Hello, and welcome to the blog tour for Heels Over Head, my new sports romance where Olympic diving hopefuls battle it out on the platform… while discovering friendship, family, and love along the way. I hope you enjoy reading Jeremy and Brandon’s romance as much as I enjoyed writing it!
I’ll be stopping on several blogs throughout the week, so I hope you’ll follow along and join in the discussion. Plus, don’t forget to leave a comment at the end of the post… you’ll be entered to win an Amazon gift card!
Jeremy Reeve is one of the best divers in the world, and he’s worked hard to get where he is. He intends to keep pushing himself with one very clear goal in mind: winning gold at the summer Olympics in two years. That medal might be the only way to earn his father’s respect as an athlete.
Brandon Evans is everything Jeremy isn’t: carefree, outgoing, and openly gay. With his bright-blue eyes and dramatic tattoos, he’s a temptation that Jeremy refuses to acknowledge. But Jeremy can’t ignore how talented Brandon is—or that Brandon has no interest in using his diving skills to compete.
They’re opposites who are forced to work together as teammates, but Jeremy’s fear of his own sexuality and Brandon’s disinterest in anything “not fun” may end their partnership before it begins. Until a single moment changes everything, and they help each other discover that “team” can also mean family and love.
August (24 months until the Olympics)
I’m doing a series of dives off the springboard. It’s not my favorite exercise, but the air I can get is awesome, and Andrey likes to remind me that I should get used to it, because someday my body won’t let me do the ten-meter platform anymore and it’ll be springboard or retirement. Andrey is a morbid dick at times, but his brutal realism is why I moved out to Bumfuck, Ohio, to train for the next two years. Because dreams and optimism are all well and good, but they’re not going to win me Olympic Gold, are they?
It started off as a normal Tuesday afternoon, nothing special about it. I’d spent the morning doing cardio, took a break and went to class for a few hours, and now I’m enjoying every second of being in the air. You’d think divers would spend most of their time in the water, but you’d be wrong; between weight training, trampoline, and practicing on crash mats and foam pits, we spend the majority of our day on dry land.
Andrey is recording me on his iPad to show me exactly how bad I’m screwing up this twist, and calling suggestions while I stretch and flex and try to make my body do what I need it to do—which is a forward two and a half somersaults, two twists dive.
Easy when it’s from the platform and you have heaps more time in the air. But I’m on the springboard, and Andrey is about three seconds away from his head exploding because I won’t point my damn toes. Plus, the springboard is turning my legs to jelly.
“It’s good for you,” Andrey is fond of saying.
It probably is, but right now I feel about three seconds away from my legs giving out, so I’m going to have to disagree.
Anyways, Andrey is recording, I’m diving, life is good. And then suddenly Andrey isn’t paying attention anymore, and I completely fail to rip my entry because I’m distracted by the guy standing next to Andrey, talking to him. That’s the first sign that it’s not going to be a typical practice . . . Andrey is usually just as focused as I am.
Doesn’t this guy know that we’re in the middle of a practice? It’s the interruption that upsets me, not the eyes watching me that are the exact same color as the pool I’m currently floating in. He’s skinny, dark hair a mess, and wearing sweats that are loose and worn.
Our gazes meet, lock, and he smiles. I look away quickly.
I tread water for a second, trying to figure out what’s going on. Andrey has the iPad tucked under his arm and is reaching to shake the guy’s hand, nodding. There’s another man that I hadn’t noticed before, probably Andrey’s age. I recognize him from somewhere, but my brain isn’t making the connection, although you’d think I’d be able to place that epic mustache in a heartbeat.
I’m climbing out of the pool, grabbing my shammy from where I tossed it before, when I hear Andrey say, “Okay, let’s see what he has.”
What the hell?
My mouth must be hanging open in shock a little, because Blue Eyes glances toward me and shrugs guiltily. But then he’s pulling his T-shirt over his head, toeing his flip-flops and sweats off to reveal a tiny red Speedo and miles of brown skin covered in swirls of black ink. I’d be angry, except it’s hard to be angry when you’re standing in front of a work of art.
Then the guy scampers up the stairs, heading straight for the ten-meter platform, and yeah, I’m angry again. Even those awesome tats and rippling muscles can’t take away from the fact that he’s interrupting my training session.
