Reviewed by Helyce
From Goodreads: Love—the one roadblock they never expected.
Aurelia is living her dream, teaching for a year in the south of France. Except it’s all going wrong. The carefree culture is challenging her academic goals, and her students are so difficult that she wants the unthinkable: to give up and go home.
Meeting Terrence doesn’t help. When he’s not training for the Tour de France, the cocky pro cyclist is flirting with Aurelia, but she didn’t cross an ocean to hook up with an American jock, even if he does have killer dimples and looks hot in spandex.
Until the jock sets out to prove he’s more than mere muscle. He wants to teach her what having fun really means, which could be as dangerous to her structured life as it is to her heart.
As life hits unexpected roadblocks, they turn to one another for support, and flirtation becomes game-changing love. But Terrence is chasing his dream of being the fastest man on two wheels, and she isn’t sure how far he’ll go to win…or how far she’s willing to follow.
I was really intrigued by this blurb, mostly because while there are a lot of sports themed love stories, I have not seen one that featured a cyclist before. Add to that the fact that this takes place in France, and I looked forward to a story filled with the beautiful sights and sounds and delicious foods of France.
Sadly, that was not what I got.
Aurelia may have been in France, but in my opinion she was not living her dream as the blurb suggests. Initially, I found Aurelia to be closed off, introverted, painfully shy and lacking in self confidence. She’s in France on a program where she teaches English to French students. She fought hard to get the prestigious Fulbright teacher position. While fluent in the language, she struggles daily with making connections with the students. She feels like a fraud and she goes home each day to her itty bitty studio apartment complaining to herself. Her very small monetary stipend has her living on baguettes and cheese and she is unable to cook because she can’t figure out how to light her stove. You can’t help but feel sorry for her but at the same time my thought was, “you’re in France! This is what you’ve always wanted. Get off your ass and experience it”.
Aurelia is of Filipino descent. I never came to understand why the author chose to make a point about this, but Aurelia struggles with how she is perceived because of her skin color and how she looks. Her students don’t consider her “American” because she doesn’t look like what they expected an American to look like. Aurelia’s inner monologue whenever this is brought up got tiring and since it’s never really explained I’m not sure where the author was going with it. If her issues with her nationality weren’t enough, it is also hinted at that she has body issues which I took to mean that she was a bit curvy for her petite stature.
One of the small highlights of her day is the time she spends at a cafe she’s found where she can sit, have a coffee and people watch for a while. It is here that she first sees the cyclists and is a bit smitten with one in particular. But when he approaches her, flirting a little, she kinda blows him off. I found this really odd and again, wasn’t sure where or why the author chose that path to show Aurelia’s personality.
Terrance Braker is an American cyclist on the circuit with his team, heading toward the Tour de France. He is young, but racing is his life and he treats it like a job and is serious and strict about everything from his diet to his sleep. Initially he’s flirty and playful with Aurelia, but you get the sense that he is serious.That although his friends comment about his playboy ways, he seems to be truly interested in Aurelia. I liked Terrance immediately. I liked his approach to Aurelia and how he never let her rude, cold behavior shut him down. He seemed to just be himself, no matter what she threw at him.
Miraculously, Aurelia has a chat with herself and decides to give Terrance a chance. She is in France, after all and though she’d fantasized about meeting a French man, she is really attracted to Terrance. She has some personal issues where intimacy is concerned. I was truly surprised when she reveals her secret to Terrance. It took courage and showed me that she was all in and willing to put herself out there. Terrance immediately makes it a priority to help Aurelia out in this area. Their romance moves along nicely after this.
There is quite a bit of attention throughout the story about drug testing and the cyclists being tested after a race, especially if they win. It’s cause for a lot of speculation and distrust whenever it comes up. It causes conflict between one of the other cyclists and his wife and causes Aurelia to question Terrance. This is a serious issue for the team and has a great impact on Aurelia and Terrance’s relationship. Added to that is the fact that Aurelia’s time in France is coming to an end and she does not want to leave.
This story had its moments and I was engaged enough to want to continue even though I wanted to slap Aurelia for being so immature and downright annoying. I guess the author was trying to show Aurelia’s inexperience in love and relationships. If this was her goal, she succeeded. At the time I read this, I didn’t know that it was the first in a series or that it would end rather abruptly and with a cliffhanger of sorts. Told entirely in Aurelia’s POV, we get just a tidbit of Terrance’s thoughts in the form of an epilogue, and this is where the author lost me. In a short page and a half, you learn something that for me changed everything I had felt about the story. It wasn’t one of those “a ha” moments where things fall into place. It was a game changer and I don’t think I’m interested in traveling down that road.