Training Season, Leta Blake
Publisher: Leta Blake
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Sport – Ice Skating, Cowboy, BDSM, Kid, Contemporary
Length: 343 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
**SPOILER REVIEW **
Matty glanced in the mirror by the front door, smoothed his hair, wiped a stray bit of eyeliner away, and threw his chest out and his chin up. Matty Marcus was rocking the glittery glory on a ranch in Montana. Never let it be said that rural locales took any shine away from this bitch.
Basic story outline – a famous, but not so well off, and somewhat maligned figure skater gets a chance to earn good money housesitting a ranch in beautiful Montana for a wealthy supporter. This will allow him to afford a top notch Ukrainian coach to get him where he wants to go. To stand on the Olympic podium. He didn’t get there last time. This time will be different. The next Olympics is his goal and no one and nothing will get in his way. This time it will work out with the right amount of discipline and the right coach. This is Matty’s need and his driving force. Ah, but he meets the rancher next door, Rob Lovely. Yep, Lovely. Rob is hot, and they start a relationship. But Matty is always going to leave at the end of winter for another shot at elusive Olympic glory.
Rob and Matty have plenty of sex, BDSM included, and Rob and Matty fall in love. Matty has an impact on Rob’s son, he sees raw skating talent in Ben, and he has an impact on Rob’s ex partner, Anja. The town of Whitefish plays an integral part with the pond on the ranch and there is a rink in town. And then there are the locals. Eventually, there is a parting of the ways of the two MC’s and the book looks at Matty’s time spent trying to get back on top of the sport he loves – or as he calls it, his boyfriend, Figure Skating. The book then looks at the cruelty of an elite sport and one that is highly subjective at that.
The book is in four parts. There is the how soon will it take the hot gay men to get together and fall in love. Will-they-won’t-they make the relationship work. Will-he-won’t-he make it as an Olympian. Then the will-they-wont-they get back together.
What didn’t work for me:
What did Rob see in Matty? I’m still trying to work that out. Rob got starving Matty, snarky Matty, Matty who was leaving and constantly brooding over it. Matty who keeps freaking out about a relationship but wants it too. Yes, he trained Ben, Rob’s son, and was nice to him – as a parent I can appreciate that. But what was it that kept Rob waiting for him? Sex is not enough and the ‘you’re Matty Marcus’ was not good enough for me. I mean I liked Matty, but I’m not sure why Rob fell in love with him. That also goes in reverse.
I felt like I didn’t fully know Rob. First of all, there were these side characters – Bill, Angus and Kevin – that distracted at times from the initial cementing of the relationship between the MC’s. Even the sex got in the way. Yes, they seemed to work well in bed, but I didn’t totally buy it. What about outside of bed? Rob admits later that Matty is not necessarily his type, that he’d never been with a guy who wore make-up. What happened to Rob when Matty was gone – we learn things at the end but once again it was tell, tell. tell. Why did Rob really wait? Why did Matty want to come back to Rob? I am still trying to work that out. Maybe I’m overanalysing here, but I have to feel a core passion and reaction of a romance. I’ve asked myself several times since finishing. Why was there a romance between them? Why was it more than just two guys fucking for winter? I can’t answer what created such deep love that they couldn’t get each other out of their systems for two years while Matty was off pursuing a dream.
The BDSM didn’t work for me. The corn maze scene did nothing for me except it freaked me out somewhat. In a romance book it kind of came from left of field. If I’m reading erotica or kink I’d be okay with it, but here it seemed off-kilter and jarring. Breath play is pretty serious stuff and it didn’t fit here. The scene with the ropes and the whips seemed vicious for the sake of it. It didn’t value add. Yes, I know Matty thinks about it to push himself in the harsh world of competitive figure skating. But for me it seemed to push him to stick with the pain of skating – it lowered his sense of self worth even further. It made no difference to the way he took the results from the judges, the denial and breakdown. The way he viewed himself. So, once again, I can’t seem to get to the bottom of why.
In the end the ranch goes, and then Montana rancher-Rob is a New York Physical Therapist. That didn’t work for me. I liked him in Montana. As a rancher. And the implication that he could be so much more kind of insulted me. Hell, Whitefish was more gay friendly than a lot of other places in the world. People were nice there. Why leave? What’s wrong with being a rancher?Because Anja said he needed to do something better? Get out from under his dead disapproving parents? Because Ben goes and skates in New Jersey? I think Rob was always living someone else’s dreams.
