Slooowwww book here, probably the slowest start I’ve read yet by this author, but as usual it’s always worth the wait.
Kulti is a German football player (soccer to all you across the pond), and he was the world’s greatest player. Now aged 39, he’s retired and for unknown reasons come to work as an assistant coach at Salome’s Texan women’s premier league team, the Pipers. I know, I didn’t get it either; dude could’ve gone anywhere. But the reason he eventually gives Sal is perfect, so bear with it, reader.
Salome is top-level striker and a classic Mariana Zapata heroine: pretty but not in-your-face pretty, as down to earth as if she was lying face down on the grass, beloved, kind and friendly to everyone. That includes the asshole hero who needs to be shown the light and the right way to behave, via the means of gentle reproaches for his grumpiness.
Kulti met his match if he thought he could get away with his miserable attitude around Sal. As a coach, he’s oddly indifferent to the team, but it’s when he ignores Sal’s dad (who, like the rest of the world, is a massive Kulti fan) that she takes him to task.
Now, Sal has history with the brooding dark-haired misery. She was in love with him (via posters and televised matches) when she was a girl, only giving up her crush when he got married. The problem is when faced with the deliciousness that is the German babe, her crush comes flooding back. Her technique for handling this? Poop. She imagines him getting down to his daily pooping business, and that helps her face him.
“Then it was my turn and when those light-colored eyes landed on my face expectantly, I thought poop. Lots of poop. Clog-the-toilet amount of poop.”
This is also classic Zapata – take away the jerk’s power and humanize him before he is acceptable to be a worthy match for the heroine. There are a few other places where the divine and mighty Kulti is knocked off his pedestal, but it takes such a long time to get to anything meaningful between them. I could strip pages and pages of unnecessary padding and internal dialogue to get to the meat of the content. I understood Sal’s character perfectly early on so the repeating of her ideas and opinions became redundant and frustrating.
But when she and Kulti were on the same page together, this is where the magic happened. Because the romance is strung out so far, the points of contact become huge deals. There’s a scene where Kulti and Sal have a mini penalty shoot-out on the practice field. They don’t say a word to one another and there are people all around, but there’s Eye Contact and that somehow is more meaningful than if they’d have shagged their way around the pitch. It makes the struggle through the slow sections so worth it.
When I reached the part where they kissed I nearly died. And it’s so far into the book the story is nearly all over. But that doesn’t matter because the love had been building up and layering chest pains over heart spasms for me.
Kulti doesn’t transform into a happy, friendly and polite guy, but the things he does to prove his unspoken love for Sal were life affirming. It takes so much to move this man, and so much for Sal to trust in him that the gestures were coming down thick and fast.
“He wasn’t warm or cuddly, quiet or particularly nice to others, but he was nice to me, and in my heart I knew he would stand by me every time I needed him.”
I had complete faith that their relationship was rock solid and built on such love and friendship that it would never falter. And that sort of love is worth a little frustration.
Rating: B+ (from 30% onwards)
Note: there are a number of issues with the rules of football in this book, so I recommend reading this assuming Zapata’s football is part of the world building. That way you can’t get annoyed if two yellow cards doesn’t equal a sending off.
Click to purchase: Amazon
by Mariana Zapata
Release Date: March 20, 2015