This week’s rec is a funny one. Have you ever read a review and thought ‘phwoar, that looks good’ but then had a good hard look at the book cover and title and thought “Yes but that looks like it’s going to be wall to wall erotica”? Yes, that’s what happened here.
The Naked Hero: The Journey Away by J K Brighton has all the trappings – broody looking nude with tats on the front, the word ‘naked’ in the title, a blurb that suggests all kinds of saucy goings on. I bought the book due to the reviews – Becky Condit and The Novel Approach – but put off reading it because I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy it that much. I can read a book without enjoying it and still be able to see what a cracking narrative it is. In this case I was expecting top notch writing with lots of angsty romance, plentiful sex scenes, and hardly any tennis.
Well how wrong I was!
The Naked Hero is about the challenges faced by a Lewis MacLeod, star of Scottish tennis, who won the Male Singles title at Wimbledon 2 years before. Handsome, tattooed, aggressively talented, Lewis came out in his speech while accepting his trophy. Since then the pressures of the professional circuit have got to him and his career is on a very shaky footing, especially since a one night stand led to an explicit exposé in a muck raking Australian newspaper. With sponsors pulling out and the tennis authorities accusing him of bringing the game into disrepute Lewis has to juggle his drive to succeed with his desire for a proper relationship.
There are two possible candidates for the ‘perfect man’ Lewis wants in his life. Lee is a male model who runs his own agency, providing escorts and eye candy. He is polished, almost as driven to succeed as Lewis, sexually rapacious and on the make. Scott is Lewis’s hero. Too old for the pro tennis circuit, he is working as a commentator for an American tv station.
The book details the pressures brought to bear on Lewis over the weeks running up to the Australian Open, the extremes of physical and mental fitness the young player has to meet and the blows to his self esteem and well being as plans come to bits and he’s left bereft. This is far more than the angsty romance that I expected – though angst abounds. The cast of secondary characters are superb and each serves a very valid plot driven purpose. The differences between what Lee and Scott offer, and are willing to offer, add to the tension. And finally, the biggest shock of all, there’s no on page sex. I’m assuming that this is the reason for some of the poor ratings on Goodreads because the book is excellent and doesn’t suffer at all from the lack of explicit rumpy pumpy.
Book 2 – The Journey Home is already available and I’m looking forward to reading it.