I’m toweling myself down absentmindedly while the guy stretches and moves to the end of the platform. He does an effortless, absolutely perfect handstand, like he’s completely unaware that there’s thirty feet of air and the hard surface of the water in front of him if he slips. He hangs there for a second, body straight as a pole, and then he pushes off.
It’s fucking beautiful. A back three and a half somersaults, and his pike is damn perfect.
Except he botches the landing so badly I can feel the spray of the water from where I’m standing.
The guy emerges from the water, smiling like he hadn’t just turned a perfect-ten dive into a cringe-worthy failure. He pushes his hair out of his face, still grinning like an idiot, and pulls himself out of the pool.
“How long has he been diving?” Andrey asks the older man.
The man answers too low for me to hear, but whatever he says is either impressive enough or ridiculous enough that Andrey’s eyebrows go up. He looks back over at Blue Eyes, who’s dripping poolside without a care in the world only a few feet away from me.
Andrey glances between the two of us. Makes a decision that’s obvious on his face and has my stomach sinking.
Then he shakes the mustache guy’s hand and nods.
“Jeremy, will you show Mr. Evans the locker room and training area?”
At first I think Andrey is talking about the guy with the ’stache. But then Blue Eyes bounds over, all excitement and white teeth, holding a hand out.
“I’m Brandon,” he says.
I don’t shake his hand. Yeah, I’m an asshole, but Andrey is walking away with the older guy, talking with his head tilted in, like I don’t even exist. In the middle of our training session!
Brandon shrugs and pulls his hand back, using it to wipe some drops of water off his stomach instead.
Up close I can see that his eyes are framed by dark lashes still wet from the pool, making them appear even more brilliantly blue. He’s fit, but all divers are in amazing shape. And he’s covered in ink: a full sleeve on his right arm, something fierce and tribal-looking curling up his leg and over his hip, cursive words on his ribs that I purposefully don’t read.
He’s watching me with a cheerful, expectant gaze.
I hate him pretty much immediately.
But I do as I’m told. I show Mr. Evans—like hell am I calling him Brandon—to the locker room. He’s wiping himself off with his T-shirt, making his short hair stand up in spikes, which makes him seem about fifteen if you’re only focusing from the neck up.
Which I am.
Since we’re back there already, I grab my own track bottoms and tug them on. Andrey has made it pretty clear that we’re done training for the day, and there’s no point in being cold. Normally I’d rinse off poolside, but a hot shower will work even better. If I can get rid of Evans.
“Locker room.” I motion around, as though the showers and lockers need a formal introduction.
Evans bobs his head. “So, what’s your story?”
“I mean, you must really like diving.”
The guy is a total moron.
“The training room is through there,” I say, pointing through another door. “I’m going to shower and change, I’m sure you can find your way back to wherever you need to be.”
Now the guy is getting it. He straightens, and his eyes darken until they’re like the ocean instead of the pool we just came from. He says, “Sorry I bothered you,” like he actually means it, but I think he’s more disappointed than anything else. Like I kicked his dog or something.
I feel guilty for about two seconds, but then he finally turns and leaves. Good. Now I can shower and change into dry clothes, and maybe get a dryland workout in so the day isn’t a complete waste.
* * * * * * *
Home is a boring gray apartment in a boring gray neighborhood. It’s the kind of summer where everything is brown and dried up instead of green and vibrant, so I keep my curtains closed most of the time to block out the blandness.
I hate Ohio, but it’s where I need to be. It’s where Andrey lives—though I still can’t fathom why—and the pool facility at the university is modern and well maintained, so I guess it doesn’t matter too much about what’s outside.
My alarm goes off at exactly six thirty the next morning, and I’m out of bed before I can be tempted to hit Snooze. Breakfast is fruit and scrambled eggs, which are the only type of eggs I know how to make. If I’m super hungry, sometimes I’ll add on a bowl of instant oatmeal, but today I’m all right. I eat alone at the table.
Some days I wake up and crave bacon or the waffles Dad used to get from the frozen food aisle. But I have to be aware of every single thing I put into my body, and how it will convert to energy and muscle. Andrey had a nutritionist from the college come in earlier this year, and now I have a set schedule of what and when to eat.
I pack my bag slowly, running through the mental checklist: suit and shammy, and an extra of each just in case; bandages for my wrists and legs; KT tape for my shoulder, which twinges if I don’t warm it up properly.
