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Patricia McLinn

REVIEW:  The Games by Patricia McLinn

REVIEW: The Games by Patricia McLinn

Dear Ms. McLinn:

In ESPN’s The Body issue (their answer to SI’s infamous Swimsuit edition), an article ran about licentious behavior in the Olympic Village. Put together a thousand young people with high energy levels and incredibly toned bodies and it’s spring break, athlete style.

And on it went for eight days as scores of Olympians, male and female, trickled into the shooter’s house — and that’s what everyone called it, Shooters’ House — at all hours, stopping by an Oakley duffel bag overflowing with condoms procured from the village’s helpful medical clinic. After a while, it dawned on Lakatos: “I’m running a friggin’ brothel in the Olympic Village! I’ve never witnessed so much debauchery in my entire life.”

Hope Solo admitted being drunk at her Today show performance and sneaking a celeb into her room the night after their gold medal winning performance. This whole article made me think of Patricia McLinn’s The Games which I had read a few years ago but never reviewed.

Patricia McLinn The GamesThe Games centers around several people: Rikki Lodge, biathlete; Lanny Kaminski, hockey player; Tess Rutledge, former Olympic skater and now coach; Amy Yost, skating underdog and media darling; Andrei Chersakov, a Russian couple’s skating coach; Kyle Armstrong, alpine skier; Rob Zemlak, an assistant coach of the skiers; Nan Monahan, slalom skier. The story is told primarily through Rikki, Kyle, and Tess’s points of view. (Kyle is a girl by the way)

Rikki, Amy, Tess, Kyle and Nan are thrown together as “leftovers.” Biathletes are low on the Olympic totem pole and Amy Yost was a surprising entry, qualifying for the third spot on the Olympic team at only age 15. Because of the category length to the book and the multiple points of view and storylines, we just really get snippets of relationships. Good, authentic feeling snippets, but shorts nonetheless. All of these characters were so well drawn that I wanted to read more about them.

Kyle and Rob butt heads with Rob challenging Kyle’s mental toughness and throwing Kyle’s privileged background at her. “The end looked mechanical. Like some expensive windup doll.” Only Rob’s animosity toward Kyle stems from the fact that he cares for her but won’t allow himself to act on it as her coach.  Plus he doesn’t want to be with someone who loves him for his “image” – hot shot gold medalist skier.  Kyle has always crushed hard on Rob and one night she thought her feelings were reciprocated but she awoke with a broken heart.  An issue with Kyle’s health provides the suspense to the storyline.

Tess met Andrei, a pairs skater eighteen years ago when he competed under the Soviet flag. They shared a secret and illicit romance. As a Soviet skater, Andrei, wasn’t allowed to mingle with the skaters from the other countries, particularly US skaters. Tess recognizes that 18 years is a long time to have hurt feelings but she can’t set aside the sharp pain in her heart whenever she sees Andrei whom she believed would defect for her.  Andrei’s never forgotten Tess.  Tess was the weakest character in the book and her romance with Andrei, while it had good potential, was never fully realized.  Her hurt feelings 18 years later and her inability to sympathize with Andrei’s situation was frustrating.

Rikki develops feelings for the intense Lanny Kaminski which she doesn’t think are returned until one night early on in The Games when the hockey team is celebrating their first win. Lanny convinces her that their short conversation and heated glances are enough basis to sleep together “Hockey’s fast, Rikki. If you stop to think, the play’s already past you. You have to trust yourself, and go for broke.” Lanny’s spent 12 years in the minors and this is his first and likely last Olympics. He’s the old man on the squad and determined to win a medal. Rikki’s a biathlete, a sport about balance, sustained effort over a long period of time.  I am not sure if their relationship got more screen time but it was my favorite.  Their romance also provides the steaminess of the story.

I laughed or maybe smirked at the line Lanny gives Rikki:

“You’re the first man I’ve ever met who-” Her breath hitched, ut she got the rest of the thought out. “-indulges in foreplay after sex.”

He raised his head slowly.

“Not after. Between.”

The story also provides great insidery tidbits so that you really feel that you are getting a peek behind the curtain.

Tess’s focus was on Amy’s success, noting that while Amy wasn’t expected to medal, she need to perform well even in practices.

“One of figure skating’s arcane little idiosyncrasies: the judges judged practices. They sat among the spectators for these official practices, and they familiarized themselves with routines and skills, built expectations of what should be done and how. The final scores would be a measurement of how well the skater lived up those expectations under the spotlight….In the next few minutes her reputation would start to form, her place in the international hierarchy begin to be established.”

