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“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 27-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 who 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.

570 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 20, 2015

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Mariana Zapata

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Profile Image for mel ☽.
365 reviews7,635 followers
February 5, 2022
reread #573985still 5 stars ✩⋆

reread #573986 { update } — nah i've been seeing too many people on tiktok slandering this mz book and my feelings are hurt. did we read the same book?? because the math ain't mathing.

ok no. but this book ruined every other slowburn book for me tho. if a book doesn't have the whole strangers to enemies to rivals to acquaintances to hesitant friendship to full-on friendship to best friends to girl is oblivious that guy is in love with her but we readers know that the guy is in love with her to lovers then i don't want it.

listen. i love wall of winnipeg and me, vanessa and aiden are my babies but there's just something so... ✨spicy✨ when it comes to sal and kulti. i mean, this has book has:

✧ forbidden romance // kulti is sal's soccer coach
✧ celebrity crush // kulti is sal's celebrity crush since she was a kid
✧ age-gap
✧ slowburn & top tier romantic development // no seriously, this is very slowburn
✧ more spicy than other MZ books // i've read all of MZ books and these two have the most smut scenes
✧ soulmates // no, they really are tho. they're both each other's equals don't tell me otherwise
✧ the banter, guys. THE BANTER!!

main reason why i love this book so much is that the banter is top tier and sal and kulti are both so petty, stubborn, competitive, and they fight/bicker all the time that it's just entertaining af, making everything funnier. kulti was just soo.. well, he acted like a spoiled brat sometimes and even though that sounds like a turn-off, IT IS NOT. i swear. and the fact that sal doesn't take any of his shit and calls him out when he's being rude? we love that.

and i just love how the romantic development felt so natural? honestly, this is kind of a bad thing for me because this was one of the first romance novels i've ever read and it really set the bar too high for me.

anywhoo i could go on and on and on about this book but i'll just recap my favorite moments so

that time when i related to sal whenever i find out my celebrity crushes has a girlfriend
"It was the worst non-break-up ever in the history of imaginary relationships with a man who didn't even know I existed."

the heartbreak is unmatched. if christopher jamal evans or henry cavill were to ever revoke their single relationship status, that is the day i lose faith in humanity because how dare they not marry me.

ohhhhh myyy gawd. okay it's happening- it's finally HAPPENING.
"He could go suck a big dick.
And I hoped he gagged on it.

ENEMIES TO LOVERS part of the story is finally activated!!


they finally hate each other!!! if this is not true love then i don't know what is. and don't you guys love it when the girl always thinks about shoving imaginary dicks on their love interest's throat. it's so romantic.

"You're one of the best I've ever seen, period, man or woman. What kills me is that you are a complete fucking pushover who's hung up on worthless words in front of a person who doesn't matter. Grow some balls, Casillas. Fight me for this. Fight anyone that tries to take this away from you."

ugh STOPPPP. kulti really went from being a normal asshole to an asshole who cares. and can we just appreciate how he sees her as his equal, supports her, and is ALWAYS on her side with no hesitation?? and the fact that he pushes her to be the best version of herself and challenges her? i love that. he doesn't coddle her or treat her like a baby (most of the time) and is actually threatened by her skills because, again, he sees her as his equal and a true competitor ugh why are they so cute?

and let's not forget this iconic moment:
"Instead of saying anything, he walked past me, bumping the side of his upper arm against my shoulder, lightly... playfully."

oh my god. OH My- did y'all see that? their shoulders... touched. I REPEAT, 🥵THEIR SHOULDERS FUCKING TOUCHED🥵... *whispers* playfully

what the f is this sorcery- this is going a little too fast ms. zapata i thought they were gonna graze their fingers around 80% but the fact that they bumped shoulders in the first half i- this is too much.

and here we see jealous kulti being superior af:
"Do you have father issues?"
"What? No. My dad's great, jeez."
"You like old men."...
"Quit it. Everyone has a type. I'm sure you do."
Kulti blinked. "I'm not attracted to senior citizens"

"How long were you together?"
"Four years. We met my second year in college."
"He looks like an idiot."

petty kulti gets activated when kulti is jealous, therefore, jealous kulti is the best kulti and no one tell me otherwise.

"... my oversized bratwurst took a step forward and he did it... He was hugging me. Dear God, Reiner Kulti was hugging the shit out of me."

oh my- MS ZAPATA THIS IS TOO MUCH MA'AM. they're hugging each other?? when it's not the last chapter?? oh god-


my body was not ready for them ~hugging~ PLS this is too much physical affection for me.

88% till the end
rereading this is always fun because the moment kulti started calling sal schnecke, we ALL know that that's the moment he was in love with her
"My schnecke. My little snail, do you know what it means? It's a term of affection in my country. My love. My snail, I don't want to waste more time. I have nothing to hide and neither do you."

if he doesn't call you "my snail" in his native language, is he really your mans? and after this scene, i guess it's apparent ms. zapata doesn't care about my well-being at all because she suddenly started attacking me with all this cute shit kulti said to sal
"You are my gift, my second chance, and I will cherish you and your dream. I will protect both of you.

"You are the most honest, warm, loving person I know. Your loyalty and friendship amazes me every day. I have never wanted anything more in my life than I want your love, and I don't want to share that with anyone. I haven't done a single thing in my life to deserve you, schnecke, but I will never give up on you, and I won't let you give up on me."

