I despise Erik Winter.
He’s arrogant and cruel — a man I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy — and by some twisted turn of fate, he’s my new Olympic gymnastics coach.
I’ve had to contend with gruff coaches in the past, but Erik is far worse. His stern demeanor complements a body built for intimidation, and his reprimands come from a mouth so cunning, I know it could strip me of my defenses — if I let it.
Though each of us would love to be rid of the other forever, we are bound to each other by need and necessity. I’m his rising star, his best shot at proving himself to his critics. And without a coach, I have zero chance of winning gold in Rio.
The easiest way forward would be to wave a white flag and make peace with the man I’ll be sharing close quarters with for the foreseeable future, but he is intent on war.
Fine. By. Me.
If he pushes me, I’ll push back harder. If he wants to test me, to play with my head, I’ll show him just how many boundaries I’m willing to cross. Because I know it’s not a choice between winning or warring—not if you can have them both. At the end of it all, I plan on leaving Rio with gold around my neck and his icy heart in the palm of my hand.
Title: OUT OF BOUNDS
Author: R.S. Grey
Publisher: R.S. Grey
Release date: Aug 01st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Erotic
Erik is a former world champion gymnast, but ended his promising career soon after passing the Olympics qualifiers. The media, with help of his father and coach, labeled him as rebellious and irresponsible at the time, unaware of the real reasons that led him to give up.
Erik quarreled with his father and moved from Texas to Seattle, where he opened his own academy years later. When his father is hospitalized, with the Rio Olympics just around the corner, Erik is invited to take over as coach of the women’s gymnastics team. It’s a opportunity to clear his name – or to drag it through the mud.
Turning around an underachieving team so close to the Olympics was basically an impossible task and made me suspect I was less of a savior for USGA and more its sacrificial lamb. Any failure at the games would just reinforce my doubters.
20-year-old Brie has good chance of medals at the Olympics Games and, like Erik, she is feeling the pressure. Brie wants to reward her mother for all her sacrifice and provides them a more comfortable life, but first she needs to win gold at Rio.
I’d had a terrible day at the gym and I couldn’t pinpoint where the stress was coming from: Erik or the Olympics. Most of the girls on my team were veterans. This was their second time competing in the games and they knew how to handle the pressure. Rosie and I were the only rookies, though there was one glaring difference: Rosie was young. She had at least one more Olympics to compete in after Rio, but for me, this was it. At twenty, my body was at its peak, but it was also tired. […] The pressure of having one chance at changing my life grew to be too much to handle at times.
Erik hosts the gymnastics team at home and set some limits for the girls, but Brie defies him from the start. He responds sometimes with harshness, other times with indifference, but deep down he admires her.
Around me she was a ticking time bomb, but then again, she had lit my fuse as well. Toying with Brie was quickly becoming my favorite pastime and a part of me wondered why I was doing it. Yes, she was disrespectful and constantly talked back during practice, but she was hardly the first strong-headed girl in my gym to be guilty of that. No, I was enjoying her punishment a little too much. Most coaches would have ignored the insubordination rather than engaging it, distanced themselves from the problem until it worked itself out peacefully. Most coaches would have stayed safely behind a professional facade, but unfortunately for her, I wasn’t most coaches.
Brie and Erik have similar personalities, despite the nine years of age difference. They are stubborn, proud and explosive.
She was probably used to testing her maturity and newfound confidence around hesitant boys closer to her age, but the lesson to be learned was that unlike boys who are intimidated by feminine boldness, men like me are inflamed by it.
The relationship between the coach and his star athlete is volatile, and the chemistry between them is inflammable. They shouldn’t take things further or it could harm their careers, but attraction is stronger than reason.
I was playing with fire — no, I wasn’t just playing with fire; I was rolling in it. I was so confident I wouldn’t get burned, I didn’t realize how deep into the flames I’d fallen. […] Provoking him entertained me. On normal days, he was the image of stoicism, but when I pissed him off, his bright blue eyes smoldered. His strong jaw tightened. His muscles coiled with anger and I loved it. I craved it. It was the only time I got a real emotion out of him, and even if it was hate, it was better than nothing.
Brie pushes Erik out of his comfort zone, while he evokes fantasies she didn’t even know she had. And what begins as a game to see who gives in first, turns into something real and intense.
It was easy to blame Erik for the darkness I felt when I was near him, but my fantasies were all my own. He wasn’t poisoning the well; he was drawing from it. At times, I wondered if he knew me better than I knew myself. It felt like he’d split open my chest and pulled out my heart, watching it beat for him—only him.
Unlike the instalove that plagues the new adult and erotic genres, this is a slow burn romance, where the tension between the main characters gradually gives way to passion. Brie and Erik are in a difficult position and their story couldn’t happen any other way. They should focus on competition, but it’s not easy to maintain a professional facade while they are falling in love.
He and I weren’t supposed to fall in love. We’d been at war, fighting and pushing each other because it was a fun distraction, because I liked to get a reaction out of him, and because I just couldn’t help myself. It was the most shocking kind of love I’d ever experienced, the sort that hid itself behind the other edge of the blade — hate. I’d focused so much of my energy on hating Erik that when love appeared out of nowhere, it stole my breath.
More than a forbidden romance between coach and athlete, the author depicts the often lonely life of these professionals. Hard training, injuries, drug abuse, and the whole Olympics scenario were well executed. Brie and Erik have difficulties expressing their emotions and trusting others due to the ultra-competitive environment, and there are misunderstandings and disagreements between them.
I’d gone down to meet Erik so I could surrender, and I had. I’d laid down my sword and armor, and in return, he’d stabbed me square in the chest. It was an ambush.
OUT OF BOUNDS is more intense and explicit than the first book in the Summer Games series, but it’s also filled with R.S. Grey’s trademark humor and sass. The 1st person narrative switches between Erik and Brie point of views, and I really enjoyed the witty banter between them. But what I like most about her books are the feisty heroines, and Brie does not disappoint! The other gymnasts are also entertaining, each in their own way, and the hero, a treat 😉
I’d never been the whirlwind romance kind of man. I’d said those three words to only two women in my life, one of whom was my mother, the other a woman I’d been dating for years before I even considered uttering them. Brie was different. Brie wasn’t a woman that would try to fit whatever ideal mold I thought I had for a partner; she was a woman that shattered the mold and made me feel the excitement of young love again—the kind of love where you never know what to expect next and you can’t wait to find out.
I urge all readers who enjoy romance that’s not sugar coated and female characters that don’t fit the virgin maiden archetype to read this book. And for those who like sports novels, be sure to read her other books — the author is an expert on this genre 😉
*Disclosure: R.S. Grey sent me this book for free for review consideration. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.