Being a diver is a lot cheaper than any other sport. That was probably the main reason Dad let me keep at it as a kid; Isaac wanted to play hockey, but we couldn’t afford the pads and sticks and bags full of gear. What I need fits in a backpack. I toe on my sneakers and get out the door right on time.
I usually walk to the pool. It’s less than a mile, and the light exercise gets my heartbeat up a little. The walk also gives me time to think, to plot out my goals for the day and to figure out what went wrong in yesterday’s training so I can try to correct it.
Today, though, I’m thinking about blue eyes and black ink.
It’s enough to get my heart racing in a totally different way, and I’m furious at myself for losing my focus by the time I arrive.
I’ve only been at the natatorium for half an hour when Andrey finds me warming up in the weight room.
Yeah, no shit. But Andrey’s earned my respect, so I just nod and finish my set of crunches.
He straddles a bench and watches me for a few minutes. Normally he offers critique, but today he’s silent until I’m almost done. “He’ll be training with you going forward.”
His words don’t inspire as much anger as I expected. I’ve had the night to process, and I’ve resigned myself to sharing Andrey’s attention. Most coaches train multiple students at the same time, but I train alone. Well, I did until now. Andrey is retired—supposed to be retired, anyways—and he only took me on because someone called in a favor.
That knowledge makes me want to work even harder. I’m lucky to be here, at this school, and with Andrey. The university doesn’t have a reputation for turning out star divers, but they gave me a scholarship when my dad refused to help me pay. And they let me train with Andrey, instead of the coach for the university team.
“What did you think of him?”
I grunt around my plank, counting down the time in my head. It gives me a chance to collect my thoughts, because Andrey appreciates the same brutal honesty that he likes to give out.
“He’s got a ton of talent, but he’s raw as hell.”
Andrey just nods, which means he’s thinking along the same lines.
“Maybe start by teaching him that his hands go first when entering the water?” Yesterday’s landing probably stung like crazy, hitting the water almost on his back, though Evans didn’t complain or even wince.
That gets a laugh at least. “He’s going to be here soon.” Andrey pauses. Then, uncharacteristically, he adds, “Be nice to the kid?”
I snort. “Sure.” Which means, No way in hell, but Andrey knows me well enough to let that lie go.
By the time Brandon Evans shows up, I’m in that focused zone where the only thing that matters is the next movement in front of me. I barely notice as Andrey gets him started, walking him through a warm-up. The guy looks less like an excited Labrador retriever today, more subdued.
Somersaults and flips for forty-five minutes, one after the other, forward and reverse so I’m not falling-over dizzy. Pretty much every three-year-old on earth can do a somersault, but doing three and a half of them while tumbling through the air toward the hard surface of the water means you better be able to do them perfectly.
I take a break to get a drink and lean against the wall next to Andrey. Evans is stretching his muscles out with a resistance band, muscles straining under the pull. He’s leaner than most divers . . . and more flexible too.
I turn to Andrey instead. “I’m gonna hit the trampoline.”
He nods. “Point your toes,” he says, like I haven’t heard those three words enough times to dream about them.
I work on flips for another half hour, until I’m sweating and my muscles are buzzing from the repetitive movements. When I stop, it’s to find Evans standing at the base of the trampoline, holding a bottle of water out for me.
As much as I want to ignore him, the gesture is a kind one. I grab the bottle, gulping down cool water gratefully. “Where’d Andrey go?”
Evans shrugs. “Said he was going to grab his iPad.” He holds a hand out and takes the bottle back, setting it on the ground where I’d left it. “That looks crazy fun.”
Great, not only am I going to spend the next two years training with someone else, but I’ll be forced to make banal small talk the entire time.
“It’s work.” I do a few more flips, hoping he’ll get the message and leave me alone.
But of course he doesn’t. “Can still be fun. You ever just jump around?” There are two harness straps hanging on the side, and he points to them. “I bet you can have a great time with those.”
I stop flipping, plant my feet on the trampoline and my hands on my hips, and stare down at him.
“Why are you even here?”
That throws him. It might be petty of me, but it’s strangely gratifying to see him speechless.
“Like, here watching you jump around? Or here,” he gestures around him, laughing a little, “at the pool?”
I give him my most unamused look. “I mean here, working with Andrey.”
