Champion skier Beaumont Hill has experienced it all. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Beau was expected to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Instead, when Change of Heart begins, Beau is recovering from a devastating accident on the slopes that ended his medal run as well as his ability to walk. His body and spirit are broken.
In a Denver rehab center, Beau has morphed from sports darling and all-around good guy to the patient-from-hell. A nurse whom he disparagingly calls ďSister Mary Jane Immaculata,Ē isnít buying his act. Nurse Mary Jane Coppola cajoles him into beginning his therapy sessions with Shayla DaCosta.
Although she will not tolerate her new patientís abuse or his self-pitying attitude, Shayla can empathize with Beau. She is a former Olympic gymnast highly touted to win a gold medal. Like Beau, an injury ended her career.
But Shayla recovered and carved out a career as a physical therapist. He is unaware of her past. After working with Beau for a while, she is very drawn to him. She also has misgivings about getting involved with him because of their professional relationship. In addition, a legal case that links members of their respective families undermines the development of their romance. (A minor gaffe in the novel involves the role of prosecutors in criminal cases.)
However, the main characters are well-drawn and believable. Secondary characters lend support and humor without getting in the way. Among my favorite characters are the various women in the book who are feisty and who arenít afraid to speak their minds -- on any topic. An ex-girlfriend provides comic relief.
King-Gamble also sheds light on the shady side of Olympic competition suggesting that Beauís mishap on the slopes might not have been accidental. There are anonymous references to the 1994 controversy surrounding figure skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan and to Alpine skier Caroline Lalive.
Change of Heart is Marcia King-Gamble at her best. The author has pulled together a complete package with a romance between two credible characters, solid premise, two mysteries and good supporting cast. Itís worth a look.