Edge of Glory – Rachel Spangler

I know it’s going to sound weird because it’s such a privilege to get to read and review books before they’re released but a few days ago, I needed a break from ARCs (advanced review copies). My current list is long-ish, still manageable, but I felt like I was putting too much pressure on myself. As counterintuitive as it may seem, putting these books aside for a day or two (or four, as it happened) felt like the best thing to do. I used to excel under pressure, or at least pretend to. I don’t anymore – either excel or pretend.

So I needed a break. And I realised when I read Modern English in February that there were quite a few books by Rachel Spangler I haven’t read, including most of their sports books. Edge of Glory sounded like the perfect solution to my problem. As most of Spangler’s books have delighted me so far, I was very much looking forward to finally reading this one.

Elise Brandeis was born to win. Injuries, however, don’t discriminate, and after months of pain and hard work, Elise finally is in a position to hope for a spot on the Olympic ski team. When her coach urges her to train with snowboard champion Corey LaCroix, Elise baulks. Corey’s take on life and training seems to be the polar opposite to hers and let’s be serious, Corey’s discipline – boardercross – is “a cross between BMX and a mountainside bar fight”, and what could she ever learn from it, and her? A lot, as it turns out.

Now, I never really cared about sports but I love sports stories. My wife used to be a sportswriter and I loved her articles. She has a gift with both people and writing, and writing about people really was – and still is – her forte. Honestly (I know I’m biased but trust me), her feature article on Cathy Freeman at the Sydney Olympics is one of the best articles I’ve read. And I’ve read many because, you know, it was kind of my job. She’s an awesome storyteller, but also there are so many great stories in sports. It’s the closest we get to spectacular heroics in peacetime, there’s feelings and emotions and suspense and drama. So while I still don’t care much about sports, I care about the stories.

Funnily enough, skiing is one of the sports I know best, from a spectator point of view. My wife covered skiing for years and I travelled with her whenever I could (until I got a steady job in an office). I’ve watched loads of races, both on TV and IRL, even went to World Championships ages ago. Which definitely doesn’t make me an expert on anything except how much fun I had. And how anxious watching skiers rocketing downhill made me. That opening scene brought it all back and that’s exactly why I read. As I said, I’m not an expert on anything so I don’t know for sure how accurate Spangler’s descriptions of athletes’ training and work are (pretty accurate, I’d say, since the author did their research and talked to real experts), all I know is that I felt the adrenaline, I felt the work, I felt the effort and the pain, I almost felt the sweat. If that was all there was in this book, I would already be recommending it.

And I’ve not even touched on the romance yet (this review is getting out of hand, I apologise to the author and to whoever is reading this, I don’t seem to have a lot of control over my brain lately).

I loved watching Elise change progressively, go from grumpy and driven to happy and driven, fall in love without being aware of it. Her reluctance to opening up makes complete sense once Corey gets to know her, but Corey has her own issues to reckon with. I ached with Corey facing her insecurities about being both the best and the oldest. Joy is the best word to describe what I felt seeing her realise she had a lot more in her than she thought. I loved everything about Corey. I watched Zack Snyder’s Justice League this weekend, and I was reminded of Corey whenever Barry Allen, as played by Ezra Miller, was on screen. He’s having so much fun despite the pressure, he’s always sporting this huge grin, and that’s how I picture Corey, a cockier, more mature, more confident version of young Barry. So yeah, I loved her.

And don’t get me started on the chemistry… Wow. The thing with athletes, fictional ones at any rate, is that they’re very intense. They know what they want and they’re willing to do all sorts of extreme things to get there. It’s like their bodies know no boundaries (they do, see above, but it’s a mindset, they have to believe they can so they will), so imagine how that translates to chemistry. It’s like their skin is extra sensitive, their blood flows faster, everything is multiplied. Faster, higher, stronger, right?

I could keep going about all the little and not so little things I loved about this book and how they resonate but I need to end this rambling review. I could have said almost as much with way fewer words: this book has everything I love in a sports romance. Read it.

5-stars

Edge of Glory @ Bywater Books

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