Yarros (Ignite: Legacy, 2016, etc.) offers a shipboard romance between an extreme sports athlete and his ambitious tutor.
Incredibly wealthy Paxton “Pax” Wilder and three of his friends are the original Renegades, performing extreme sports stunts for their YouTube channel and dominating the X Games while finishing their college educations. Eleanor “Leah” Baxter is a senior at Dartmouth with a 4.0 GPA, majoring in international relations and planning for graduate school. When Leah is assigned as Pax’s tutor for a yearlong educational program onboard the ship Athena, she plans to use a businesslike approach. After all, her scholarship eligibility is tied to his grades as part of her contract, and continued funding for the documentary the Renegades are filming also relies on Pax’s academic success. When Pax pushes her into zip-lining at the ship’s launch party, her anger at his arrogance creates some distance. But soon, the spark between them becomes impossible to ignore. While negotiating the hazards of their new romance, they also must keep up with their studies, work on new stunts, provide documentary footage, and look for a traitor among Pax’s innermost circle. Unexplained accidents and rigged gear make this not only a betrayal of trust, but also a safety risk. There are other acts of treachery among the group members. And eventually, Pax will have to face the devastating consequences when Leah learns his secret. Pacing is swift and sure, foreshadowing is light and effective, and believable plot twists abound; the story races to its explosive, emotionally satisfying conclusion. Liberal but judicious use of profanity and love of wordplay (“I’m sure as hell not your beck-and-call girl. Especially not the call-girl part,” for example) enliven the narrative. And the chemistry between Leah and Pax absolutely sizzles. The tale, told in first person by each of them in alternating chapters, allows a deeper look at the characters’ fears, feelings, and ghosts. In Yarros’ skilled hands, these shifting viewpoints don’t feel contrived but like an essential device for enriching the plot. Even secondary characters are well-developed and their motivations explained. The exotic settings (Istanbul, Madagascar, etc.) and extreme sports stunts (parasailing, BASE jumping, etc.) never overwhelm the story; caught up in the events, readers enjoy an emotionally nuanced thrill ride. This escapist treat remains a page-turner until the end.
Intelligent and fun, this fast-paced tale delivers kaleidoscopic settings and an adventurous love story.