All Karen has ever wanted was to be an elite gymnast, but that’s not the path she is on. To please her parents, she compromises and instead trains towards the goal of competing in college gymnastic. Then, after a horrible car accident, Karen is left orphaned and all their plans go to hell. She ends up living with her coach and his oh-so-attractive son. So, on top of trying to decide which path in life to take and grieving the loss of her parents, she also has the added bonus of fighting an unwanted attraction to her new housemate and just dealing with boys in general. When you are in an all girls gymnast group and do school online instead of in a traditional classroom, you don’t get many encounters with the opposite sex. Despite the fact that she knows a relationship with Jordan is out of bounds, she can’t help the desire to spend time with him. Jordan makes her feel normal and he understands what she is going through. What is more important: staying in the lines of normal or being able to finally breath again?
I have to applaud Karen’s dedication to her sport. I don’t know that I have ever been as dedication to one thing enough to spend so much time perfecting it. Okay, maybe I’m that dedicated to reading, but that’s not really the same, is it? This girls spends hours at the gym every single day conditioning and training and practicing just to make sure every single move is perfect. If you didn’t see inside her head and watch her go through emotions like a normal human, I’d think she was a machine. Beyond being driven to be the best gymnast she can be, she is also pretty damn smart and driven to do well with her school work. How anyone can manage to succeed in online school and really take the information in is something else that is beyond me. I’m not a self-teaching person. I cannot learn on my own. I need a real person to explain things to me. Even if it’s just reading straight from the text book, that’s what I need. So maybe I’m fascinated by Karen because she is so different from me. That, plus the enormous grief that I cannot even really begin to comprehend. How she manages to get up in the morning astounds me, much less practicing for meets and doing schoolwork without turning into a ball of helplessness and tears on the floor. This is all my rambling way of saying that I admire Karen a great deal. She has a strength that I envy.
Jordan….oh Jordan. What is there to say about Jordan? I love him? A bunch? The way he connects with Karen is adorable. The way he goes out of his way to help her is swoon-worthy. Want to know what else I love? He’s not perfect. He is flawed and has secrets and problems all of his own. He’s smart and sweet and just a touch cocky. Also. there is a reason why he is in such good physical shape. I hate novel’s where the boys are overly buff with no logical reason to be that way beyond the fact that they are trying to play to every girl’s fantasy. Newsflash! Washboard abs don’t just magically appear out of nowhere! Trust me, if you could wish you’re body into shape, I would look A LOT different right now. Regardless, Jordan is just the type of character I love to read about.
I have wanted to read this for well over a year now. Early last year I was awarded a eARC of Third Degree, Cross’s NA romance and I feel in love with that novel. It was absolutely perfect and I immediately wanted to read everything else Cross had written. I didn’t even make the connection that this was the same Julie Cross that wrote the Tempest series until I was adding her books to my GoodReads TBR pile. Since then, I have vowed to read all of her work and I’m happy to say that I’m over halfway there. I just need to read the rest of this series and Whatever Life Throws At You and I’ll all caught up…..until she finishes whatever she is working next comes out. I don’t mean Halfway Perfect. I’ve read that. You should read that as soon as it comes out. That novel has me trying to come up with legitimate excuses to miss work work on May 8th and make the crazy 10 hour drive it would take me to get to New York City to attend it’s launch. You can read more about that here….and if you are in NYC and able to attend, well I kinda hate you because I would love to go. My point is that I had high expectations for this. Julie was nice enough to gift me a copy and I planned on reading it the old fashion way until I saw that there was an audio copy available on audible and I immediately bought that. I’m happy to report that this exceeded those expectations.
I really found this world utterly fascinating. Not only is Karen 100% committed to her sport, but so are the other girls on the team and all the things they go through to succeed in a sport that has a very limited number of spots that can be attained. The chances of actually making it big in gymnastics is slim and even knowing that, they give it their all. The spend the vast majority of their waking hours training and when they aren’t training, they still do things in a specific way to better their gymnastic abilities. They are all on crazy diets and have regular meetings with nutritionists and it just astounding me. Cross has intimate knowledge of this world and it really shows through. I don’t think anyone outside this community would really understand the trials and tribulations of it well enough to portray it to an outside.
Normally, I worry a little when starting a novel that has a heavy focus on anything athletic. I have never been a fan of any sport and, despite my efforts to be more active now, that has not changed. I always worry that the focus will be so heavy on the sporting aspect that I lose the parts that I like or that I won’t understand the rules of the sport and simply can’t follow the plot because of that. It doesn’t make sense when I put it like that, but it’s like me watching a football game. I literally know nothing about football. I know that a touchdown is a score but that is the end of my knowledge on that subject. So when someone starts throwing around terms (ie punting or gaining fields or whatever) that are widely understand without explaining it, I’m immediately lost. I need it explained in the simplest terms possible and it’s hard for an author to do that successfully. I knew that probably would be an issue here because Cross is great at putting things in terms I can understand, but the apprehension was still there. I worried for naught though because that wasn’t an issue. The sports aspect was beautifully interwoven with the other issues Karen was facing.
Basically, this novel is the same level of perfection I have come to expect from Julie Cross. It’s smart, it’s emotional, and it has those perfectly flawed characters that we can all relate to. No one here is perfect, not even the coach who should have all the answers and that quality grounds the novel in a way that nothing else can. I have already bought the next novella in this series and I look forward to seeing Karen and Jordan’s journey continue.
This is my first Erin Spencer and I’m definitely satisfied with her. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like her. I didn’t immediately love the sound of her voice, but the more I listened, the more I felt like it suited Karen. She has great pacing and pronunciation. There was nothing about her narration that irritated me. Conversely, there was nothing about her narration that made me go super fangirl-y about. I’d give her 4 out of 5 stars for her performance. She’s great and I’ll definitely keep an eye out for her work in the future.