Review: From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata (2018)

Heat Factor: slooooooooooooow burn

Character Chemistry: sparking constantly

Plot: Pairs figure skating team antagonizes each other into a HEA

Overall: low drama, satisfying slow burn


Erin: For real, Ingrid, why does Mariana Zapata write such crazy long books?

Ingrid: Um, she puts the slow in slow burn.

But here’s the thing…I actually enjoyed the suspense of the slow burn in Dear Aaron. A good slow burn can be very satisfying, so I decided to risk raging about another pair of lovers and picked up From Lukov with Love, which is about the sister of Ruby, the heroine of Dear Aaron. Spending time with the Santos family again was so sweet. 

Jasmine Santos is a figure skater. She has a learning disability and has no interest in college (skating is life!), but she’s also a pairs skater who has been without a partner for a year. The big “R” word is looming–retirement–but she’s just not ready to stop skating. 

Enter Ivan Lukov, who for some inexplicable reason asks to partner with Jasmine for one year. He’s a skating prodigy, has won all kinds of competitions, and has two gold medals. His family owns the ice complex where they train. He’s rich and successful. Jasmine hasn’t won anything since she left the junior level, so she is very confused as to why he wants to partner with her. Also Jasmine’s best friend is Ivan’s younger sister, so they’ve been antagonizing each other since they were children. 

They start skating together and continue to antagonize each other, but eventually Ivan calls a truce and they develop a bickering besties sort of friendship. But you know it’s more than that. It’s a romance. Everything Ivan does is evaluated in the context of his being in love with Jasmine–by the reader, not by Jasmine, because of course she needs to be oblivious until the slow burn climax!

Later, when book is read:

Erin: Okay, so Mariana Zapata is the slow burn queen. But also the internal dialog of the heroines needs to be reduced by at least a third. Because I get it. They’ve got issues.

Ingrid: Yeah, they do. All of them need therapy.

Zapata writes from a first person perspective, so we have no idea what the hero is actually thinking unless he says something. This is ideal for a slow burn, because we get to interpret all of his actions and comments, but we’re not sure until he actually acts on his feelings. On the other hand, it’s not ideal because we spend a great deal of time in the heroine’s head thinking about things. In this case, we spend time thinking about how Jasmine doesn’t trust enough, isn’t good enough, makes stupid mistakes. It can be somewhat exhausting to hear again how Jasmine is evaluating her inadequacy in the context of a new situation.

The other thing about the first person narrator is that we are only able to interpret the progression of Ivan’s feelings when he has feelings. As in, something has to happen to make him emote, and I will totally admit that I ate that stuff up with a real big serving spoon, but some of it was, um, questionable. Example: Jasmine canceled all her social media accounts three years ago because she was being sexually harassed. She reinstated her social media accounts when she paired with Ivan at her coach’s request, and she’s getting harassed again. Ivan finds out and flips out. Now, it’s not unreasonable that Ivan flips out when he finds out about this, but he demonstrates his concern by getting absolutely furious with Jasmine for not telling anyone about this situation. Like, angry at her rather than concerned about her and angry about the situation. I get that it’s hard to demonstrate the depth of the hero’s feelings when they’re all subject to Jasmine’s interpretation, but, um, getting mad at the victim is nose-wrinkling.

I did enjoy that Jasmine is one sassy lady. If you read our Dear Aaron duel, you’ll recall that I had issues specifically with Ruby and Aaron. Zapata uses many of the same “I need to take care of you” elements between Ivan and Jasmine, but unlike Ruby, Jasmine is assertive and gives as good as she gets. I knew she was going to be a different kind of heroine when she was speculating about the need to rub one out after a very distracted skate in the second chapter. I also enjoyed that Ivan loved her for her strengths rather than for the notion that he could take care of her. 

If you’re not interested in living in the head of a woman who would definitely benefit from therapy while waiting for the slow burn climactic moment, it’s probably best to give this one a pass. If you like a proper slow burn with a dreamy athlete, this one was pretty satisfying.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

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3 thoughts on “Review: From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata (2018)”

  1. “If you’re not interested in living in the head of a woman who would definitely benefit from therapy while waiting for the slow burn climactic moment” 🤣 Thanks for the heads up, though, because sometimes I get bored by too much insecure/drawn-out internal monologue on the heroine’s part. I’ve tried Dear Aaron before, based on your review, but I think I wasn’t in the right headspace for it because 1/3 through my brain was already going like, “Where is the smut?!?” I will definitely try her again, though.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah…MZ books are definitely best suited to people who want that super slow burn where all the chemistry is in interpreted touches and longing glances. Like the Darcy hand gesture in 2005 Pride and Prejudice, or, like, all of the British period drama North and South. Her writing would benefit from better editing – it’s not very tight, there’s repetition, and sometimes words are not used correctly. But she is very good at creating that emotional space to make the slow burn rewarding, and the voice is usually solid. Definitely not for everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

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