UGH PLS. this is too much for my very single self i can't take this. also, let's not forget the part where kulti kept sal's fanmail letter, unbeknownst to her, and he's kept it ever since, framed it and put it on the wall of his bedroom, and it was the first thing he looks at before his games for 10 years.


see, i love how subtle the "destiny" trope is shown here and the fact that these two are the definition of "soulmates" (or "twin flames" i don't know).

* * *

(re)reading MZ books is always a double-edged sword, it makes you feel good because of the slowburn and the anticipation of when the MCs are finally gonna get together but when you're done reading, it just leaves you feeling cold and empty with a staring into the abyss type of feeling. it's kinda horrible not gonna lie. but basically, i just need more of kulti and sal content please 🥺👉👈

if y'all know any other slowburn books like this where it's not all about sex, emotional connection >>> physical connection/attraction, and god-tier romantic development then please recommend!!


reread #573984 (april 2018)5 stars

oh, no big deal.
it's not like this is the best slow burn, enemies to friends to best friends to lovers i've ever read.
yeah... no big deal whatsoever.

AND it's not like the progression of the book is one of the best i've ever read. pfft.

did i have the biggest book hangover after reading this?
ha ha ha.
ugh yes, dammit!

Mariana Zapata, girl, you're killing me. I need more of Kulti and Sal.
Profile Image for Val ⚓️ Shameless Handmaiden ⚓️.
1,828 reviews29.1k followers
May 4, 2019
Update: 5/4/19:
You can find a really cute little epilogue scene here: https://www.marianazapata.com/kulti-o...... Thanks to Hulya for mentioning it in her review...just paying it forward for others to enjoy by doing the same.


Slooooooow Strong Stars

So not gonna lie, I went into this book completely blind.

I didn't read any other reviews on this before starting (which is typical for me).

Shit, I didn't even read the blurb (which is NOT typical for me).


All I know is that I was "packing" my kindle for my recent vacation and this book was kind of like that random extra bottle of full size conditioner you throw in your suitcase right before heading out the door, because you just know that little bullshit travel size is just NOT going to be enough.

All I knew when I one-clicked this is that I had read another book by this author - Under Locke - and I really enjoyed it.

So, like I said, I said fuck it and I went in blind.

And I'm glad I did, because otherwise I might have thrown this on the back burner, because Jesus F. Christ, this thing was LOOOOOOOONG.


But this was worth it.

I REALLY enjoyed this book.

As a formerly serious athlete myself with a SUPER tight relationship with my own father, I related to Sal in spades.

Also, a benefit to the length of Zapata's stories (I went back and re-read parts of Under Locke, which I then remembered was also quite lengthy) is that you really get to know the characters after spending so much time with them and you really feel their connection.

Another bonus?

The whole older male coach/younger female coachee dynamic.

I DIG it.

I am a SUCKER for it.

Me love it long time, every time.

My only complaint with this book is that it takes forever for anything to happen between these two outside of friendship.


For serious though.

I don't always need things to move fast or for their to be tons of steam, but I was starting to wonder if these two were ever going to get anywhere.


Also, I REALLY wish this had had a more in-depth epilogue.

I felt a little cheated.

But anyways, long story not so short, if you are someone who typically likes things to move a little faster and needs a little more snap with your crackle, this might be a little too slow moving for you.

Otherwise, I say give this thing a go.

Just make sure you know it might take a year off your life to finish this.


I am a VERY fast reader and I think I noticed a gray hair on my head after finally finishing this thing.

Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,052 reviews49.2k followers
February 6, 2023
5 fucked-me-right-up stars

“He was my coach. And I was his friend. Or something like that.”

this book was fcking EVERYTHING to me. in typical zapata fashion, this was a sloooooow burn romance between professional soccer player Sal & her coach Reiner Kulti. Rey is a renowned soccer star & was someone that Sal looked up to long before he became her coach. and of course she's had a crush on him since she was a kid.

thankfully Rey doesn't give a shit and does not return those warm feelings, at least initially. the relationship between the two is very much coach & player for the majority of the book which i loved. we get to get inside the mind of a high achieving female soccer player and understand what it takes to get to the level that she wants to be at. and what it would be like if the person you looked up to most in the world becomes your coach. and isn't all that nice to you.

as the book progresses, obviously we get friendship stages and romantic stages and fuck i can't do it justice. but let's just say if you enjoy power play & age gaps you will fucking adore this book. it was heartfelt, and even the mildly cheesy/convenient end didn't bother me.

i don't even know what to say, just go read this.
Profile Image for Christy.
3,817 reviews32.4k followers
February 15, 2023
5+ German Chocolate Cake stars!

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“He was my coach. And I was his friend. Or something like that.”
OMG THIS BOOK! Kulti is one of those books that has been sitting on my TBR soon pile for months and months. I never found the time to read it, then I saw it was on audio so I made the time. I’ve read 14 books so far this year and it is by far the BEST book I’ve read so far. My first 5+ star read of the year! Kulti is a soccer book, but it’s so much more than that! It’s fun, heartwarming and all around fantastic!

Kulti used to be Sal’s hero when she was a child. She was in love with this older soccer player and he gave her the drive to be the best she could be. Now she’s 27 and has been playing professionally for some time. Then she gets the news. That the elusive Reiner Kulti will be a coach for her team. Sal and Kulti have this fantastic love hate relationship to start with. I cannot tell you how many times this story made me laugh. Their back and forth banter was so well done.
"I'll be back.”

“Okay, Arnold.”

“He's Austrian, not German, you little shit.”

