Kulti was the second buddy-read for the Unapologetic Romance Readers group for June, and it served as the contemporary selection and designated "slow burn" romance. Well, slow burn is right--this was a burn so slow that many in the group didn't feel it at all. I loved it, but I can definitely see why others did not. This is a book that goes from the two characters basically hating each other to slowly liking each other to being friends, and then finally to romance at the very, very end, so if you're looking into that, know to expect it!
The two main characters here are Sal, the point-of-view character who is a professional women's soccer player on the fictional Houston Pipers. She's the team's main forward/striker. Her life is turned upside down when Reiner Kulti, her childhood soccer hero and schoolgirl crush, turns up to act as assistant coach to the team following his retirement from soccer two years before. Sal isn't drooling over Kulti anymore, due to an incident involving her also-professional-soccer-playing brother, Eric, but yeah, she's definitely still attracted to him. Except he's kind of a jackass, doesn't seem to want anything to do with the Pipers in general or Sal specifically, and is more trouble than he's really worth.
I thought both the characters here underwent a lot of growth that I really enjoyed; seeing them transform, even so slowly, was breathtaking to me, as was the sloooooooooooooow burn of their relationship's evolution. That said, there were a few things that I wish had taken place in this book.
First, I wish Eric had been present. Sal mentions him a few times and talks to him on the phone once; other than that, he's not really a presence. Considering that an encounter between him and Kulti, and Sal's feelings that she's betraying Eric by befriending Kulti, were so central to the relationship and Sal's development, his complete lack of being there seemed very strange.
Second, I wish that there had been some chapters from Kulti's perspective. This entire book is from Sal's perspective, which means that at times Kulti's feelings don't really come across as strongly as they probably could. I get it; he's a reserved person. But I thinking having some chapters from his perspective could have really enhanced the reader's insight into his feelings without necessitating a change in his outwardly-reserved character. There are signs into his feelings--one scene where he pretty much begs Sal to stop talking about sex, pretty clearly dying on the inside because he's thinking about sex with her but doesn't want it to show, the way he treats her family, his devestation following her injury, and so on. But still, a few chapters could have made this more apparent and made the tension between the two characters so much more intense.
And speaking of intense... I wish there had been something before the last few chapters. I mean, a torrid up-against-the-wall kiss following tense moment, even a freaking touch would've been nice. But because there wasn't anything like that, it meant the sudden wave of contact at the end didn't really feel as built-up-to as it could have, and therefore kind of came out of nowhere. I mean, not nowhere, but it could have been built up to better, I think.
One more thing I want to discuss, not because it impacted my opinion of the book but because it was brought up by a couple of people with different perspectives in our discussion group: Kulti's DUI. When Sal hears that Kulti's license was suspended because of a DUI, she says something about how a DUI isn't a big deal, about how sometimes you get caught and sometimes you don't, and specifically "Whatever." To some, this read as her excusing drunk driving and making it out to not be serious. To me, it didn't read as that, but as Sal still trying to figure out what she thinks about Kulti and--because when she hears about it initially, it's still just gossip--not wanting to dismiss him out of hand. When she asks Kulti himself about it later, she takes his words seriously and makes sure she doesn't drink around him because she doesn't want to tempt him away from sobriety. As I mentioned, this didn't affect my opinion of the book, but I wanted to bring it up because I think it's interesting how different people can take different perspectives away from the same words and scene.
So, overall: yes, this book had flaws, and I think I pinned down a couple of places in which it could have been improved for me and maybe some other readers. That aside, I still really liked it. I could feel the tension throughout the whole story, simmering under the surface even when it wasn't really apparent. Would I feel that way if I re-read it? I don't know. Maybe. I rarely re-read books, so I probably won't ever find out. But this definitely put me in the mood for more slow-burn romances, so it must have done something right for me.
In the end, I think I'll give it 4 stars out of 5. Some general improvements could have been made, but there was nothing that destroyed it for me or really even knocked it seriously.