Saturday, August 30, 2014

Spokes by P.D. Singer

Title: Spokes
Author: P.D. Singer
Purchase at Rocky Ridge Books
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Genre: contemporary, sports
Length: 242 pages
Formats: epub, mobi, pdf, print

Pro cyclist Luca Biondi lives for the race. For the star of Team Antano-Clark, victory lies within his grasp—if he can outdistance 200 other hopefuls, avoid suspicion from race officials, and keep his lieutenant more friend than foe. Luca also has secrets, and eyes for amateur cyclist and journalist Christopher Nye.

Christopher understands Luca’s need to keep their relationship under wraps, but chafes at hiding in the shadows of his lover’s career. He’s ready to cheer Luca’s victories, but he knows too well how triumph can turn to tears. While Christopher’s heart sees Luca the man, his inner journalist—and his editor—sees the cycling world’s biggest scoop.

From the jagged curves of the Colorado Rockies to the viciously steep Belgian hills, Luca can ride out any bumps—except rumors about his loyalty.

A few words in the wrong ear could crash everything. With miles between them, hints of scandal, and Luca’s fierce need to guard his reputation, a journalist might have to let go of the biggest story of his career or risk forcing his lover to abandon the race. Christopher and Luca face a path more treacherous than any road to the summit in the Italian Alps.


~*~*~*~*

This week the last stage of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is hauling ass practically through my neighborhood, making this the perfect timing to review a cycling novel. Damn but I love this book.


With her trademark in-depth but not overwhelming immersion into her subject, P.D. Singer shows us the backstage of races like the Tour de France and the Pro Cycling Challenge. Her pro cycling MC is being groomed to win the Giro d’Italia, another of the top tier stage races, and he just might make it, unless….

Poor Luca, afraid to be exposed as gay before he’s established himself as a cycling star and a force to be reckoned with. Uncertain how his own team will take the news and wearily convinced how the competition will view him, his attraction to Christopher Nye is something he wants to pursue and still keep under wraps. Christopher is our POV character through this entire piece, which covers an amazing amount of territory. An aspiring journalist and a good amateur rider, Christopher is tormented by Luca’s back away closer reactions, but falls more and more in love with the restless, nervous cyclist.

In a breath of fresh plot air, it isn’t the issue of coming out that creates the biggest problems for the couple. Rather, a mismatch of understandings over questions asked and answered over the snippets Luca lets drop at the gym or over dinner or halfway through a pity ride. Christopher weaves the bits into articles for a cycling magazine, making his reputation and hurting Luca’s. “I asked, every time,” Christopher protests, and he did, but did he ask the right question and did Luca understand the implications? Questionable, and leading straight to heartache. Only the magazine’s confidence in Christopher, built ironically on the very things Luca resented, gets them onto the same continent and in range for a conversation.

Secondary characters like Christopher's riding partner Stu, Luca’s lieutenant on the team, Rolf, and his valet Paolo create frictions, raise questions, and in a way, bring the men both farther apart and bring them together. Some of their scenes made me snort, like Stu’s cheerfully clueless acceptance, or exclaim Ooh burn! at Rolf’s sly digs at Christopher's cycling skills. Others made me cry, and warning, this book needed the tissues. More than once. For a lot of reasons.

Both men had a lot of learning and growing to do, and managed to prod each other into doing so. What were weaknesses become strengths, what was betrayal becomes support, and what could have torn them apart forever becomes what cements them as a couple. These two guys seem destined to be together, even if they have to break each other’s hearts first. Told in some vivid prose, the story brings the Colorado back roads, the cold winds off the North Sea and the brutally steep Hellingen of Belgium, and the carnival atmosphere and horrible roads of Italy’s primo stage race into scenes the reader becomes part of.

A personal communication with the author revealed that a few of the major incidents are based on real events, and that the races are accurate, even if their records don’t reveal Luca’s accomplishments. Bike racing is a lot more than “get on bike, pedal fast” and not only did I laugh, cry, and sigh with Christopher and Luca, I learned something about a sport that I used to only appreciate for the fit guys in tight clothes. Not that a fit guy in colorful spandex is a bad thing. ;)

Christopher and Luca have a road to each other that has as many hard climbs as the race stages through the Alps, and I enjoyed every up and down and the eventual triumph.5 marbles





5 comments:

  1. What You Said, including the five marbles. This is another favorite PDS book for me, for the characters and the romance, but also for the way she brings the reader into what might be a brand new world/environment/profession and lets us feel like we're learning a lot about it without getting any infodump bricks to the head. Great stuff.

    And yes, fit guys in colorful spandex is always a good thing. :D

    Angie

    PS -- apologies if this turns out to be a second comment; it looks like the system ate my first one. :/

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  2. Oh, I loved this one too! The scene at the chapel. Sigh. I can still hear Luca's word, "We are the fuga bidone.." Just thinking about it brings tears.

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  3. I also loved this one. The Tour de France started in my home town this year (Yorkshire was very proud to be the place for the Grande Depart anf the first two days of the race!) and when I went to watch the cyclists whizzing past me, this book had given me a much better understanding of how the teams operate and how much hard work goes into the training for such a race. Plus there was a fab romance :). Great review, Cryselle!

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  4. Great writing and plot, but I especially appreciated the immersion in the world of pro cycling. The plot elements address doping issues, naturally, and the pressure on the athletes to "measure up." It was a great, adventurous, emotional read and I loved every pedal stroke of it.

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