The relationship between them is such a SLOW BUILD. It felt like it took an eternity to get to where they needed to be, but guess what? I didn’t even care. Not one bit. The friendship, the banter, the back and forth, the love that eventually developed… it was perfection. Sal and Kulti together- they were wonderful. He was an ass a lot of the book, but he was her ass. He could also be sweet though. When he calls her ‘my schnecke’ I melt…
”I had a man I respected that respected me, and he didn't care if the world knew we meant something to each other. Our friendship hadn't been given to either of us, we had worked at it. On top of that, I felt something for him even if he was egoistical, arrogant, stubborn pain in the ass. He was my egoistical, arrogant, stubborn pain in the ass.”

Sal is one of the most fun, entertaining and refreshing heroines. She’s relatable, interesting, and being in her head is never annoying or boring. My man Kulti was not quite as lovable as Sal in the beginning, but by the end he had me swooning! And a special shout out to Sal’s dad. What a fantastic secondary character! It’s a long book, but I never felt like it was long, slow or boring. It was paced well. And written well. And all around AMAZING! Seriously, can you tell how much I loved this book?!?

This is for sure the best sports romance I’ve ever read. I can’t recommend it enough! And if you like audio, do yourself a favor and pick up the audible version. The narration was fantastic and Kulti’s German accent was done perfectly! Kulti gets 5+ stars from this reader!!!
“You are my best friend, my love, my playmate and my teammate. You’ll have a team with me wherever we are, with whatever we’re playing.”

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Profile Image for brooke.
62 reviews1,293 followers
May 13, 2023
5 stars
“he was my coach. and i was his friend.
or something like that.”

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS BOOK, i can’t believe i haven’t picked up this book until now. the tension build up, the banter, bickering, jealousy and the slow burn angst is so THRILLING. it was impossible to put this book down. you know it’s a superb book when you have the urge to read it all over again as soon as you finish it!!
— this was another excruciating slow burn but listen, i’m a realist and will take the slow-burn over “insta-love” ANY DAY. yet i still couldn’t get enough of kulti and sal, they’ve stolen my heart. i was literally giggling and blushing over the nicknames and the small touches between them. 🤭

”you are my best friend, my love, my playmate and my teammate. you’ll have a team with me wherever we are, with whatever we are playing”

the jealousy scenes when i tell you KULTI WAS FIGHTING FOR HIS LIFE, THESE WERE TOP TIER SCENES >>>
— i seriously needed kulti’s pov every time he was jealous bc he was losing his mind!! especially when sal hugged his friend before him and he got so mf grumpy afterwards!!
”kulti, who was standing there with his tongue in his cheek, had his arms crossed over his chest. he was pissed. i could recognize it by the way his eyes were narrowed.” PLSSS- THIS HAD ME GIGGLING 🤭

the romantic development between sal and kulti was delivered perfectly. the buildup was so natural and not rushed. it was strictly a coach and player relationship which leads to a heartwarming friendship then gradually builds up to a romantic level. i love that we got to experience the relationship develop naturally.

— kulti’s love confessions to sal fr had me screaming into my pillow, i was losing my mind!! i want this man for myself.

“you belong to me”

knees weak, head spinning, butterflies in my stomach.
reiner kulti is officially my fav sexy, grumpy, dilf

”my schnecke, my little snail, my love.”

i didn’t like the recurring slut shaming in this book - i love sal but she would act like she was better than everyone else and had this tendency to internally call other women “whores” and “sluts” constantly and it threw me off. but i still devoured this book nonetheless <33

slow burn
coach/player—forbidden love
age gap (fmc is 27 and mmc is 39)
sports romance
grumpy x sunshine
childhood crush to best friends to lovers
boy obsessed & girl obsessed
Profile Image for sraxe.
394 reviews385 followers
June 14, 2016
I love slow burn novels. When a novel builds up to the eventual consummation, I feel it's so much sweeter. That's why I'm disappointed with how much I disliked this. While it picks up in the second half, it's hard to forget how the first half dragged and felt like a chore. In the end, the pay-off felt sub-par at best. I needed something a bit more spectacular after enduring pages of food names and "poop" (both of which would've been funny in moderation, but were killed with overuse), "the German," and other irritating things.

(Note: It's hard to talk about this book and my issues without spoilers. Due to length and pace, I'm not sure what would and wouldn't qualify as a spoiler, so beware of unmarked spoilers below.)

As said, this book is super slow burn. Kulti doesn't show up until halfway through Chapter Three. After finally touching—shaking hands—at just over 10%, nothing happens for a while. He's quiet and stand-offish, while Sal watches him from afar. Around 20%, something finally happens when she confronts him for being an ass. After that, he sullenly interacts with her and they slowly start becoming friends 50% in. They don't kiss until the 85% mark, with sex not happening until past the 90% point. NBD, right? It wouldn't be...if the book wasn't nearly 500 PAGES LONG. While it's nice that Zapata took time to develop things, the pay-off with the not-so-great written sex scenes, that felt really rushed and included by force, were extremely inadequate for all that build-up. Then it also became the story of Special Snowflake Sal, with her famous footballer grandfather, Kulti joining the Pipers because of Sal, and how he still has her childhood letters to him.

The reason why this book is so long is because Zapata kept throwing in subplots. Not bad in and of itself, but it is when they're never fully realized. Rather than sticking to one thing and developing that completely, Zapata was adding a ton of subplots. Each subplot also felt like its own mini episode in the book, being introduced and a part of the story for a time (usually a chapter, maybe two) before it's dropped.

