My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
To sum it up: “Trust me, I’ve wanted to punch you in the face a time or five.”
When the man you worshipped as a kid becomes your coach, it’s supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Keywords: supposed to. It didn’t take a week for twenty-seven-year-old Sal Casillas to wonder what she’d seen in the international soccer icon—why she’d ever had his posters on her wall, or ever envisioned marrying him and having super-playing soccer babies.
Sal had long ago gotten over the worst non-break-up in the history of imaginary relationships with a man that hadn’t known she’d existed. So she isn’t prepared for this version of Reiner Kulti who shows up to her team’s season: a quiet, reclusive, shadow of the explosive, passionate man he’d once been.
Nothing could have prepared her for the man she got to know.
Or the murderous urges he brought out in her.
“Sal, please don’t make me visit you in jail. Orange isn’t your color.”
This was going to be the longest season of her life.
So I'm going to go ahead and start this review by saying that the writing in this book was fucking AMAZING. The inner monologue literally had me dying laughing more times than I could count, which is pretty damn impressive. ...And the character development in itself was done so well, that you could have sworn that these characters truly existed in the real world.
I don't want to give away much by going into the synopsis of this story too much, so I'll just give you a little run down on what all this book entails: So our hero Reiner Kulti is a retired soccer legend whose been hired to be the assistant coach for a women's professional soccer team... Our heroine Sal's soccer team, to be more specific. She's known exactly who Reiner is because her and her father have both idolized him since she was a little girl. He was the best soccer player the world had ever known, and her absolute favorite- She knew everything there was to know about his life and career, so he was therefore her biggest inspiration when it came to training for soccer herself once she began playing. It also didn't hurt that she's always had the biggest crush on him...
Unfortunately though, when the day finally comes that he shows up to coach, he's absolutely nothing like the man she's grown to worship... He's rude, to say the least and a complete asshole.
Be still my heart.
...And what's worst of all is he seems like he could care less about the team and their future. Yet, circumstances arise and Sal is put in a particular situation where Kulti needs her help. This in turn brings forth the start of a shaky friendship that eventually leads to the type of relationship that neither one of them were expecting...
The thing I loved so much about this story was how slow-building the relationship between both Sal and Reiner was. Time and time again, we see so many romance novels these days featuring relationships that have barely any growth. I think that's why I appreciate it so much when an author really takes their time in forming a relationship between a hero and heroine before they both jump straight into bed together before quickly escalating to a happily-ever-after. In this story, the relationship between Kulti and Sal definitely isn't an easy one- For starters, there was about a thirteen year age gap between the two and our hero definitely wasn't very easy to get along with. With that being said however, anything worth fighting for is never easy and they definitely didn't have the type of relationship where they became BFF's over night. I have to say though, the only reason I didn't give this book a full five stars was because the romance was almost a little too slow for my taste. I know, I know... I sound like a walking contradiction. I love a slow build, don't get me wrong... But our hero had such a cold demeanor at times, that he sometimes came across as not having much of a personality and in the end it played a crucial role in why I couldn't give this book a flawless rating.
With that being said though, the heroine Sal completely made up for the pace of the romance... Her sarcasm knew no bounds, and her inner monologue literally made this story. She was completely relatable which only made me like her all the more. She knew just how to handle Kulti's pompous ass and wasn't afraid to call him out on his actions or attitude, yet she did it all without being obnoxiously annoying like some independent heroines tend to come across these days.
I have to say, I can't believe this author isn't more well-known. Mariana Zapata is talented as hell, and this book can testify as a perfect example. She just has such a way with making you feel for her characters and the story itself as a whole. I can also appreciate the fact that even though this story does revolve around soccer, it wasn't heavy enough that I ever felt bored or frustrated with it. Being that I'm not a fan of absolutely anything sports related, that's definitely saying something. If you're looking for a romance novel that features some damn good character development, kick-ass writing and a slow-burning romance, then this is definitely the book for you!