Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer
Published by: Riptide Publications
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance
Order at: Publisher
Reviewed by: Alex
What to Expect: One disciplined, closeted, focused diver is reluctantly paired with a happy-go-lucky savant who doesn’t appreciate his own talent.
Plot: Jeremy Reeve is one of the best divers in the world, and he’s worked hard to get where he is. He intends to keep pushing himself with one very clear goal in mind: winning gold at the summer Olympics in two years. That medal might be the only way to earn his father’s respect as an athlete.
Brandon Evans is everything Jeremy isn’t: carefree, outgoing, and openly gay. With his bright-blue eyes and dramatic tattoos, he’s a temptation that Jeremy refuses to acknowledge. But Jeremy can’t ignore how talented Brandon is—or that Brandon has no interest in using his diving skills to compete.
They’re opposites who are forced to work together as teammates, but Jeremy’s fear of his own sexuality and Brandon’s disinterest in anything “not fun” may end their partnership before it begins. Until a single moment changes everything, and they help each other discover that “team” can also mean family and love.
Oh, sports romances. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
Start with the physical. I’m not referring to the oiled up hard-bodies worthy of romance covers and centerfolds. I’m speaking of the raw, athletic prowess the reader takes on by proxy. Even the most couch potato like reader has instant access to years of workouts done at two, three, or ever four hours at a time. They’ve suffered injuries, taping, exhaustion, painful losses, astonishing wins, and the ability to reach the boundary of what’s possible to achieve with a human body.
Then add in the commitment to their sport. The heart and soul, so to speak. In Heels Over Head, we get two very different athletes. The first is disciplined and practiced with years of training. The second is a savant who, because he has a background in dance and an uncanny aptitude for the sport, comes into diving at a late age. Jeremy lives for the sport; Brandon enjoys the sport because he enjoys life. Jeremy needs life, Brandon needs discipline. But the passion is already there.
Finally, add in the mental prowess. The body feeds the mind feeds the heart feeds the body. There is no sport if one’s head isn’t in the game. And just as it is life-affirming to watch two masters at wit (I mean, where would Pride and Prejudice be without the verbal skirmish?), the same thing happens in sport. There’s a dialogue happening through action. It’s more visceral than wit. The two love interests have to get inside each other’s head.
Heels Over Head does all this well. It’s got the physical, mental, heart, soul connection that starts with the sport and brings these two guys together. And though the sport, we see the two characters—originally enemies (though it could be argued that only Jeremy was the enemy)—meld throughout the book.
Brandon is a lovely teacher of all things intimate. The sex between them is sweet and hot. That said, watching how to deal with the bruises that show up the next day is an interesting tangent to their relationship.
What you may not like: Y’all the homophobia…
On the publisher’s website, there is a trigger warning for emotional abuse. The warning, in my humble opinion, doesn’t go far enough. Not only does Jeremy have a lifetime of abuse from his family (a dad and two brothers) for implications of being gay, Brandon was cut from his family—from wealth to being homeless—for coming out.
And while we learn next to nothing about what Brandon endured, we hear plenty about how relentless, derogatory, and cruel Jeremy’s family is to him. So much so, that it makes Jeremy’s path as an Olympic hopeful far fetched. How can one be seven years old and figure out how to get to practices and meets, or how to pay for coaches, without family support?
Jeremy’s rampant internal homophobia is, unfortunately, a major plot point for the story. And, perhaps because this isn’t written from an own voices perspective, it doesn’t feel authentic. The criticality of the self-talk is accurate but the content sometimes jars in that way when you accidentally scrape your teeth together and the screech resonates in your skull (I just did this hours ago; it’s horrible)? Yeah, it’s like that.
As an ex-competitive sportsperson, I gotta say that Val’s familial situation is much more aligned with the norm of being a competitive sportsperson with an involved parent(s). And, this was difficult to read about as well.
What you will love: Brandon’s navigation of Jeremy’s slow thaw.
Just as Jeremy’s upbringing has scarred him, Brandon has transcended his. He’s fearless, charming, and brings a joie de vivre to the training space where the other three inhabitants are all business all the time.
Alex claims to read more than any normal, healthy adult should though the rest of the Binge on Books team would beg to differ. You can read all of his reviews here.
Connect with Alex on Twitter: @Alex_deMorra