Balance (Off Balance #1) by Lucia Franco

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He groaned low under his breath. “Do not do that.” “Do what?” “Look at me the same way I am looking at you.”

When a book comes with an explicit warning from the author, I know damn well I am going to enjoy the hell out of it-

“Balance contains explicit content some may find offensive. It is intended only for readers 18 years and older. If graphic language and underage, consensual sex are bothersome to you, I highly suggest not reading this novel. Reader discretion is advised.”

Synopsis:

Adrianna Rossi is no stranger to the rigorous demands required of her body. Years of pain and determination make her one of the best. Olympic glory is the ultimate goal, and she’ll do anything to achieve it. Even if that means leaving home to attend World Cup Academy of Gymnastics, a training center that serves one purpose—producing champions.

Perfection, precision, and dedication are required of his athletes. When two time Olympian Konstantin Kournakova is persuaded into training the young hopeful, he immediately regrets it. She doesn’t come close to his high standards. As the relentless pursuit of her dream keeps her striving, a passion is ignited within him.

Kova’s power and domination, coupled with Adrianna’s fierce tenacity, reveal there is more for her body to learn. Every interaction can be misconstrued, but there’s no mistaking the darkening of his gaze, the lingering of his touch, or the illicit image of his bare skin pressed against hers. Integrity is on the line. One toe off the beam and their forbidden desires could ruin everything they’ve worked for, throwing it all off balance.

Coming off of a seemingly innocent forbidden romance read, to this… was like whiplash.

The first several chapters felt slow, but I learned that it was a craftily laid build up to some of the most intense, moral questioning, scenes I have ever read. It is bad, so bad that I don’t want to be good, ever again.

Lucia tells us at the beginning, in her note to the reader:

“…This story is meant to push you, take you outside your comfort zone. I hope you take the plunge and look outside the box before making judgement.” 

Told entirely through Adrianna’s point of view, even with her upbringing and circumstances maturing her more than her 15 years, she is still that: 15, and the author does not let us forget that. She is also a strong character, her relationships with her family and friends are well structured, and we get a real sense of self from her. She also has vulnerabilities and insecurities, and seeing those handled as any 15/16 year old would makes her a surprisingly well defined character (though at times she gets on a damn nerves, but hey, again, 15…)

Kova, oh Kova… you know immediately upon introduction that he is a can of worms you shouldn’t open but consequences be damned, break open that can and let those worms out! He has an undeniable sexiness, and his alpha personality exudes in every aspect of his character, from coach to lover. Even so, it is hard to find anything redeemable about him. He is a true anti-hero. I loathe him, and yet I would tackle him without hesitation, RAWR.

The scenes in which sexual antics are at play, are some of the hottest I have read- and that is saying something, I’ll have you know.

AND YET… I SHOULD NOT LIKE THEM, but I do, holy fuck, I do.

This is one of the hardest books I think I will ever review, because as another reviewer said- it is best to go into this blind, to fully experience the explosive relationship between Adrianna and Kova.

The last chapter had my heart racing and breaking- Adrienna is dealt a blow, and the way with which she handles it, you know what they say about women scorned.  And while it was not necessarily a cliffhanger, there is a so much to look forward to in the next book, Execution, which is rumored to release this year yet. My stomach is in knots- I want to shake this girl, rattle some sense into her- but at the same time…

This book makes you feel contradictory emotions, almost seamlessly.  It is scary good that way.

I am still rearing from this book, but do take the warnings to heart- and if cheating is also a hard pass for you, then I suggest skipping this read. If none of that bothers you, then I absolutely, highly recommend Balance. It is incredibly well written, and along with the angst and non-romance*, you get a good perspective of a professional gymnasts world and how positively grueling it is.

Now, can we just find someone for Hayden, please? I volunteer.

★★★★.5/★★★★★

 

 

*Balance is not romantic, not in the general sense, but it is sexy as all fuck, like fuck you sideways all ways all days sexy. But also, questionably sexy, because IT SHOULDN’T BE, but IT IS.

 

 

 

 

 

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