Two couples tread on thin ice at the Pyeongchang Winter Games in this captivating duology—but love has Olympic-sized impact on their dreams.
Fighting Their Attraction: Snowboarder Brady Thompson landed in Seoul favored to win elusive gold. But instead of fresh powder, he finds that a past he can’t escape is twisting his half-pipe into knots. Figure skater Arielle Baldwin is determined to win a medal so she can walk away from her coach mom’s stranglehold on her life. Can a good girl and a bad boy reaching for their dreams make for a dynamic duo?
Man of Ice: How can the Games go so wrong for friendly, upbeat Maybelle Li? Her ex-skating partner is raining on her parade with memories of the past, and her current partner, Bohdan Dovzhenko, is the hottest thing to hit the ice this decade—and the coldest companion. He’s all work and no conversation beyond grunts and commands. But as their medal hopes rise, so does Bohdan’s word count. He’s not made of stone, and being locked outside of Belle’s sunshine is simply no fun. Now their growing closeness may be too hot to dismiss—but will it burn down their chance to forge a new future as well?
Gratuitous Tara Lipinski winning 1998 Olympic gold GIF!
I went into Medal Up with some apprehension, as I am hugely familiar with the main themes of the book, which meant I was going to be hyperaware of any errors. I did get distracted by those aspects in the end, though I have enjoyed both these authors before.
Medal Up is actually two connected stories set at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Each one could be a standalone, but they’re quick reads with characters making appearances in both.
The reasons I was apprehensive:
#1 All the main characters are either figure skaters, or former figure skaters, and I have followed the sport closely for decades.
#2 One of the male leads has a full-on Ukrainian name. My family is from Ukraine, and with the ongoing war and the barrage of Russian anti-Ukrainian propaganda still permeating the world’s media, it is SO important to me that authors write the truth.
#3 Most of the main characters are Australian – as am I.
#4 The book is – duh! – set in Korea, where I used to live. I think that in the second story Fiona Marsden made a decent effort to fit a little bit of general information about Korea in, but otherwise there’s a tight focus on the main (non-Korean) characters. Nobody’s eating kimchi or watching K-Pop, for example!
My first big issue comes up on the very first page of the book:
Ukrainian and Russian are NOT interchangeable. They’re different ethnic groups, and have different cultures, different languages, and – most importantly – Ukraine and Russia are different countries. This is the heart of the – ongoing – Russian invasion that began four years ago.
When it comes to the sporting aspects of the plot, I have no idea what the authors did or didn’t know before writing this book, but some artistic leeway has to be given.
You will have to suspend your disbelief to accept that so many Australian figure skaters in the story are world champions and Olympic medal contenders (because, yeah… we’ve never been very good at that sport!). I did love the casual references to the AIS and Canberra and all of that, however.
On the other hand, these skaters were crap! Nobody makes it to the Olympics with a basic double Lutz as the feature jump in their program. You’ll only see a skater at this level do it as a mistake. Whenever the double Lutz was referred to I got the voice of Lexie from 1978’s Ice Castles in my head, laughing as she says ‘She can’t do a triple!’.
Here is Tara Lipinski doing the first of her two *triple* Lutz jumps in her free skate twenty years ago, at the Nagano Games:
In order for this to be a book for adults, the skaters are a little older than many who win medals at this level (e.g. Lipinski was fifteen in 1998, and the silver medallist that year was seventeen, and Ukraine’s Oksana Baiul was sixteen when she became Olympic Champion). I can understand this, though: otherwise it would be young adult fiction!
And, in order for the romances to happen, the characters don’t know each other before the Games. This isn’t possible. Every skater would know the name, age, and accomplishments of every other skater for the last thirty years. It would be impossible not to know everything about each other in advance.
As you can see, I got very distracted by facts and technicalities. It’s the reason I’m also extremely apprehensive about reading ballet-themed books – I know too much about the subject.
Medal Up is an easy, fast read that will satisfy people inspired by the Olympic season. Just try to not be as picky as I was!
Review copy provided by NetGalley.