Rachel Johnston lives a solitary life. Retired at the age of fifty-two she’s happy to no longer be an air traffic controller. It was a gruelling job. She was good at it, but the intensity and gravity of making life and death decisions on a daily basis took its toll on her. Rachel’s lived with clinical depression since her teens and the high stress work environment lead to an emotional breakdown. It was not her first, and she’s come to accept her depression as part of who she is. Even though she’s living her dream, writing and publishing lesbian historical romances, the spectre of depression hovers over everything she does.
Enter professional soccer player, Jaye Stokes. Rachel and Jaye have an unexpected meeting in a family graveyard. Jaye is young, confident, attractive and much to Rachel’s astonishment, very insistent on pursuing a relationship with her. When Jaye finds out that Rachel is the writer behind the novels and fan fiction she adores, she’s even more confident that Rachel is her person.
Rachel worries that her past and current relationship with depression will scare Jaye off, but Jaye is committed to building a life with her.
When a tragic accident upends their seemingly perfect relationship, will Rachel’s past experience with depression be enough to salvage her relationship with Jaye?
From the moment Rachel and Jaye connect it’s clear they’re meant to be. While Rachel is reticent, always waiting for the other shoe to drop, Jaye’s optimism and belief in their relationship keeps Rachel’s skepticism at bay.
Rachel lives a solitary life, something she’s learned to accept. She writes under her pen name in order to keep the world at arm’s length.
Jaye, with her vivaciousness and determination breaks through Rachel’s walls. For the first time in her life, Rachel feels loved and accepted. Much to here surprise, Jaye’s support has her taking part in life in the most unexpected ways.
Rachel often thinks that Jaye is getting short changed. After all, she’s twenty years Jaye’s senior, a self-proclaimed recluse, and always waiting for the shadow of her depression to descend again.
I loved these two women because they brought out the best in each other. Watching Rachel emerge from her cocoon was triumphant. Watching her love Jaye was tender, and it brought a tear or two to my eyes.
When calamity strikes and Jaye’s hopes and dreams are shattered, Rachel is able to draw on her past, and she becomes Jaye’s lifeline. Seeing Jaye sink into hopeless despair also had me reaching for the tissues. However, Rachel and Jaye are strong women, and watching them fight their demons was oh, so satisfying.
The Writing Style
Game Changers is written in first person, present tense and I loved it. I know there are some doubters out there, but Cuthbertson handles this deftly, and I can’t imagine the story told any other way.
The entire book felt so immediate and intimate. I formed a bond with Rachel by the end of the first chapter. I was in Rachel’s head for every word and every action, and it allowed me to fully experience falling in love with Jaye.
I got to laugh at Rachel’s self-deprecating humor, which is stellar, and empathize with Rachel’s struggles.
I don’t care much for sports romances. (Don’t judge me!) I enjoy women’s soccer but I’ve found that reading about intense matches and exhilarating plays on the field can become hard to follow.
This wasn’t the case for me with Game Changers. Because this book is like a love letter to the game, each match felt thrilling. I think it was because I was watching the matches through Rachel’s enthusiastic eyes.
Perhaps Cuthbertson wrote these scenes understanding not every reader knows the ins and outs of professional soccer, and she toned down the technical jargon so that the matches would be exciting for everyone.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the story addresses living with clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. This might be a trigger for some readers.
It made me feel.
It’s the type of book that I had to take little breaks to allow myself to sit with the emotions it was conjuring in me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not “heavy” from beginning to end. The joy, the humor, the passion, the sadness – everything affected me.
Once I realized how much I was enjoying the book, I slowed down my reading because I didn’t want the story to end. Of course, the reading journey did end, but I can’t wait to settle in with this story for a reread. I adored this debut novel and I am excited to see what’s next from this author.
Excerpt from Game Changers by Jane Cuthbertson
“I never knew how much I loved writing until I got old.”
“You’re not old,” Jaye says firmly.
I throw out my best maternal tone. “I’m old enough to be your mother.”
“But you’re not my mother.” Jaye’s eyes bore into mine as she says this, and now the flirtatious smile I’ve sensed all evening blooms in full. Suddenly we aren’t two distant relatives chatting. We’re two women, two lesbians, exploring possibility.
The shift in tone flusters me. I cover my confusion by taking our cups and getting up from the sofa. I walk over to the wet bar and refresh our drinks, trying to rebalance my equilibrium, which tilted completely sideways when her last smile hit me. I don’t succeed, and now know it’s time to worry about how attractive I find this young woman.
Before I can finish pouring the soda, Jaye comes up close and slides her arms around my waist. She presses herself gently against my back.
“You’re not my mother,” she whispers in my ear.
Oh. My. I put down the can of Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper. Jaye’s hold is loose enough for me to turn around and face her, and I feel a shiver of excitement at having those gorgeous eyes inches from my own. My ability to speak abandons me. I swallow hard and find it again. “But I’m your cousin.”
She totally brushes that off. “Distant cousin.”
Her expression starts to smolder. “My dad’s parents are second cousins. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip are second cousins, through both sets of parents, and it’s no big deal. Third cousins? Definitely distant enough.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781633042100
- Publisher: Launch Point Press
- Jane Cuthbertson Online
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Note: I received a free review copy of Game Changers by Jane Cuthbertson. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site