a graduate student at nearby PSU. She started dating Liam when she was 18, was with him three years, and finally broke up with him two years ago. During her time with Liam, a positive feature was that he got her into running, because he was an elite runner, and both became stars on their mutual running teams at PSU. But her years with Liam, who was intensely controlling of her every move and emotionally abusive, left her low in self-esteem and high in distrust of the male gender in general. In the two years since ending her relationship with Liam, Indy has not dated anyone else, and Liam has not stopped acting like it is inevitable that they will eventually get back together. Lately, his clinging to her has escalated to the point that it resembles stalking. Ultimately, Liam makes life for Indy so unbearable, it finally gives her the excuse she needs, escaping Liam, to overcome her filial guilt and accept Ryan’s fantastic offer to come live and train in Brockton.
Life in Brockton on Ryan’s team is a dream come true for Indy. Her teammates are great, and Ryan treats her really well. But the emotional wounds from Indy’s domineering ex go very deep, and Indy’s inability to trust Ryan puts at risk her position on the team, which requires that she believe in and follow his leadership as her coach.
I very much enjoyed this New Adult, sports romance. Indy and Ryan are wonderful romantic leads. They are both strong, capable and compassionate people, and each has found a worthy partner in the other. There are also multiple, lovable, well drawn fellow runners, including a welcome cameo appearance by Pepper Jones. The two story villains are also believably presented.
This story is a slight departure for the talented author, Ali Dean, in that she normally writes Young Adult (YA) novels. The main difference is that this is a New Adult (NA) novel, and these protagonists are adults. Healthy, consensual sexuality is a normal part of adulthood. However, the few sex scenes included in the book are not graphic and are very tender and moving. Unlike most college-based NA novels, because these athletes are clean living as part of their training, there are no wild, drinking parties which, frankly, I much appreciated.
As always, the portrayal of life as an elite runner, as in the Pepper Jones series, is extremely well done. It is fun and fascinating to read about Indy’s struggles and triumphs as an Olympic-caliber runner.
Similar to the final book in the Pepper Jones series, this book includes a delightful, happily-ever-after epilogue set 17 years in the future.
Ali Dean is a terrific writer on every level, and this story flows well with never a dull moment.
This book is a definite keeper for me and, as for all of Ali Dean’s other books, I am sure I will re-read it many times.
As a final note, the Kindle version of this book is extremely well edited and beautifully designed. The cover is outstanding.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Sports Plot: 5
Villain Plots: 5