Review Summary: I was disappointed about some aspects of this story but I did like most of it, just not the abrupt ending.
Former professional skateboarder Art Nichols now runs a business almost as successful as his career on the board. His flourishing professional life is in stark contrast to his string of romantic failures until he meets up-and-coming event promoter Jack Martinez. Jack and Art hit it off right away, but what they have is too good to waste on a one-night stand. It’s a long, slow, romantic seduction—and then scandal breaks just when everything seems to be going right for Art at last. Now he has to decide what kind of role model he wants to be to his young fans and whether that will cost him the love he thought he would never find.
Art was a world renowned former extreme skateboarding champion but hadn’t skated in years and was now a businessman involved in running a magazine, a clothing brand and other licensed merchandise. He’s bi but had spent his entire adult life so deep in the closet about his sexual orientation that even his best friend Gavin didn’t know until his breakup with his long time male lover. He had been married and divorced twice and his last relationship, his first with a man, had ended in a breakup over 3 years ago when Derrick dumped him, which seemed to have hurt him more than the divorces.
Now 36, Art was single with a teenage son who he apparently didn’t see very much as he was himself a competitive skateboarder and was out of the country on the circuit during the story — he never made an appearance in the book except through emails and texts with Gavin (I didn’t understand why he never contacted his father) who was the driving force behind their business partnership. Art was a low key person and sometimes he felt lost because everyone and everything that used to be part of his life had moved on – his son was away more often than he was home and he hardly skated any more.
Gavin proposed that they enter into a new venture with an up-and-coming entrepreneur in the games market, promoter Jack Martinez who was a professor in his real life, studying for his doctorate in engineering. Jack had set up his circuit UrGames 3 years ago and had made quite a name for himself and his sister, a talented skateboarder. He needed financial backing from a big name brand to expand his company’s range, bring in reporters and increase television exposure and revenues. The potential deal with Art and Gavin had advantages for both of them so Gavin arranged for 24 year old Jack and Diana to travel to Nevada to meet Art.
When they met both men could barely keep their eyes and hands off each other, but Art remained firmly in the closet. After they closed the deal and Jack went home Art decided he wanted him in his life and re-established a connection through texts. A return visit several weeks later went much better and this time Jack shared Art’s room and they seemed to be well on the way to a relationship although they never resolved the problem of a long distance affair. For a few days they were very happy, but disaster struck from the most unlikely source, something that Gavin had warned Art could bite him in the ass if he refused to acknowledge his bisexuality. He was well and truly outed and everything blew up in their faces and his reaction made Jack realize that he never intended to be open about their relationship and that he would have been relegated to the role of being Art’s dirty little secret, something that was totally unacceptable to him so he left for Michigan, angry and heartbroken.
I liked this story but quite a few things bothered me. At 36 Art had a son who was almost 18 so he would have been a father when he was 18 years old. Was it a shot gun wedding? There was no information about his first or second marriage. No one seemed to know who Art was and what kind of father, husband and lover he was. There were snippets of information about his childhood when we were told that Art took up skateboarding as a kid because he could not afford a bike and he wanted to get away from his fundamentalist father. Art’s and his friend Phil’s father beat Phil to a bloody pulp when he and Art were caught fooling around at 14, as Phil was accused of corrupting Art who used his father’s violence as a rationalization for staying in the closet all his adult life. He claimed that he didn’t want other teens to be exposed to danger like Phil was by being openly gay, and thus inviting gay bashers, but this seemed to be just another excuse to do what he really wanted i.e. live on the down low.
I thought that Jack’s character was well drawn. He had been openly gay since he was 15 and could not understand someone like Art who lived his life in the closet. Jack had been acting as Diana’s parent for a long time since their mother seemed to have abdicated her parental role and their father had left long ago. Everyone they met assumed that Jack was Diana’s father rather than her brother, but I couldn’t figure that out since there was only a 10 year difference between them and from all accounts Jack didn’t look older than his 24 years.
Gavin was a wonderful friend to Art and his character was well developed. He showed throughout the story how much he cared about his friend and he was Art’s “go to” person for almost everything in his life. They were fiercely competitive with each other but Gavin always had his back both personally and in the business world, and he was the only person who told Art the truth even when he hated to hear it.
To summarize: I thought that Art’s character, while likeable, should have been further developed to give readers a better picture by filling in some of the blanks. The other characters, Jack and Gavin were three dimensional, and the writing shone in spots although it was spotty in others.
If you’re a skateboarding fan you might be disappointed because there wasn’t much in the book about the actual sport. My major disappointment was that the ending was rushed and there was no information about how the MCs were going to have a relationship with one in Michigan and the other in Nevada which are several states apart, and the high point for Diana where she was competing in the finals for the UrGames was left up in the air. This seems to be a signature for Ms West, however if you’re a fan you will probably like this book.