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Author: Ariel Tachna
Cover Artist: Justin James
Genre: M/M contemporary sports
Length: Novel (197 pages)
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
A guest review by Leslie S
Review summary: An exciting, action-packed story with an unusual setting and two charming heroes.
All his life, French racer Daniel Leroux has dreamed of one thing: winning the World Rally Championship. To do that, he needs a co-driver he can trust. If only he could find one….
At the end of a disastrous season, Daniel’s manager replaces his incompetent co-driver with Frank Dufour, a young Canadian whose rally team let him go because he was gay. Daniel’s in heaven, thinking he might find more than just a teammate, but his manager puts the brakes on, declaring Frank firmly off limits. Frank isn’t any more ready to risk his second—and last—chance at making it in the WRC, no matter how attractive he finds Daniel. Sex and cars don’t mix.
Amidst a bitter rivalry with another driver, sabotage attempts, extreme weather conditions, and the stress of racing, Daniel and Frank forge a partnership that defies the odds, but just as things start to heat up between them, a family emergency calls Frank away. Will they find their way back together or will the separation and the spotlight be too much for their fledgling love to survive?
Rally driver Daniel Leroux is stuck with a useless co-driver who’s better at directing the car into the trees (was it Kimi Raikkonen? :lol:) than keeping the wheels on the track. Determined to win the WRC title, Daniel knows he needs to get another driver – fast. Last year he came second in the championship and this season he’s nowhere due to his previous co-driver’s retirement and the lack of a decent replacement. He hopes to do better next year and asks his manager to bring on board a Junior Rally driver, Canadian Francois ‘Frank’ Dufour, who was fired from his team for ‘creative differences’.
A little digging around reveals these ‘creative differences’ are due to the fact that Frank’s gay. Daniel – who’s happy to sleep with men and women – is intrigued, but he knows very well the dangers of being openly gay in such a macho sport. His manager Jean-Paul warns Daniel off Frank, saying sex and cars don’t mix, but when Frank arrives in France for a test session, Daniel is immediately attracted.
Frank has had a crush on Daniel for a long time, but he’s always thought Daniel was straight. Until he finds an apartment of his own, he’s staying in Daniel’s guest room, and things get awkward. Frank’s convinced that if he admits he’s gay, Daniel will freak out, but at the same time he’s enjoying hanging out with Daniel and putting the new car through its paces. When he does move into his own place, the two men continue to hang out, and one night at a bar, Frank discovers that Daniel is bisexual. The revelation shocks him and he’s a bit angry that Daniel never said anything to him before. He’s also hurt that Daniel seems to prefer another guy’s company to his.
Daniel admits that he’s attracted to Frank but warns him that he only does casual flings and can’t seem to have a relationship that lasts longer than a couple of days. He tells Frank not to mistake the intimacy created by being team-mates for anything else. Frank is crushed but hangs onto his pride, swearing nothing will ever happen between them. But as the new season gets underway, the bond between the two men gets stronger, the trust of team-mates becoming something more.
Alarming news from home has Frank on the next flight to Canada, leaving Daniel to fret about the championship and about the direction their relationship has taken. When Frank returns, the race for the title hots up, and soon there’s devious action on-track when a rival competitor accuses Daniel and Frank of cheating. Then the cars of the leading contenders are sabotaged one by one. The championship is wide open, but only one team can win it!
Motor racing is often held up as one of the last great bastions of sports homophobia, so it was great to read a book set in that world. I used to watch the WRC with my brother on TV and thought the author did a fabulous job of depicting the action and excitement of a race through the different stages across the world. The challenge of different stages is realistically illustrated, from the heat of the Jordan desert to the snow-covered, churned-up muddy tracks of Scandinavia.
Daniel sometimes thinks of himself as too driven, willing to sacrifice his emotions for the chance to win, but really this seems a very practical way of thinking in such an extreme sport. Frank is more of a dreamer, but he’s also grounded enough to put his fantasies to one side even if it makes him miserable. His longing – and the way he reacts to Daniel’s habit of banging every available bit of totty that looks his way – is realistic in that, while there’s some angst, there’s also irritation. It takes a conversation with Christophe, Daniel’s former co-driver, to make Frank realise he could have a future with Daniel in more than just a professional sense.
The book is full of nice little details, such as the way Daniel teases Frank about his ‘backwards’ Quebecois ways and sayings, which in my experience is so typical of the French when faced with their Francophone cousins! I also liked the way the rapport, both professional and personal, built between the two men from their very first meeting. Both guys are strong, solid characters, but Frank just has the edge. He’s really charming, falling into an easy friendship with the team’s chief mechanic, Daniel’s sister Isabelle, who is a well developed secondary character with a passion for engineering. The scenes where she explains the adjustments and modifications to the cars have just enough information to make it interesting but never too much that your eyes glaze over!
Another thing that impressed me was the pacing of the story, especially with the sex scenes. Actually the first time Daniel and Frank have sex is about two-thirds of the way through the book. I was surprised but also really pleased, as it would have been easy to shove sex into the story much earlier on, but it would have ruined the fledgling relationship and I found it much more believable and romantic when it did finally happen. Not only did it fit the relationship arc, for me it also fitted the overall concept of these men as rally drivers, who have so many demands on their time with testing, races, sponsorship stuff etc that it must be hard to have any kind of personal life during a season.
The only gripe I have with the book was the mystery of who was sabotaging the cars and why. When the truth came out it was a bit of a let-down and seemed to be sorted out a bit too quickly.
The author has an easy, fluid style that sucked me in and even though I meant to read maybe half the book and come back to it the next day, I ended up reading the whole thing in one go 😆 There’s a really nice rhythm to the way Tachna writes – it’s never abrupt or grating and is smooth and light. This is a fun and exciting read and I recommend it.