And when I mean not fully realized, I mean that I was left with a ton of questions by the end and subplots that were shallowly explored, even important things. Nearly 500 pages, and we never know why Kulti's marriage ended. Hell, I don't even think his ex-wife's name is mentioned ONCE or why he ever married her. When Kulti starts hitching rides with Sal, where was his driver? What was up with Sal's ankle in the beginning? What was up with the uncle who wanted tickets to a game? What did Grace and Kulti fight about? Why was Kulti so angry on the phone when he was speaking in German? Who the hell is Mike Walton? Why were the softball players purposely hurting Sal? Why did Kulti get his tattoo covered up? What did the old one mean? What was Cecy's problem? Etc. (There're probably others that I missed, but that's all I'm recalling for the moment.)

Just WAY TOO MANY subplots.

While there were tons of unnecessary things, important ones were left out. Like Eric. Sal keeps mentioning how close she is to her brother and how they talk often, yet he never makes an appearance in the entire book? She mentions two calls with him, but they're recounted after the fact and skimmed over. How you gonna tell me that Eric is the sibling she's closest to, yet it's Cecy who makes more appearances in the book than him? Even Eric's bffs are in the book while he isn't. (Not surprising, I guess. Near the end when Kulti's sitting with her parents, she thinks that they're the three people she loves most in the world. Wtf happened to that brother you were supposedly ~so close~ to, Sal?)

And what destroyed Sal's adolescent love for Kulti was that he got married and then nearly ended her brother's career. Two things that had such an impact on her Kulti obsession, but neither make an appearance in this book. (Also, that move that Kulti pulled that nearly ended Eric's career? Was it a dirty move on his part? An accident? What? Zapata makes a BFD about it in the beginning but it fades into the background and it's then forgotten.)

Then there's the fact that Zapata has a tendency to be repetitive. She repeats so many things, like blinking, Kulti's height, Sal tipping her head to talk to him, scratching her cheek, biting the inside of her cheek, "Big Girl Socks," the length and colour of Kulti's hair, etc. She also mentions Kulti's eyes an insane amount of times, changing it up to different colours: hazel, hazel-green, green, green-brown, "light-colored," "perfect shade between green-green and hazel-brown," green-moss, jewel-like, clear eyes, amber, swamp colored. I'm sure there were some I missed, but even without those, this is INSANE. First, wtf does "light-colored" even mean?! And second, how can he have "light-colored" and "swamp colored" eyes??

Sal also has OTT reactions to Kulti, even weeks into their friendship. It's fine at first, but when she's thinking "Dear God, Reiner Kulti was hugging the shit out of me. I just stood there with my arms at my sides, frozen. Completely freaking frozen in place. I was stunned, beyond stunned. Stupefied" AFTER she's already spent a weekend with him, shared a bunk, seen him in his underwear, and had her parent's lawn mowed by him, it's a bit much. And whenever Kulti would walk into a new place or do something "normal" and she's thinking "Reiner 'The King' Kulti" was doing blah blah blah or in such-and-such a place! Unbelievable! 90% and she's thinking "I was sitting in the backseat of a car with Reiner ‘The King’ Kulti on the way to the WPL final game, asking him if he was still going to love me once I couldn’t play anymore. Good God." CHILL THE FUCK OUT, GIRL.

There were also a ton of mistakes that other readers have noted, like and insane amount of comma abuse and misuse and other errors. Oh, and there was the scene when Kulti and Sal are finally kissing.

I tilted my head back, my throat completely exposed as I sighed in desperation. ... I shut my mouth and gave him an exasperated look. ... He tilted his face down, making sure our eyes were meeting. All I could manage to do was stare and hyperventilate. ... I could feel my lower lip trembling as his thumbs rubbed the tender part in the crook of my elbow. ... Kulti tipped his head down, eye to eye like he’d been with me when I’d woken up from my concussion. ... Those big hands left my thighs and before I could wonder where they were going, they landed on my cheeks. In a split second, he tilted my face just slightly down and we were eye to eye, his breath on my face.

He keeps tilting and tipping his head down (or hers up/back), their eyes keep meeting even though there's no mention of either of them having turned away or broken eye contact. His hands go from being on her elbow to her thighs. While I should be savouring the scene, I was too distracted by the mistakes. How do you make this many mistakes in such an important scene?

What this book needed was an editor to cleave, tighten, and clean the plot. Did it have one? With all the mistakes riddling the book, I can't be sure. If it did, Zapata clearly needs someone better.

With the story itself, there were a number of things that bothered me. The age difference, for one (13 years in this case). I'm not a fan of May-December relationships, particularly if hero is the older one. I found it adorable in the beginning because we've all had those celebrity infatuations, but I was a little worried because I thought it would go from her being a kid and hero-worshipping him, to being an adult and him taking advantage of said worship and nostalgia. As the story progressed and she dealt with his disinterest and assholery, I liked that she became disillusioned. I liked that the relationship was broken down before being built back up.

HOWEVER, that was before the reveal that she'd loved him all along! (Sorry, but I don't buy Zapata trying to push a childhood infatuation with a celebrity as REAL LOVE ALL ALONG.) Then, it's revealed that Kulti had been aware of Sal's infatuation with him. In fact, he says that he still has the letters she sent him when she was SEVEN YEAR OLD KID. He has them FRAMED in his house. Sure, that's adorable...but not when you fucking pair them up as romantic interests! And then he goes on about how they were ALWAYS MEANT TO BE TOGETHER and everything he did in his life led him to her. What the FUCK. I was so creeped out! This dude is telling her that he has her letters from when she was 7 (and he was 19-20) framed in his house and OH LOOK TRUE LOVE.

"Every single thing that has ever happened in my life has led me here, Sal. Destiny is a ladder, a series of steps that takes you where you’re supposed to go. I am the man that I am, and I have done the things that I’ve done, to get me to you."

