Mariana Zapata

Sal Casillas thought having her idol and the man she worshiped as a kid as her coach was going to be the best thing since sliced bread. That’s not what happened. Sal is a twenty seven year old professional women’s soccer player in Houston, Texas. Reiner Kulti is a champion and star athlete that played professionally in Europe until he retired two years earlier. Sal was in love with Kutli growing up and has since gotten over her non-break up with the heart throb after ten years. 

So when it’s announced he was coming to coach her team of all teams in America, Sal was excited but also apprehensive. Kulti was a passionate and explosive athlete and that’s what inspired Sal to play soccer and continue playing professionally. But the man she meets the first day is not who she thought she knew. He’s quiet and reclusive and a shadow of “The King” Kulti. Over the course of the season, Sal peels away layer after layer of the onion that is Kulti, and what she finds at his core is something she wasn’t prepared for.

This book was long. And very slow in the beginning. And I know Mariana Zapata is the Queen of slow burns, but this was crazy. I was a hundred and fifty pages in and the main characters had interacted approximately three times. I need more than that! 

Enemies-to-lovers is the supreme trope and I will die for it, and Zapata is very good at writing the tension between characters and everything that goes hand in hand with enemies-to-lovers. I got some jealousy, some possessiveness, some backstory into why they’re enemies. 

I did enjoy this book but it felt a little lost. I was unsure of the plot while reading it and I still am. There was obviously a plot but it didn’t feel driven or like we were going anywhere. I felt like I was just watching their lives progress, which is great, but there didn’t feel like anything was being worked towards. Towards the end I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and started to understand what we were all doing here, but in the beginning and middle, I was a deer in headlights. 

Now let’s dive into these characters. Hot damn. Sal: such a good person that needs to be protected. She works so hard and is just trying to be the best player, teammate and daughter she can be. She’s never stopped believing in herself and has worked nonstop to get to where she is. And she’s funny. So funny. She gave me so many good quotes about life and relationships. She felt very human. 

Kulti. Oh, my god. I didn’t understand why everyone thought he was the hottest thing ever, until the middle/ end. He is- wow. When he brings it, he brings it good. And oh boy did he bring it. I don’t want to give anything away or be too explicit, but yummy. He cared so much about Sal, and there were moments when it was so painfully obvious he was in love with her (spoiler) that it pissed me off that Sal didn’t notice! This girl was living life with blinders on. The soccer camps, scrimmaging, face masks. The list goes on of things that were green flags that should’ve told Sal that this grumpy (oh so grumpy) German was madly in love with her. I didn’t even notice the age gap between the two either. Age is irrelevant! To an extent. 

Sal’s dad: so cute. Best character. The way he was so flustered around Kulti since he was a literal legend was adorable. And he supported Sal so much. That’s all a girl can ask for. We didn’t hear a lot from her mom and what we did hear was a little nagging like. Telling Sal to dress a certain way to get a boyfriend bugged me. And don’t even get me started on her sister Ceci. I absolutely hate it when sisters fight in books for no reason. Give me a reason! Least favorite subpoint/ trope ever. Sisters are supposed to be each other’s best friends and confidants, regardless of age. Ceci was a brat and so rude. I felt so much gratification when Kulti brought it up and said exactly that. Go off, King. And I thought it was weird we heard about Sal’s brother a lot but didn’t meet him in person once.

Not a ton of tropes in this book but still some good ones and variations of them. Enemies-to-lovers is always a good thing. The age gap wasn’t gross and I think it was interesting to the plot. Instead of one bed we had one room, which actually gave us more tension since they were allowed to have their bed space but the rest of their personal space was impossible to get. There was a little bit of miscommunication in this which I didn’t like because it could’ve so easily been avoided. Other tropes included coach/ player, childhood crush/ idol, and famous/rich male love interest. 

I’m giving this a four out of five just because it took so long for the characters to meet. Not interact or flirt or bond, but physically interact with each other and meet for the first time. He was a mega douche so it made sense why Sal would keep her distance but I need action! Still really enjoyed it and I’m falling more in love with MZ men book by book because when it’s time, they deliver.