This lighthearted debut takes awhile to find its footing, but it started to shine once it did. I couldn’t resist that adorable cover, and it’s actually a great reflection of the vibe – this easygoing romance features a (mostly) confident, curvy heroine and a muscular hero who acts like an alpha but secretly has a marshmallow center. These two strangers can’t seem to stop bickering, but the sparks that fly between them are impossible to miss. The tone is light and a little bit funny, with some more emotional moments and a touch of steam. The back half flew by for me, and I wouldn’t hesitate to check out Lea’s next book – this ended up being pretty solid.
The story follows Crystal, a personal trainer and fitness influencer who has learned to love her body. While many judge her size and choice of career, Crystal knows that she’s her happiest, healthiest self as she is. When she meets an infuriating stranger at the gym, it’s dislike at first sight… kind of. Scott seems to push all of Crystal’s buttons – and she’s got plenty of assumptions about his personality – but the two can’t seem to stay away from each other. So when they discover that they’re connected by more than the gym, it complicates the entire situation. But Scott just might be on the rebound, and Crystal will never again be anyone’s second choice.
I loved that this wasn’t another romance where the curvy heroine has to learn how to love herself or change something before she can – Crystal already knows that she’s awesome, she’s just got insecurities that creep up like everyone else. The book is set in a gym, so it could’ve gone in a troubling direction, but I really liked the tone. I also loved Scott; we only get Crystal’s perspective, and I would’ve given anything to hear his thoughts, because I can only imagine that they’d up the swoon factor by a thousand. He’s a cinnamon roll wrapped in an alpha’s body, with a little bit of cockiness to go along with the whole package. While Crystal drove me crazy sometimes with her never-ending assumptions, Scott turned out to be SUCH a great guy. They’ve got good chemistry, and I loved the direction the book took once they decide to explore that. It does get weighed down by unnecessary miscommunication here and there, but I sincerely liked this overall.
Not a fan of the audio – at all! It’s the narrator that I didn’t like, her voice just sounds childish and not very pleasant. I remember that same narrator being the reason why I couldn’t get into the Donut Fall in Love audiobook, and it was the same situation here as well. I ended up turning off the audio at around the 25% mark and chose to have robot Siri read the ebook to me instead, which… yeah, not a good sign for the audiobook, lol. I also started to enjoy the book significantly more once I turned the audio off, so I can’t recommend that format. The story does lend itself well to an audio experience though, with an upbeat vibe, minimal steam, and a runtime of under 10 hours. It would make a great workday listen, if you can tolerate the narrator.
A gym nemesis pushes a fitness influencer to the max in Amy Lea’s steamy debut romantic comedy.
Curvy fitness influencer Crystal Chen built her career shattering gym stereotypes and mostly ignoring the trolls. After her recent breakup, she has little stamina left for men, instead finding solace in the gym – her place of power and positivity.
Enter firefighter Scott Ritchie, the smug new gym patron who routinely steals her favorite squat rack. Sparks fly as these ultra-competitive foes battle for gym domination. But after a series of escalating jabs, the last thing they expect is to run into each other at their grandparents’ engagement party.
In the lead up to their grandparents’ wedding, Crystal discovers there’s a soft heart under Scott’s muscled exterior. Bonding over family, fitness, and cheesy pick-up lines, they just might have found her swolemate. But when a photo of them goes viral, savage internet trolls put their budding relationship to the ultimate test of strength.
About the Author:
Amy Lea is a Canadian bureaucrat by day and contemporary romance author by night (and weekends). She writes laugh out loud romantic comedies featuring strong heroines, witty banter, mid-2000s pop culture references, and happily ever afters.
When Amy is not writing, she can be found fan-girling over other romance books on Instagram (@amyleabooks), eating potato chips with reckless abandon, and snuggling with her husband and goldendoodle.
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I’ve seen this book making the rounds and there are some aspects of it that I find interesting, but ultimately, I don’t think I’m going to read it bc I’m tired of seeing plus-sized female characters paired with absolute Chads. It just seems so hypocritcal. “I’m a woman, so I can be overweight, but I only want a conventionally attractive man.” I think I’d find curvy woman romance more cute if the hero was also not conventionally attractive.
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That’s fair! This hero has some insecurities from growing up tall and lanky, if that helps. But I think Olivia Dade’s upcoming release might be a better match, I believe they’re both curvy in that one. Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Weather Girl has a bigger hero, which was really cute.