REVIEW: Medal Up: A Winter Games Duology by Nicole Flockton and Fiona Marsden
Two couples tread on thin ice at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in this captivating duology—but love has Olympic-sized impact on their dreams.
Fighting Their Attraction: Snowboarder Brady Thompson landed in Seoul favored to win elusive gold. But instead of fresh powder, he finds that a past he can’t escape is twisting his half-pipe into knots. Figure skater Arielle Baldwin is determined to win a medal so she can walk away from her coach mom’s stranglehold on her life. Can a good girl and a bad boy reaching for their dreams make for a dynamic duo?
Man of Ice: How can the Games go so wrong for friendly, upbeat Maybelle Li? Her ex-skating partner is raining on her parade with memories of the past, and her current partner, Bohdan Dovzhenko, is the hottest thing to hit the ice this decade—and the coldest companion. He’s all work and no conversation beyond grunts and commands. But as their medal hopes rise, so does Bohdan’s word count. He’s not made of stone, and being locked outside of Belle’s sunshine is simply no fun. Now their growing closeness may be too hot to dismiss—but will it burn down their chance to forge a new future as well?
I will admit that my enthusiasm for the Olympics has dimmed a lot in recent years. Scandals – still ongoing, drug doping – always a problem, bribery – will it ever end?, and cities being stuck with facilities they have no use for after paying a fortune to build them – hmmmm, yep, I’m ho-hum. But the cover of these novellas drew me in in spite of myself and here I am reading them. There’s some good, some okay and a few of bobbled landings.
The first story centers on a lot of old, hard feelings of betrayal along with a new relationship romance. Snow boarder Brady caved into his father’s anti-gay sentiments and bailed on his sport and his pairs partner to go his own way in a different sport. Wow, he turns and burns quickly – can athletes switch to an entirely new sport and be X Games champions and Olympic Games ready in eight years? I guess so. After no contact with the people he left behind in his dust, he’s got some apologies to make and friendships to mend. In typical male fashion, he’s taciturn about this but all those years has let feelings die down to only simmer and after what seems like a small bit of effort for the bridges he burned and another competitor’s hopes which were dashed, Brady makes amends and things are okay again.
The romance springs up like kudzu. One minute it’s not there and the next it’s all over the place. Arielle decides to try and elude her parent coaches’ strict watchful eye and go for it with a bad boy. But does she honestly think she can keep this a secret from mom with the number of cameras all over the athletes’ village? First it’s flirting then there’s hot sexing, then regrets and accusations after which Brady puts a painful full stop on it because he’s got to compete. Um, Brady why not just slow things down until after the short time before you go for the gold? Why break Arielle’s heart? Yeah, he futzes things again but at least Arielle gives him grief. Before everything is suddenly back on again. This one was far too dependent on insta-love where insta-lust was all I could see. C
The second story is tied in slightly with the first. The world of grand prix skaters is small so it’s not far fetched that our second couple Maybelle and Bohdan know Brady and the others from the first novella. And as seen with Brady and Arielle, there’s a reason that host country Olympic committees now lay in a mammoth supply of condoms for the games.
Aussie Maybelle Li and Ukrainian Bohdan Dovzhenko have only been skating together for less than a year – just how easy is it these days to change the country you represent? I honestly don’t know. They’re skating well together but their communication is little better than commuters on the same train every day. It’s basically all about work with little time spent on any personal relationship. Friendly Maybelle tried but after Bohdan shut her down enough, she retreated and left him his space. Their ice skating careers are probably about over due to age and younger competitors nipping at their ice skates so it’s now or never. After Maybelle’s partner Brady ditched her and dashed her dreams for Vancouver or Sochi, she’s hoping Pyeongchang and Bohdan are going to get her on the podium.
Bohdan’s last partner, slinky and sultry Russian Svetlana ruined their performance in Sochi but after moving to Australia and partnering with Maybelle, he’s not going back – personally or professionally – to the over-perfumed, grasping Russian vixen. He’s kept things strictly work only with Maybelle for a reason. Now that the performance pressure is on, he and Maybelle might need to communicate a little more as each has some angsty (for reals) issues hanging on them. These things due seem as if they’d impact Maybelle and Bohdan emotionally and influence their performance so working them out is needed to get this pair totally in sync. The romantic relationship worked a bit better for me here as it avoids Suddenly I Love You/Avoid You/Love You Again from the first story. B
For both novellas, I like that several different countries are showcased though as I mentioned, I’m curious about how easy and quick it would be for Bohdan to begin skating for Australia or Brady to switch sports. I enjoyed the little details that made me feel I was in an athlete’s head and experiencing the susurration of skates on ice or the feeling of ice crystals thrown up from skates or boards cutting through ice or snow. The scenes in the athletes’ village were nice to get a feel for time spent outside of practice or performances but one romance worked better for me. Hopefully the quarters in the Olympic Village this time around won’t make social media in a bad way and everyone there will adhere to “Citius, Altius, Fortius.”