NOT romantic when you're talking about their earliest interactions being when she was a kid and he was into adulthood! What're they gonna tell their kids? "See this frame right here, kids? This is the letter your mom sent me when she was seven! Oh, and over here! The three others she sent me, too!"

This was why I gave it a 1. Before this, I was around a 2 because, while I didn't think it was great, I didn't feel it was super awful, either. BUT, then Zapata was pushing this true love/destiny BS at the end, and then combined with the age difference and how he still kept her letters, it was just too creepy for me. Oh, and it didn't make sense.

How? If he knew ALL ALONG that she was his #1 fan, that he came to the team simply because of her, and that he STILL has her letters framed in his house...why did he treat her like shit in the beginning of the book? Why did he threaten to bench her after she helped him? Why did he do ANY of that in the beginning? It simply makes no sense to me.

Another issue was Kulti's DUI. Others didn't have an issue, but it was something that bothered me throughout. Upon first learning about his possible DUI, Sal immediately decides that "[she] wasn't disappointed" because "things like that were more luck-based than anything. ... How many people didn’t drive home after having a few drinks? Sometimes you got caught and most times you didn’t. Whatever." Later, she tells him that "[he] didn’t steal anything or kill anyone. Whatever anyone else who doesn’t know [him] thinks, isn’t a big deal."

Look, it's not that I think that he should be forever condemned by a bad decision, it's that I hate Zapata's dismissive attitude towards it. Sal's immediate thoughts are about him getting caught, not whether or not people may been hurt, so "whatever." Then she implies theft is worse. (Yes, because that one library book I kinda sorta stole years ago makes me more worthy of being judged than if I ever got behind the wheel of a car intoxicated, right?) At a certain point, she even offers her car up to him. Because lending your car to someone with a suspended license is a super great idea.

During the book, his DUI is glossed over and there are no real answers. There's no definitive on whether someone got hurt or anything else about it. We're not even told how he got caught. (Was he pulled over? A random checkpoint? An accident?) Instead, Zapata consistently frames it sympathetically in his favour. Even Sal, before knowing ANYTHING about the situation, is immediately forgiving, saying it's "whatever" and "we all make mistakes." There's no accountability on his part and how someone could've gotten hurt, even him.

And I do legit mean that there's no responsibility taken by him. When he finally does open up, he only says that "[he] was in a bad place after [he] retired," picking up a bad habit he's not proud of due to his anger at the time. That's it. He doesn't talk about how reckless it was, that he could've hurt others or himself, or the hundred different other things. Instead, Zapata portrays him as the sympathetic party in the situation. At this time, Sal thinks that "people made mistakes all the time. He had a right to make them as much as the next person." Even though she still doesn't know jack about any of the details in regards to his DUI.

Seriously though...am I supposed to feel bad that a rich, privileged celebrity like Kulti is facing consequences for his actions? He may have been going through a tough time, but so what? It's not that I feel he's undeserving of human compassion, it's that he NEVER takes responsibility for his actions. He has his DUI and gets his license suspended and then he continues to bury it. When he finally does admit that he had a DUI? He gives a sob story as an excuse for what he did but with no accountability. Hell, when he tells Sal, he doesn't say that he's not proud of getting behind the wheel drunk, he just says he's not proud of the habit he picked up, which was drinking. I can't feel bad for someone who doesn't acknowledge their own wrong doing. Telling me that you were in a tough place isn't taking responsibility, that's absolving yourself of blame. (And this is not even getting into how his fame, being "one of the best players in the world, ever," probably gained him clemency.)

What I wanted was a simple acknowledgement of his poor decisions, which could easily be done. You can call out someone's problematic behaviours without thinking the person is the scum of the earth. If we were to condemn every person over something problematic, we'd never be able to support anyone. But, that doesn't mean you can't dislike what they did. And I felt that Zapata did a disservice by concentrating on how the DUI had an effect on him rather than the possible fatal repercussions. Sal didn't even need to dog-pile; she could've just felt disappointment in his actions. Except, to her, it's just a "mistake" and "people made mistakes all the time" and "whatever." Yes, people make mistakes and bad decisions, but it doesn't help if you baby them! Kulti is a grown fucking man of nearly forty!

And besides, Sal seems to have a double standard when it comes to condemnation.

While she doesn't judge Kulti, she's quick to jump on Amber. After Gardner tells her about an anonymous letter, she immediately blames Amber, calling her "that bitch. That fucking bitch." At this point, Sal has absolutely NO EVIDENCE to believe that it was actually her. With Kulti, she holds back on judging him, even after she does find out that he did have a DUI. With this anonymous letter, she immediately blames Amber. And besides, all she knows about it is that it contains "wild accusations" and nothing more. While it probably was Amber, she can't be sure. What about all the anti-fan mail she's been getting? How can she be sure it wasn't one of them?

Oh, Sal can believe it's her because Amber recently called her a whore? Well, what about believing that Kulti might have a DUI because she had to drag his ass out of a bar? If one leads her to make an assumption about the other in Amber's case, why does she refrain from doing so in Kulti's? She's not even friendly with him at this point.

Is it because Amber threatened her career? Well, Kulti did too, remember? When she did him a favour and dragged his drunk ass to a hotel room and he repaid her the next day by threatening to bench her if she gossiped? Remember that, Sal? While Amber's influence is periphery with Sal's career now, Kulti's is direct. Not only does Kulti hold a position of power, but his celebrity further amplifies that in terms of overall sway.