Just…no to this dialogue –
“Are you saying Figure Skating screwed you in the ass without any lube?” Ben asked.
A TWELVE YEAR OLD asks an adult this question. Not in my household. Never. Utter disrespect.
And a big no to the comparisons and love for Johnny Weir from the author- ‘Thank you to Johnny Weir for inspiration and for being himself. Being himself? Would that be the person who has spat in the face of Russia’s LGBTQ community? His own tribe.
I lost respect for Johnny Weir with his…odd behaviour over Sochi. He may have faced lowball scores because he was so flamboyant when he skated, and that sucks. I know it. His lack of concern for human rights abuses in Russia leaves this reviewer with no love for Johnny Weir anymore. Training Season was released on December 3rd, 2013. If it had been released last year I probably would have agreed with Leta Blake. Now, not a chance in hell.
One more thing. I HATE real fur. It is cruel how they commercially farm and it is not necessary. Matty Marcus wore mink coats in the book. I won’t say anymore… other than it didn’t make me feel warm or fuzzy.
What I did like:
The dialogue between Matty and Elliot, his BFF was fabulous. I loved it when they spoke on the phone. I loved it when they were together –
“Did I tell you he’s super sweet and really funny?”
“Yes, three times already. Jesus, are you in love with him or what?”
“What? I barely know him.”
“You sound in love. The last time you got this way it was over Cody and his big hungry bottom.”
“I’m not trying to be funny, bitch, I’m trying to figure out why you’re broken. Shoes, Matty. There are shiny shoes right in front of you but they aren’t on your feet!”
I liked a lot of Matty’s dialogue in general. I liked his flamboyance. I take my hat off to anyone who allows themselves to be who they are even when there may be consequences, and Matty Marcus did that –
Matty smiled and put his arm around Elliot’s waist. He remembered their childhood in Virginia well. From the very first moment he’d passed Elliot that glitter crayon, it had been the two of them against a world bent on humiliating and hurting them for being too obviously gay
I loved it when Matty brought out Yulia Yasnayeva (his alter ego, drag queen Russian coach) for Ben. It was terrific.
I did like the town of Whitefish. All starting with Matty’s patron, Margaret.
Matty’s family all supported him. I enjoy reading books where family are not abusive or making their children feel guilty for being who they are. I didn’t like Matty calling his mother Donna when he was feeling snarky but it was explained well by Leta Blake.
There were moments when I felt deeply for Matty and his desire to be at the top of his game. The pressure he felt to give back after having talent and not quite appreciating it the first go around. He wanted to help his family and felt so desperate to do it right this time. Families do put so much into their children’s dreams and it costs more than some can afford. There is then a huge weight of responsibility to bear by the child. That was well handled in Training Season.
The overall story was interesting, a bit different and I applaud the author for going into some emotional detail about sportspeople and those around them they impact.
Even if I really felt that the primary character’s relationship could have been cemented more in the first part of the book, I laughed at/with both of their friends and it lightened the load along the way.
When Rob did some things that weren’t sex related they were nice. The wood for the fire and the swan picture, and his feelings about it in relation to Matty, were things I wanted more of. I felt at times we were told more about Rob than shown. But when he was given the chance it was nice –
Rob’s cheeks flushed a little. “Like it says, bone to bone, down to your marrow, you’re beautifully made, like the swan. And like the string of pearls, you’re precious, shining and incredibly strong.”
I liked the characters and even if I wasn’t sold on the depth of their relationship, I did want them both to be happy.
I wanted to love this book like so many have. It shone at times. Then I had a tussle with parts of it. So I simply ‘liked’ it overall. It had a flamboyant lead, I love my flamboyant men and they often get short shrift because alpha males are preferred. The LGBTQ community is made up of all types, the heterosexual community is made up of all types, and I love different representations across the board. Leta Blake went for it with make up wearing, shiny-vest-and-shoe loving, bitchy, snarky, funny, Matty Marcus. And his bestie, Elliot. There were just some things that got in the way for me but overall I enjoyed reading it. It took me a bit longer than normal to get there. To anyone thinking about reading Training Season, I suggest you read the myriad reviews on Goodreads – because there is a lot of love there for it – and see what you think.
…and suddenly he wondered what his safeword was for the ice. Did he have one? If his boyfriend Figure Skating was going to beat the hell out of him, didn’t he have a right to a safeword? If he did, what would it be?