Summary Review: I wish the romance was as good as the games.
Adam Dumas is Major League Soccer’s only openly gay player. When he is transferred to St. Louis, his new teammates don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat. It doesn’t help that Adam sees “the Gateway to the West” as a step down from his high-profile position in LA—an attitude Adam has no problem sharing with his new housemate and fellow center forward, Colin Evets.
Colin is Adam’s only friend on the team, but when Adam misinterprets Colin’s Midwestern charm for something more, he could end up ruining both their friendship and their careers. As Adam struggles to make a better impression, Colin tries to decide if the person he’s been showing the world is who he wants to be with Adam. The pressure to win influences decisions both on the field and off as Adam and Colin discover how making the wrong move can be very right.
I love sports, so when I saw this book about a romance between two Major League Soccer players I couldn’t resist even though I don’t know as much about soccer as I do about baseball, basketball or even hockey. This is the first book I’ve read by Ryan Loveless who is a relatively new author and there was a lot to like about Offside although it had a few problems. But first ..
Our hero Adam Dumas was transferred from the LA Galaxy in mid season, after being with the team as a top ranked player for 13 years. His new team, the St Louis Gateway was almost last in the standings, which was quite different from LA Galaxy; St Louis was the only team that had expressed an interest in him because they obviously needed a player with his skills. Not only was it a blow to Adam’s pride to be transferred with no warning from the only team he had ever played for except for short stints in Europe, he felt betrayed by the owner whom he regarded as a surrogate father. Now he was being moved for a paltry sum so that the team could sign a much hyped younger player the owner wanted. When Adam arrived in St. Louis he wasn’t in the mood to play nice, and he told Colin Evets the player who put out the welcome mat when he met him at the airport, that he would not be staying with St. Louis but would be packing his bags at the end of the season. Not an auspicious start and definitely not the way to make friends with his new teammate.
The first day with the Gateway was a day that Adam wouldn’t soon forget as he was the victim of a hazing on the field during practice, and was also insulted by a few of the guys because of his sexual orientation. He had come out 5 years ago and was currently the only gay major league player still in the game, and his new team members weren’t happy about having him in the locker room. To make matters worse Adam assumed that Colin was gay because he was “touchy feely” with him and when Colin invited him out to dinner he thought it was a date and attempted to kiss him when the ‘date’ was over, only to be rejected. Could things get worse than they already were? The coach hated him, his teammates resented him, the one person on the team in whom he had a romantic interest was straight, and the fans wanted a piece of him.
First, the positives: The author, Ryan Loveless, did a lot of research about the game and it showed – the plays, on-field strategies, and the games themselves appeared to be authentic. The players’ reactions to a new member of the team who was suddenly dumped on them in the middle of the season which caused changes in player positions was also genuine, in addition to all the petty squabbles and anger against Adam because of his sexual orientation. The reaction of some of the Gateway fans was typical and the live action at both home and away games was real.
However, I didn’t ‘get’ the romance between Adam and Colin as they seemed mismatched. I realize that “opposites attract” is a favourite coupling in M/M or any romance sub genre for that matter, but here it was quite a stretch. Adam’s character is very sophisticated and Colin’s is a lot younger than his real age of 24 years. In addition to being immature, naive and unsophisticated Colin dressed like a country bumpkin even though he had been in the Majors for years, he acted like a teenager, sent out mixed signals and had corny lines like this: “Do you have a thing for me?” He had never had sex except one try with a girl that wasn’t successful. He was confused and couldn’t figure out his sexual orientation so he hadn’t had sex with a man either and thought that his disinterest in sex was because he was a Christian and focused all his energies on soccer to the exclusion of everything else. He seemed too innocent to be true and many episodes in the book bore out his lack of even the most basic sexual smarts and knowledge. Adam on the other hand was completely different, LA worldliness and poise in some ways, yet he made the stupidest mistakes. On one occasion when he was supposed to be showing Colin New York night life after an “away” game, the highlight of the night was him getting a lap dance in a club and he came in his very expensive pants – of course Colin freaked out and left for home.
Initially there didn’t seem to be any chemistry between Adam and Colin although Adam was attracted to him, but I couldn’t figure out why. Was it because Colin’s innocence was a challenge? Adam had had many other relationships but they all petered out. A few of his encounters were with straight men who used him, and he had sworn off closeted or straight men. He said about one former teammate “he was so deep in the closet that he woke up every morning choking on mothballs.” So why, after his past experiences, was he hot for Colin who was presumably straight? Also, Adam seemed to be too concerned about such things like whether there were products in Colin’s hair, talking to Colin about a skin care regimen and thinking of getting him to take care of his skin because “that youthful look wasn’t going to last without help.” What was that all about? In addition, there were lots of “mentions” about the men’s attire and that seemed way too ‘girly’ in a book about sports.
There is a lot more to this story and even a few funny lines. Although Colin and Adam didn’t resonate with me as lovers until almost three quarters through the story, in the end I think the author redeemed herself somewhat after a few missteps, by having a catastrophe befall Colin which brought the team together, and Adam was at last able to shine as a good guy in the eyes of his teammates and his lover. However there was no tension or conflict between Adam and Colin other than a few minor squabbles, and I think conflict is necessary in most love stories to make them real and interesting.
To summarize, when I read Offside a few days ago I was more interested in the sports aspect and was really enthusiastic about the story. The second time I read it I noticed a number of glaring inconsistencies about the characterizations and the relationship, some of which weren’t resolved, however if you’re a sports fan you will enjoy Offside.