*** 4.5 Lovely, Glittery North Stars ***
There are few things I love more in life than a book about what happens when two very different worlds collide; they’re just so full of promise and wonderful creative possibilities! So, when I read the blurb for Leta Blake’s new novel Training Season,
about an over-the-top competitive figure skater forced by circumstances and injury into close contact with a rugged Montana Rancher, I knew I was going to be putty in Ms. Blake’s hands.
And I was.
How can I possibly describe Rob Lovely in a way that will do his character justice?! Rob is probably one of the most wonderfully complex characters that I’ve come across in a long while. He’s sweet, thoughtful, intelligent, and compassionate. He’s a caring father, a good friend, and a man who knows his own worth, yet consistently puts others before himself. I think the thing that got me – deep down on a gut level – was his calming, sturdy presence; it was the kind that sort of sneaks inside of you when you’re not looking, wraps around your heart, and warms you from the inside out. I loved that. I also loved the way that he saw Matty – really saw
him – and accepted everything about him without judgment. I wish that everyone had someone like that in their lives.
And while Rob is the strong, unyielding presence in the story, Matty brings the glitz, the glam, the fun
. Matty is flamboyant, unapologetic, and fearless. You can love him or hate him, but he isn’t ever going to pretend to be something he’s not. I loved his potty mouth and naughty mind, his drama queen antics, and his general enthusiasm for life. It was all infectious! But Matty’s also so much more than sweetness and light – the man is driven, ambitious, loyal, and so vulnerable it nearly flays your heart in parts.
There were so many aspects of this novel that deserve to be recognized. In addition to two wonderful main characters, Training Season
also had a whole cast of amazing, dynamic secondary characters, was incredibly hilarious, and had love scenes so dang hot I worried that my Kindle was about to spontaneously combust. The D/s aspects of Matty and Rob’s relationship was so fucking well-written that most scenes left me equal parts turned on and strangely emotional (except for the FREAKIN’ CORN MAZE
- that just plain turned me on)!
But the thing that really blew me away about this book was the realism of its romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading about grand romantic gestures and those perfect movie magic moments where the characters are gazing into each other’s eyes, the music is starting to swell and the rest of the world seems to recede into a blurry background, but that isn’t the power of this book. No, the power of this book is far simpler than that. There was no dramatic Hollywood moment for Matty and Rob’s first kiss, or their first “I love you,” their parting, or even their eventual reunion. Instead, all those really important milestones that the characters experienced together seemed to slip into those quiet in between
moments – those moments that would otherwise be completely unremarkable except for the fact that their whole lives have just changed. I believe that it’s a rare talent that can make those ordinary moments seem extraordinary and Ms. Blake should be commended for this.
There was only one thing that stopped me from giving Training Season
the full 5-star treatment, and that was the pacing of the plot after Matty left Montana. The logical part of my brain realizes that separating the main characters was necessary to the plot (it kept things honest and showed readers the burden and sacrifice that elite athletes make to pursue their dreams), but some of the snapshots we saw of Matty’s life in the time lapses seemed… a little arbitrary. Plus (and I realize this is a personal, emotionally driven response and not in any way a reflection of Ms. Blake’s talent), my heart just didn’t enjoy the characters being apart from each other for so long. I missed Rob and wanted him back, dammit! The wait for their happily ever after was KILLING me!
Verdict: This book was an absolute gem – one I know I’ll be drawn back to re-read many, many times. I highly recommend it to anyone that is open to reading a fabulous book that will challenge you to examine your views on life and love, on dominance and submission, and on the lengths to which you’d go to make your dreams a reality.
~ * ~
OT side note: Can I just take a second to say how much I loved the dedication of this book!? I think the legislation that was recently passed in Russia is downright inhumane and my heart goes out to everyone living there that is currently being oppressed based on their sexual identity. It is my sincerest hope that the world’s athletes – gay, straight, and everything in between – make us proud at the Sochi Olympics next year and take a stand against Putin’s tyranny.