Later, Sal refers to Amber as having a "whiny black heart." Uh...have you met Kulti? At least Amber had something legitimate to be upset about. What about Kulti's whining? While Amber is a "bitch" because of presumed actions, Kulti gets a shrug and a "shit happens" response. I dunno...I tend to feel that someone who DUIs and doesn't take responsibility might have more of a "black heart" than someone who's holding a grudge because you got caught dating their husband. But maybe that's just me.

I was really annoyed at the marked difference in how she treats Kulti's behaviour in comparison to everyone else. Amber gets the this bitch, that bitch, bitchbitchbitch treatment while Kulti gets the ohhh you poor baby!! one.


One of the times I agreed with Sal was when she said she was anti-manwhore. It was a nice change...and then she hooked up with Kulti, who'd been around. I thought her anti-manwhore bit might lead to a reveal about Kulti's dating past being exaggerated, but that didn't happen. I wouldn't mind Kulti's past so much if there weren't such a disparity in their experience. Not only does she mention only one boyfriend, but when she's with Kulti, she notes that "it was more visual memory from the hundreds of soft-core porn movies [she]’d occasionally caught on late night cable that reminded [her] what to do" because she hasn't had sex in "a long, long time." Kulti's been celibate for a year. But honestly? That doesn't mean much to me when he was probably a manwhore for two decades.

Then there's the paparazzi. Zapata makes a BFD about how they're all over Kulti, which is made worse after news of his DUI and rumours about Sal. You'd think they'd always be around, right? While the paparazzi will follow them to some random doctor's clinic, no one catches Sal giving daily rides home to Kulti after games? These two can stand outside the stadium post-game and shout at each other, but there's no news of that? Kulti kisses her outside the stadium post-media shitstorm, and no one papped them? I didn't like how the paparazzi was conveniently there and then not.

Zapata should've also done more research with football. One glaring mistake was when, during a league finals championship match, Sal got two yellow cards! Unless the rules are different for Zapata's football, Sal should've been thrown from the match. Also, while it might be fine for Sal to use "soccer" because she's American, it doesn't make sense for Kulti, seeing as how he was born, raised, and played in Europe all his life. Zapata also says that league teams here were referred to as "teams" (as opposed to "clubs"). Uh...they're still called clubs in North America. New York City FC and Toronto FC are both MLS football clubs. Zapata may have confused it with how national teams are titled teams (USMNT), but that, too, follows Europe's footsteps and how they're called "teams" on the international level. An average person can be excused for not knowing this, but not Zapata. This is the main theme of her book and she should have done her research.

Then there's sexist, slut-shaming Sal. She refers to some Kulti fangirls as "hookers." Sure, she follows this with "that wasn’t very nice," but then why even include it? Besides, Sal's an obsessed fan herself who was star-struck and internally fangirling over Kulti SO MUCH. Also, I don't believe the "that wasn't very nice" because she later refers to her teammates as whores. This is after they stop getting along, but did she have to resort to that? Besides, at a point earlier, she was upset at being called that because she totally wasn't ("Getting called a whore? Especially when you weren’t one? Yeah, it wasn’t exactly fun and games."), so why would she think of other women that way? Then Kulti's ex makes an appearance and Sal considers her desperate-looking. Why did Zapata even bother including her? Simply to disparage another woman? The woman isn't even given a name! Kulti just ignores her like a douche and then she's gone. And lastly, mention of how he's dated "sluts ("The man, who had dated supermodels, actresses and probably a whole bunch of sluts."). I mean...if there's a slut in this equation, it's the man you're referring to as having dated a shit-ton of women.

Overall, just not an enjoyable experience.

(This was read as a buddy-read with the Unapologetic Romance Readers group.)
Profile Image for Mo.
1,351 reviews2 followers
May 29, 2015
I loved this one, just loved it. First off, I love football ... that is "soccer" to a lot of you. I love the World Cup, the Champions League, The UEFA Championships... I was the girl who stood in the pissing rain at Terryland Park to watch Galway United because my then boyfriend, now husband, supported the team. The FA Cup Final is on this weekend and I will be glued to it, even though I don't support either team in the final...

He annoyed me, but I was also annoyed with myself for letting his attitude bother me.”

I do love my smexy times in books but if you are looking for some hot loving and major sex scenes here you will be disappointed. I did not care. I loved the build up of their relationship, their banter. He had secrets. She had secrets...

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.

We had the trials and tribulations of training, the play offs to try and get to the finals. The rivalry with other teams. Do you have to be a football fan to enjoy this book? I don't think so ... then again, I was the Mom who was signing her 4 year olds up for the local football leagues. And they loved it. They still love football (soccer). They played for Varsity and Junior Varsity at school, got to travel to different countries with their school. I was the one who paid a fortune when our National team had a new jersey released.

I loved Sal and her family. Loved her Dad's passion for the game. I grew up with a Dad and two brother who were football fanatics. Highlight of the week used to be Saturday nights watching MOTD (Match of the Day).

This was like the best dream and the worst nightmare all wrapped into one beautiful package

I really feel I could wax lyrical about this book. I really don't know what it was about it that I loved... as soon as I started it, I did not want to stop. Heads up, its a long book.... but I never lost interest in it.

"I care about things," he said.
"Oh? Like what?"

Another little football story... USA 94. Yes, the USA did host the World Cup. Ireland qualified. My brother, who worked for American Airlines at the time won 2 airline ticket and 2 match tickets to Dallas to see Brazil versus the Netherlands. First class flights, five star hotel... flights from London to Dallas. Himself used to be a huge Netherlands fan when he was younger. He even had the jersey. My brother rang me to ask me if I wanted to go... I thought about it ... for 2 seconds ... then I asked him if Himself could go with him instead of me. Now is that not true love??? no wonder he is still married to me, after 23 years... I will hold that over his head, the fact that I gave up a ticket to Dallas so that he could go.