“Um, to get trained as a diver?” He says it like he isn’t sure it’s the right answer.
“What an idiot,” I say to myself, and go back to my exercises before Andrey returns and sees me slacking off.
Evans hears the words, though I wasn’t intending to say them aloud, and his shoulders go up. He stands there for another second, then nods as if he’s decided something and goes back to whatever he’s supposed to be doing.
* * * * * *
Sports Illustrated ran a profile on me last year. It was pretty good, just a fluff piece talking about the United States’ hopes for the next Olympics, and highlighting the up-and-coming athletes to keep an eye out for.
I did the interview solely because I knew it would eat my dad and brothers alive to see me in Sports Illustrated.
Anyways, they talked a lot about my victories over the last few years. Bronze at the World Championships the last year, and fifth place two years before that, when a shoulder injury during my last dive kicked me off the medal podium altogether.
The interviewer glossed over the Olympic trials from two and a half years ago, thankfully. I went into the qualifications still battling that shoulder injury, nervous, and I didn’t make it. End of story. I wasn’t prepared then, but you can bet your ass I will be two years from now.
But my favorite part of the article was that they talked about Andrey. Specifically, the fact that he’d taken me on as his only student. Andrey won a whole handful of medals back in the day, and he’s coached some of the biggest names in diving.
Andrey agreeing to train me is more meaningful than any medal in my trophy case, because it means he looked at me and saw Olympian buried beneath everything else.
I’m not sure why he decided to train Brandon Evans. I don’t care. Because I will do everything in my power to live up to Andrey’s expectations, and to be the champion he knows I can be.
Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I absolutely loved this slow-burn, sorta-enemies-to-sorta-friends-to-lovers story. Is that a thing? It should be a thing. This is the first book by Elyse Springer I’ve read and I immediately went out and bought some of her backlist. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the story is incredibly well-paced and plotted. I was hooked.
Jeremy and Brandon come from completely different backgrounds, brought together because of diving. They hit a rocky start – Brandon represents everything Jeremy doesn’t have, which, despite Brandon’s open and friendly nature, causes animosity and resentment. Over time (like, a long time – this is a slooooowwww burn romance, and it’s long) they become friendly, then more, and Brandon helps show Jeremy how all the things he’s believed about himself and his sexuality are wrong. I absolutely loved how there is no quick fix. They are flawed characters, realistically so, and don’t magically hold hands and sing and skip into the sunset. Even at the end, when they get to their HEA/HFN (depending on how you look at it – it’s hard for me to read a romance between early 20-somethings as an HEA because I’m cynical like that), they’re still working through flaws and learning to appreciate those in each other.
Heels Over Head isn’t just a romance. It’s also the story of Jeremy and Brandon and their individual relationships with diving, and how those relationships evolve. Jeremy has been a competitive diver for the majority of his life. He’s focused on the single goal of winning an Olympic gold medal. He eats, breathes and sleeps diving. Brandon is there just for the fun of it. He’s not competitive. He didn’t start diving until his late teens, and did so for the adrenaline rush. He’s continued with it because of the escape it’s allowed him after leaving home at 18. Watching along as their individual relationships with diving change, as well as how their personal relationship affects their diving, was symbolic and a wonderful indicator of their personal growth. There is a lot of detail and technical information on diving in this book; the author clearly put a lot of work into that aspect of the book and it pays off big time.
There are many, many other aspects of this book that, if I went into full detail, this review would be insanely long. There’s coming out, internalized homophobia, homophobia, difficult family relationships and more, and it’s all done so respectfully. There are some shining side characters as well in Andrey, the diving coach, Val, Jeremy’s best friend, and Aaron, Brandon’s best friend.
I was hooked from the first chapter and captivated til the end. I highly recommend this book!
A copy of this book was received through NetGalley for review on OMG Reads.
View all my reviews
About Elyse Springer
Elyse is an author and world-traveler, whose unique life experiences have helped to shape the stories that she wants to tell. She writes romances with LGBTQ+ characters and relationships, and believes that every person deserves a Happily Ever After. When she’s not staring futilely at her computer screen, El spends her time adding stamps to her passport, catching up on her terrifying TBR list, and learning to be a better adult.
She’s always happy to chat with other readers, and you can find her online at:
To celebrate the release of Heels Over Head, one lucky winner will receive a $10 Amazon gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 3, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!