After the Gold by Erin McRae
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another stellar romance from McRae & Maltese. I ripped through this in a day, rooting hard for both characters the whole damned time.
Katie & Brendan have the kind of deep trust that pair skaters who routinely spend time physically close while having knives on their feet need to have. They’ve been partnered for over a decade, working day in and day out, and they have achieved their dreams: they just won an Olympic Gold medal.
They’ve had chemistry for years, but the last ill-fated attempt to be together romantically led to losing hard in competition. They’ve dated other people (Katie is explicitly bi), but those relationships never :quite: work.
They are about to announce their retirement from competition.
The things that drove their success — including Katie’s anxiety (which comes out in Olympic level perfectionism), and their Unrequited Sexual Tension on the ice — now threaten to overwhelm both of them as they figure out what comes next. After literally winning, and achieving the thing they’d spent their lives working towards.
They have to figure out who they are now, because everything they know about themselves is about to change completely. What happens once you WIN?
So this is a story where two people who know each other incredibly well have to figure out who they are — and what they want — as they become the newest version of themselves.
Things I loved about this:
Katie’s anxiety is just a fact of life, and there’s lots of examples of both she and Brendan using lots of coping mechanisms (both healthy and otherwise) that they have developed together to keep them functional as a team.
There is not a single moment where you doubt that Brendan has Katie’s back, but his massive skill at giving her space and time to think when she really needs it, and his deep commitment to articulating things beyond their shared shorthand when it’s important are key to making him a great hero. He works his ass off to show her who he is, and to communicate his feelings, without falling prey to a lot of toxic crap.
Katie also has Brendan’s back, and she trusts him more than anyone. The problem is really that she doesn’t trust herself– or the version of him that lives in her head, that hasn’t quite squared up with the person standing before her. And then she has to believe that she deserves to be happy. With him.
Highly recommended contemporary romance.
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