Ok, better shut up now. I will definitely be checking out more by this author. Whether you are football fan or not ... that's SOCCER to some of you ladies or gents ... I highly recommend this book. I think the title is a bit off-putting but that's just me.

Now, lets have one more last picture of KULTI (Xabi Alonso, the sexiest football player ever)

I will dedicate my review to Bill O'Heirlihy.... (Bill O'Herlihy (26 September 1938 – 25 May 2015) was an Irish television broadcaster and public relations executive. He was best known for his broadcasts for Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), mainly covering sporting events.) His funeral was today. I grew up with his commentating on all our major football achievements ... and losses.

Profile Image for  Teodora .
306 reviews1,644 followers
May 9, 2023
3.5/5 ⭐

Full review on my Blog: The Dacian She-Wolf 🐺

I – an occasional die-hard football fan who just discovered her passion for a good romantic comedy – to sleep on this?
Sis, not on my watch.

About Zapata I’ve heard a couple of times and I was not convinced that I would ever pick up one of her books. But this one begged to differ. Because I picked it up and I actually enjoyed it.


There is more of this book than its sports-related topic and the fact that it was supposed to be some romantic little story happening there. There are some issues exposed that some might not know of or care about. But on some level, I do.

I am not the biggest fan of this apotheosis when it comes to football players. I mean, it really takes hard work and talent and a lot of sacrifices to get there, of course, but isn’t that the case with all of the other sports? Not a single sport out there is easy to perform on a grand scale so why kicking the ball around is worth more money? And especially, why is it like this only for men?


(Keep in mind that I don't attack anyone here, I am just trying to understand how things work and I seem to think that rhetorical questions help me)

Women play football too. And damn well, I might add. So why is it that women are trashed like that, not taken seriously as real athletes and paid "enough" to force them to take another job to pay their taxes?

Well, this is one of the issues in this book and the story behind a woman who plays professional football – Sal Casillas – and this book’s Fußballgott, Sal’s idol, Reiner Kulti.

Also, it isn’t only about how poorly treated Sal is here, but it is also about what fame has to bring to someone like Kulti. It is not pretty either.

It is interesting to follow though, if you ask me.

Sal and Kulti’s relationship is actually really credible. Everything is taken step by step, the friendship is clearly outlined first and then, by the end, everything falls neatly into place. A bit too conveniently, a small cynical part of me wants to say. But it feels like a nice dream (that we all have at one point – you know, that wild dream that you almost not dare think about but secretly, deeply wish for) that just comes true. And to hell with all, I am a sucker for nice dreams that come true! Good people deserve their wishes answered, even if they are spoken only inside their hearts!

Sure, Sal is just too amazing for her own good and Kulti is a total cocky asshole – a bit too possessive – but they actually fit together so well I just can’t help but cheer for them. Zapata really made a neat job with those two.

Sure, there were certain aspects that bothered me a bit, one of them being that it took me too much to actually get into the storyline and another being the fact that sometimes everything happening felt a tiny bit too surreal.

But you know what made up for everything? Sal’s relationship with her dad. I mean, her dad is such a mood and he is amazing and I loved seeing a strong father-daughter relationship in a book. It is worth millions, I am telling you.


For my seventh contemporary romance novel in a month, this was mildly rom, mildly com, and thoroughly enjoyable. I am glad I picked it up!
Profile Image for Dr. Appu Sasidharan (Dasfill).
1,145 reviews2,183 followers
December 10, 2022

Mariana Zapata tells us the story of Reiner Kulti and Sal Casillas in this novel. Sal is a 27-year-old soccer player who gets her childhood icon, Kulti as her coach one day. She had some fangirl moments initially. She starts to dislike him after she understands more about his character. Later they will become good friends. Will their friendship turn into a romantic relationship? What will happen to Sal's career? Is Kulti an arrogant person as he appears to be? Zapata will give you answers to these questions through this book

What I learned from this book
1) How to perfectly use the romance tropes in a novel?
This is the first time I am reading a book by Mariana Zapata. I can easily say that she is a master at using multiple romance tropes in her novel. All these tropes gently blend together and make her work a unique creation. This unsurpassable quality will instantly make many readers fall in love with this book. I haven't seen many authors ideally using all these tropes together. If you are someone planning to write a romantic novel, you should use this book as a reference for how to use multiple tropes in your novel effectively. The various tropes used by the author in this novel are

1) Alpha hero trope.
2) Athlete hero trope.
3) Soulmates trope.
4) Forbidden love trope.
5) Friends to lovers trope.
6) May- December trope.
7) Forced proximity trope.
8) Destiny trope.

“Destiny is a ladder, a series of steps that takes you where you’re supposed to go.”

2) Why you should never give up on your dreams?
If you are facing constant setbacks in your life and are unable to achieve what you want, the author is telling you never to lose hope. She tells us the importance of getting out of our comfort zone and trying our best so that we won't regret it in the future.
“Life was about taking chances. Going for what you wanted so that you didn't get old and have pages of regrets. Sometimes you won and sometimes you lost, as much as I hated it."

“You don’t get to live your dreams by waiting around for someone to hand them to you.”

