I’m jumping into this multi-author shared world series in the “middle,” starting with this book, since I was privileged to receive an advance copy from this author. I’m not much of a sports romance reader unless it’s hockey or rodeo, but I found that F1 racing hits that same sweet spot of being a team sport that still highlights individuality I seem to like best. And though everything I know about cars and racing comes from a weird sort of osmosis of not paying attention while the spouse watches YouTube, Novak makes everything that takes place in this book incredibly accessible to newbies without either over-explaining or assuming something is obvious. I already look forward to rest of this series, especially since reading the blurbs seems to indicate that the authors have made this a truly shared world with references to other characters and important events that fleshed out this book without making me feel like I was missing something, keeping this story as a true stand-alone.
While the traditional romance arc includes characters who are brand new to each other, focusing on an established relationship that is undergoing significant change is always a fun twist. The easy affection and loving support between Dean and Mateo are clear from page 1. The change here is not to the relationship but to how both men handle the relationship through significant life changes. Being closer in proximity can make some things easier, but hiding in plain sight can also create a host of other issues both on and off the track. Even though both characters have relatively healthy communication for their ages, that doesn’t mean mistakes won’t get made—especially when events outside their control have a direct impact on their relationship dynamic within their team. Novak’s always excellent characterization work comes into play here, with two men who share the same passions but come at it from vastly different journeys and, therefore, perspectives.
The high-adrenaline aspect of racing had me braced for a book that featured much more angst than this one. However, low-angst does not mean sacrificing any of the emotion, and I adored the relationship plot twist. It was unexpected but totally perfect for these characters, their shared history, and their hoped-for future. I hope other readers take a chance on either a new subgenre or a new author with this fantastic book.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.