We are shown the athletes subtle and not so subtle competition amongst even teammates but also the great spirit of comrarderie that extends between nations as friendships form between athletes of competing countries. I will say that there was so much drama going on that I wondered how any one could focus on the events.  (Ryan Lochte was quoted as saying that 70% of athletes are having sex so it’s believable)

One of the most endearing moments of the book was when one of the athletes wins the bronze. It was exciting and the result encapsulated the euphoria of the Olympics better than the moments where the characters won gold.  While it is a winter Olympics tale, it is still a fun read particularly this time of the year. B

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW: Hoops by Patricia McLinn

REVIEW: Hoops by Patricia McLinn

In honor of the Olympics, we are reposting some sports books this week.  McLinn actually has an Olympic book called “The Games“.  Jane has read it and will review it tomorrow.

Dear. Ms McLinn,

The first book of yours I read, “Widow Woman” made a very good impression on me. Then Jane read one of your contemporaries, “The Rancher Meets His Match” and it also scored a good grade. When I discovered A Writer’s Work publishing group which reissues older books and publishes new works at a significant discount and realized you are one of the authors it seemed like a perfect time to check out some of your other books.

Patricia McLinn HoopsCarolyn Trent’s logically mapped journey to becoming the perfect professor of English was hijacked the day she became academic advisor to the Ashton University men’s basketball team. The hijacker was C.J. Draper, the team’s infuriating, irreverent and sexy new coach.

C.J. has never let adversity stop him – if he had he’d never have gotten this far. He’s not about to start by letting Professor Trent derail him. If he chose to rattle her ivory tower it was just for the fun of seeing the fiery woman beneath the marble-cool exterior . . . wasn’t it?

When logic clashes with ambition in the game of love, will anyone win?

College basketball is my favorite sport to watch so picking “Hoops” to try was a no-brainer for me. After finishing it, I can see why it was a RITA finalist. Carolyn Trent starts out as a slightly buttoned down ivory tower woman. The university environment is about all she’s ever known and where she feels most confident and comfortable. C.J. Draper’s casual attitude towards everything she holds dear ticks her off and raises her hackles. Ashton University has always stood for excellence in academics and Carolyn isn’t about to let its standards slide just to get a winning basketball team.

With the almost yearly graduation ratings of shame for some of the top programs in men’s Division I basketball, I can easily see where Carolyn is coming from. And for someone whose whole life is wrapped up in academia, it makes sense for her to resist the school’s decision to return to top division play. But it also seems realistic for her to take her assignment seriously and as a natural teacher, try to do the best for these players who are also students.

On the other hand I can see C.J.’s almost single minded drive to take this tiny program, turn it around and use it as a springboard back into the big time. He’s been a pro player, he knows the perks and attention that goes with that level of the game. But as his friend and former team mate Rake tells Carolyn, C.J. is also a person who is almost compelled to help others. So his emphasis on teaching his players how to think their way through a game rather than just following his orders and as well as his, albeit sometimes reluctant, relinquishment of his team to Carolyn’s mandatory study halls so they can keep their grades up seems a part of his personality.

I like how you show both Carolyn and C.J. at their jobs. Carolyn has just been to a prestigious academic seminar and works at writing papers to be published. C.J. religiously watches scouting tapes and games or can be found imparting his playing wisdom to his team. It’s also fun to watch Carolyn being converted to a true fan of the game and see C.J.’s realization of how well thought of she is in academia. And while the progression of the Ashton Aces in what is obviously the NCAA tournament seems amazing for such a small program, the event thrives on Cinderella teams who come from nowhere to take down the big boys.

The progression of the conflict between Carolyn and C.J. climaxes in a believable way and makes sense. This isn’t some made up, last minute, gotta pad the page count event. But Carolyn and C.J. also each have a personal issue that needs to be dealt with. I think you handle Carolyn’s better though. Hints were dropped about “something” in C.J.’s past but even though it ends up making sense, it still seems to go from 0 to 60 in too few pages for me to feel totally comfortable about it. I do like that though Carolyn and C.J. are each willing to help the other and support each other’s resolution of their individual conflicts, that resolution comes from within for them rather than relying solely on the other.

I enjoyed “Hoops” and my time with Carolyn and C.J. The game is covered well though I don’t think readers have to come to the book with either advanced knowledge of nor love of the game to enjoy the story. And with the bargain price you’re charging for it, I think it’s a great place for people to dip a toe in your backlist. Oh, but one thing I need to add is that there are some edits left in the file. Not enough to ruin the reading experience but definitely something which should be looked into.

~Jayne

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