Our evening-long tango of stares had my head spinning
Nineteen-year-old Emily is new to pairs skating, but she and her partner Chris have a big dream–to be the first American team to win Olympic gold. Their young coach Sergei, who left Russia after a mysterious end to his skating career, believes they can break through and make history.
Emily and Chris are on track to be top contenders at the 2002 Winter Games. But when forbidden feelings spark between Emily and Sergei, broken trust and an unexpected enemy threaten to derail Emily’s dreams of gold.
Publisher Astraea Press • Publication Date (USA) January 2012
Kristin approached me awhile back about reading and reviewing Life on the Edge, the recent debut novel by Jennifer Comeaux. K is well aware that love stories about figure skating are very near and dear to my heart and let me tell you, this one has earned its place on my podium. I’ll admit that it took me a little time to catch the hook. The early chapters of the story set a good stage for the later plot to play out but while there’s good character development, there isn’t a lot of action until chapter four. All I can say is that I’m so glad I kept reading.
Life on the Edge follows 19-year-old competitive skater Emily Butler. While she’s not new to the sport, she is new to skating pairs. Despite that fact, she and partner Chris have a big dream: to compete at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. With their young Russian coach and retired skater, Sergei, assisting them, they appear to have a fighting chance at turning that dream into reality.
Sergei. Sigh. The man will swoon you. Yes, that’s right, Emily’s love interest is none other than her very handsome coach. Sound weird? That’s the point. Sergei is young, only six years older than Emily, having retired at 18 for mysterious reasons. Yet while not a hard and fast rule of the skating federation, coaches and skaters are highly discouraged from dating (for obvious reasons). We see their struggle right from the start when their growing friendship starts blooming into something more. They both know it’s wrong, they both know they shouldn’t, but how long can they fight their feelings?
The story opens in the summer of 2000, leading into the competitive season a year prior to the Olympics. Though the novel takes us through two full seasons and two years, the plot never drags or feels choppy. The author does a great job with pacing and flow, touching on what’s important and always moving the characters forward. I found myself always excited about the next competition just as much as I was aching for the next step in Emily and Sergei’s relationship.
And their love story? Total slow burn, just the way I like it. There are so many great facets to their relationship-their interactions as coach and skater, the sweetness of their friendship, the kindling attraction, the romance…the UST. Oh yeah, the UST is off the charts. For those unfamiliar with the acronym UST=unresolved sexual tension aka the period of time where you know it’s gonna happen but don’t know how or where or when. I was dying for these two to get together.
A great thing about this story is that it’s not just the protagonist or even her love interest that hold your attention; Comeaux builds a vast cast who only bring you further into Emily and Sergei’s world; from the adorable Courtney, a young pairs skater Emily and Sergei coach together, to slimy Viktor, one of the clubs other coaches, to Chris and Marley, Emily’s very swoony partner and the ice dancer he has a massive crush on, you’ll find yourself wanting more. I know I did. Seriously, Chris? I loved reading about his relationship and interactions with Emily almost as much as Sergei. Almost.
In the early stages of Emily’s attraction to Sergei and the beginnings of their relationship we see a variety of viewpoints and reactions from Emily’s family and friends ranging from accepting to downright hostile. It only goes to show that their choice to be together isn’t an easy one. There were a few times I wanted to reach through my screen and shake Emily’s mother or roommate Aubrey and say “Why can’t you just let them be all happy and adorable together?” But of course, their hesitations are valid. One of the great things about how Comeaux weaves the plot is that the conflicts are valid and realistic, not simply drama for drama’s sake. We get to see this couple through fighting their feelings to finally giving in, from the struggle of learning to separate their work from their relationship to learning to trust and love and support each other.
And let’s not forget, this is all happening with the constant pressure of competition in the background and a little event called the Olympics on the horizon. You don’t have to follow figure skating to love this book; Comeaux does a great job laying out the details and behind the scenes aspects of the world of competitive figure skating without bogging down the reader in technicalities. The way she writes about Emily and Chris out on the ice has you feeling everything they feel: nerves, excitement, disappointment, elation, and triumph. You’ll want to find the nearest sheet of ice and strap on some figure skates.
In a romance, my bottom line is always the couple. Do I want them to be together? Do I connect with them in a way that has me cheering for them, fighting for them, crying for them, swooning for them, on the edge of my seat waiting for them to kiss and skate off into the sunset? Emily and Sergei definitely did that for me in a way no other fictional couple has in quite some time. Give them a chance and I promise you’ll be cheering them on to their happily ever after, too.
About the Author (from Goodreads):
Jennifer Comeaux earned a Master of Accounting from Tulane University and is a Certified Public Accountant in south Louisiana. While working for a Fortune 1000 company, she sought a creative outlet and decided to put on paper a story that had played in her head for years. That story became Life On the Edge, her first published novel. When not working or writing, she is an avid follower of the sport of figure skating, travelling to competitions around the country. Those experiences allow her to see another side of the sport and serve as an inspiration for her writing. Jennifer is blessed with a wonderful family and many friends who have encouraged her to pursue her dream of being a published author.