Pas de deux – E.J. Noyes

4.5⭐️ – Each new book by E.J. Noyes is cause for celebration. You know you’re going to get fantastic writing, relatable characters, and a great story. Even with her more traditional romances (Turbulence, Gold or this new one), there’s always something more.

In Pas de Deux, Caitlyn Lloyd is on the verge of qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics as part of the US dressage team. All her hard work, all her sacrifices are about to pay. No way is she going to let her confusion over the new team vet derail her plans. Addie Gardner was Caitlyn’s nemesis at Pony Club, or so Caitlyn remembers it. On Addie’s side, things are a bit different: Caitlyn was her first – and everlasting – crush. Now an accomplished vet, Addie’s ambition is to do her job as well as possible. And if with that job comes a new friendship (or more), she won’t complain.

I don’t know much about horses. Like with most sports, I know more than I would had I not met my wife (she once received an award for her articles on equestrian competitions), and I understood most of the words without using the glossary at the end of the book, but I mostly look from afar, awed by both the beauty and the height of horses. They make me feel very small, clumsy and fragile. E.J. Noyes, on the other hand, is an expert, and the love she has for horses is in every word of this book. I think it’s that love that made it possible for me to care about every detail, all the minutiae about the care of horses. The level of description could have felt excessive but Noyes makes it engaging and captivating.

The readers who felt lost when Noyes tried her hand at third person narrative will be happy to know that she’s back to first person (from both MCs’ POV, in alternate chapters) and hasn’t mislaid any of her talent during her foray into foreign territory. I, for one, believe her third person is just as good as her first and that she spooked herself with Reaping the Benefits. When you’re as talented as E.J. Noyes is, you can write anything you put your mind to. The only question is whether you’re enjoying writing it. And it certainly feels as if the author took pleasure in writing this story.

One of the many things I loved in this book is the way the MCs deal with problems. They do this very adult and very rare-in-lesfic thing: they talk to each other. This book is proof that miscommunication isn’t required for drama. Neither is a breakup. Well-fleshed characters with very human hang-ups bring all the angst and drama necessary. It’s all the more interesting here as Pas de Deux is part enemies-to-lovers romance, part second chance, depending on whose point of view is playing. Addie has had a crush on Caitlyn since they were fourteen, unbeknownst to Caitlyn who thought Addie was a pest.

All the confused feelings they had as teenagers wake up in a much more adult manner when they meet again. The chemistry between them is sweet and hot at the same time, with Addie trying not to get her hopes up too quickly and Caitlyn’s efforts to reconcile the girl she hated with the adorable woman she’s attracted to. Once they act on their attraction, the sex scenes are both steamy and realistic. Not everything is picture-perfect the first time and it only makes it better.

While I loved both MCs (especially Addie) and the secondary characters, from Caitlyn’s groom Wren to Addie’s friend Teresa and, of course, Dewey the horse, this book didn’t touch me as deeply as Noyes’s books usually do. It could be because, before I got to it, I read a couple of other books that brought out a lot of emotions for me and I was, maybe, a little dried out. If that’s the reason, I’m pretty sure I’ll experience the minuscule part I missed when I listen to the audiobook. I love E.J. Noyes’s books but what I love even more is Abby Craden narrating them. I don’t even care if she mangles the French (as long as she’s not voicing a French character). I can’t wait to hear the voices she gives Caitlyn and Addie.

5-stars

Pas de Deux @ Bella Books

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