Kulti, by Mariana Zapata

>> Thursday, September 07, 2017

TITLE: Kulti
AUTHOR: Mariana Zapata

PAGES: 570
PUBLISHER: Self-published

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance

“Trust me, I’ve wanted to punch you in the face a time or five.”

When the man you worshipped as a kid becomes your coach, it’s supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Keywords: supposed to.

It didn’t take a week for twenty-seven-year-old Sal Casillas to wonder what she’d seen in the international soccer icon—why she’d ever had his posters on her wall, or ever envisioned marrying him and having super-playing soccer babies.

Sal had long ago gotten over the worst non-break-up in the history of imaginary relationships with a man that hadn’t known she’d existed. So she isn’t prepared for this version of Reiner Kulti who shows up to her team’s season: a quiet, reclusive, shadow of the explosive, passionate man he’d once been.

Nothing could have prepared her for the man she got to know.

Or the murderous urges he brought out in her.

“Sal, please don’t make me visit you in jail. Orange isn’t your color.”

This was going to be the longest season of her life.
I should have known better. I did supect from what the reviews (even those from people who loved the book) said about the writing style that this wouldn't be for me. But I was seduced by the football plot and by other comments people made: about the heroine, about the set-up. And there were no surprises. I liked what I expected to like, but the writing was too big a problem for me to be able to even finish the book.

Sal Casillas is a soccer player (I had to get over my instincts to use the word 'soccer' rather than 'football' here, but this does take place in the US, so that's the right term for what Sal does). She plays as professionally as the vast majority of women players do, which means she juggles a day job around the very professional training and playing schedules. I liked that the struggle of doing this this is not what the story is about. This is a fact of life, and Sal deals with it. She likes her day job (running a landscaping business with a friend), it's not a big deal.

As the book starts, Sal receives the news that her team has hired Rainer Kulti as a coach. Kulti is a recently retired football superstar. I'm not sure who to compare him to -maybe Zlatan, but better looking? Possibly David Beckham, only a properly good player? (Sorry, Liverpool fan here). Sal has a bit of a complicated history with him, only one he's not really aware of. She idolised him when she was a girl, but that flew out of the window when her brother (also a pro football player) got a career-damaging injury at Kulti's hands (or rather, feet).

Still, Sal can't help but be super excited about working with Kulti. That is, until he actually arrives. He is, undeniably, a bit of a dick. He doesn't engage with people, he's abrupt and rude, and he doesn't coach, just criticise. But then circumstances bring them together, and a friendship begins to develop.

I tried, and tried, and tried with this book. I just couldn't. There was so much to like here (like Sal herself, and the plot), and in the hands of a more polished writer, or someone with a more forceful editor, I might have loved it. The way Zapata actually wrote it, sorry, but no.

For starters, it's slow. I don't mind a low-key, leisurely pace, but this was ridiculous. Whole paragraphs of extraneous, pointless detail. Description of events and conversations that added nothing to characterisation or plot. And way, way too much time spent inside Sal's head. Which brings me to...

The writing style really, really wasn't for me. It's from the EL James school of writing. No, no, it's not as horrendously awful as 50 Shades, but it reminded me of it in that it's very heavy on the snarky stream of consciousness interior monologue and the heroine talking to herself. There's tons of that in between pretty much every line of dialogue, to the point that you forget what was the last thing said by the time you get to the next one. It didn't help that Sal's mind, as portrayed on the page, is really chaotic. I liked her fine, but being in her mind was exhausting, and I hated being there. I was reduced to almost screaming at the book "Stop saying 'poop'!!!" (that was her very mature way of trying to prevent freaking out when confronted with Kulti: saying 'poop' in her mind a lot. Not as part of sentences, just 'poop').

Beyond that, Kulti never came alive as a character for me. That might have been because any development of his character happens after I stopped reading (at about the 40% mark), but in the parts I read, he's just mysterious and dickish. I also didn't really buy him as a professional footballer. His career didn't quite make sense (it doesn't help that in this world the biggest competition seems to be something called the Altus Cup, played by club teams, not national teams, and happening every 3 years. It was hard to relate it to anything real), and his post-career choices were pretty much inconceivable for a man supposed to have been such a superstar.

I did love Sal and her no-nonsense, take-no-shit attitude towards Kulti (when she was not freaking out in her mind). I was also interested in what was going on in her career, why she'd been elbowed out of the national team and how that was going to be resolved. That made me keep going for longer than I should. Ultimately, though, it wasn't worth it.



meljean brook 13 September 2017 at 20:53  

Everything you mention is why I haven't even tried this one yet (or any of her other books) despite the rave reviews. Slow burn romance is great, but I suspect that it will be far, far too slow for me, and I'd have to be in exactly the right mood to try it. But combined with the heavy interior monologue, it's a no-go (I've also tried with Kristen Ashley, and it's the same. The overwhelming details, the stream of consciousness writing, it just really doesn't work for me.)

Rosario 14 September 2017 at 07:00  

Yeah, this style definitely doesn't work for me, either. With Kristen Ashley, though, it's been really easy to leave her books alone, because her plots don't really appeal to me. The plot here was much too tempting. It's still a story I'd like to read, if written in another style.

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