The Next Competitor

The Next Competitor - Keira Andrews Review originally posted at Sinfully.

This is a sweet, low-angst romance and coming of age story set in the stressful world of competitive figure skating. While the two MC’s aren’t exactly rivals, they are almost complete opposites who would seem, at first glance, to have little more than the love of skating in common.

Alex is 20 years old, the American men’s champion, and has a real shot at Olympic gold. He has put skating ahead of everything, not wanting what he fears would be the distraction of a relationship. He is very competitive, very cognizant of how much his family has sacrificed to support him and knows what coming out in the sport could do to his already rocky standing with the powers that be. This all has him putting a lot of pressure on himself to make it to the Olympics and win. Alex may have no brain to mouth filter and come off as abrasive, but he’s not out to hurt anyone. His brain sabotages him by constantly overthinking everything.

Canadian pairs skater Matt practices at the same rink as Alex and thinks very little of Alex. Matt’s 24 and has almost the complete opposite attitude as Alex. He loves his sport and would like to go on to the Olympics, but he also sees that there are other things in life. He has time for friends and is pretty laid back, almost nothing seeming to faze him. Alex has dubbed him “Captain Cardboard” for his lack of emotion.

Their relationship starts off slowly, Matt wary of Alex and Alex afraid to admit he’s having feelings, but when near tragedy strikes on the ice the two become almost inseparable. There are plenty of ups and downs in store for both their on-ice and personal lives as Matt and Alex slowly bring about changes in each other’s attitudes toward the sport and towards the possibility of not having to sacrifice an entire part of their lives just to have the other.

Told from Alex’s POV, his abrasiveness never put me off. You know deep down, he just doesn’t understand how to juggle skating with any other part of his life and that though he doesn’t have a knack for censoring his words, his intentions are pure. Matt is a nice guy from the start even when he’s looking down on Alex’s treatment of other skaters. I wouldn’t have minded a bit of his POV in the early parts of the book, but eventually more of his personality and his background is revealed.

Matt may be Captain Cardboard in public, but in private Matt morphs into Major Dirty Talk. He is more experienced than the virginal Alex so when they get together, Matt’s take charge attitude and Alex’s insecurity was a nice change of pace. I loved the balance of hot, dirty and tender in the sex scenes. Keira Andrews never disappoints me there!

Just as the romance builds slowly, so does Alex’s learning to love skating again beyond the drive to win. His growth plays out well not just on the ice, but with the other skaters he trains and competes with. Keira Andrews is obviously a figure skating fan and brings up a number of issues facing skaters both within the sport itself and off the ice as well. I know very little about the sport and did find the set-up, explanations and introductions at the start a bit slow, but as soon as that was out of the way I was sailing through the story.

This is another solid romance from Keira Andrews with likable MCs and a good cast of secondary characters. I thought the ending was realistic (though I would have liked to have seen a bit more of that last skate) and left open the possibility of another story about Alex and Matt which, of course, I would read in a heartbeat.