3) What is introverted courage?
Courage is not a monopoly of extroverts. Introverts also dare to come to the forefront when needed. Many famous world leaders like Gandhi, Obama, etc. were introverts. That didn't prevent them from achieving their goals. They showed the courage to face the spotlight and work hard to achieve their goals. We can see a similar situation when a person was an introvert but still successfully played in front of a large number of people in this novel.
"I could play in front of thousands of people, but the instant cameras got within ten feet of me, I just shut down. I was like the Ricky Bobby of the WPL."

My favourite three lines from this book
"People are going to judge you regardless of what you do, Sal. Don't listen to what they have to say because at the end of the day, you're the one that has to live with your choices and where they take you. No one else is going to live your life for you."

“When you have love, you find a way to make things work.”

“You know your reputation is just what everyone else thinks of you, your character is what you really are.”

What could have been better?
This novel is definitely a slow-burn romance. The problem is that it is more than 570 pages long, and some readers will feel bored as it takes some time for things to start happening. Multiple open-ended subplots further worsen the situation. It takes more than 400 pages for Kulti and Sal to get close enough to call it an actual romantic relationship. These all might test the patience of a few readers. Some might think it differently, though, as they will say that the author is taking her own time to make us get into the story with the help of multiple tropes and by mentioning every minute detail about the characters to make us more interested in them.

I wouldn't say I liked some of the remarks by the author against Germans in this book (even if her intention was to create humor and sarcasm from most of those remarks). Hitler and Germany indeed did one of the most terrible acts that humankind has seen during the Second World War. But that doesn't give the author the license to generalize it on all current Germans and treat them like they are all bad in a condescending manner. I have a few German friends who are the best human beings I have seen in my life.

I think Zapata is a huge lover of reindeer. I remember reading somewhere that reindeer's eye color changes from a golden hue to a deep blue as summer changes to winter, helping them to adapt to different light levels. Zapata similarly mentions Kulti's eyes. She gives it different Colors like hazel brown, green, and amber. I am a person who gives a lot of importance to continuity and consistency in literary creations. The author should have been a little more careful in this aspect.

When you are trying to use the athlete hero trope in your novel, you should ensure that you are getting the basics about the sport correct. Before writing this novel, the author should have done more research about soccer (football). She got some of the basic rules in the game wrong, which will irritate the Soccer fans reading this novel.

I have a hobby of reading the book while eating if I love that book and get engrossed in the reading experience. After a few pages, I started loving this book, and I was reading it while eating my dinner, and then this line came in the book in the least expected area.

“They pooped. They all pooped. Every single one of them.”

The above line might be ok if the author uses it a couple of times in the book. But here, Zapata uses it around a dozen times and overkills it to hinder our reading experience. I had to stop reading this book while eating after that.

If you are someone who hates the forbidden romance and May-December trope, there is a 50-50 chance that you will love or hate this book. The authors writing skills somehow save the novel from the wrath of haters of this trope to a certain extent.

All these negatives definitely hinder the reading experience to a certain extent for some of the readers. Still, I have to say the majority of the readers will be ok with it and will love reading this book which is the reason for its massive success.

4/5 This book will be a good choice if you are someone who loves to read romance novels. (I recommend you to read this outtake on Mariana Zapata's website after you finish reading this book https://www.marianazapata.com/kulti-o...)
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
841 reviews3,773 followers
February 15, 2021

Oh. My. So many lessons learnt reading Kulti.

Sociopaths have a soft spot for blinking. A lot. 34 times for Kulti to be exact, and 86 times total. Now that's a bit much, don't you think?

➋ For the first time ever, my eyes twitched at the recurrent use of the same words to name a character. Someone save me from The German. Like please. This is getting old.

There are such things as too-much vague adjectives to describe eyes. "Light-colored", "warm-colored" (whatever THAT means), just make a point already.

➍ No, Sal, you can't "[miss] the glance he took at [your] mouth. [Miss] the way he fisted his hand as he pried it off [your] shoulder". Because Hello, first POV narrative. You don't get to choose when you are omniscient.

➎ You can be attracted to a cardboard male-lead and yet be interesting on your own. Sal sure earns both of my two stars : she's strong, fierce, loyal to her family, and actually has girl friends.

➏ But I never liked Sal more than when she called The King Kulti on his shit. That girl has a spine. Kudos to her, really. I might have been cheering loudly at some parts (the bratwurst did it *smiles slowly*) She even managed to make me laugh with her banter (Kulti doesn't count, because really, the guy barely ever opens his mouth)

➐ As for the slut-shaming, I'll give Mariana Zapata the benefit of the doubt, because Sal did reprimand herself every time she let herself go all insulting in her head. I'm watching you, though.

Big. Girl. Socks. GAH. It was funny the first time, not too much the 17th.

➒ If Kulti was meant to make me interested in football players, what a fail it is. I have yet to meet a male-lead who compete with The German fucking blandness. Part asshole, part wild animal, part pot plant or something, Kulti sure didn't restore football players' image as far as I'm concerned. Trust me, I'm French. I know way too-much football players for my own good. Yep. I'm a generalizing jerk. Sue me. (nah, alright, some are pretty nice, and looking at The German, I feel a little pissed on their behalf)

Read it if you don't mind terrible writing, snail like pacing, almost no chemistry, and loads and loads of sport talk. I, for one, didn't care for the first, have yet to find the point of this, and enjoy football as the next person - hahaha who am I kidding? Have you freaking seen France's team? The guys went on strike for crying out loud *roll-eyes*. Actually, do you want to know a secret? I've been rooting for Germany for ten years.

Gah. Trust me, the irony is not lost on me.


"Tell me. Do you want my fingers in your warm pussy?"

Definitely not.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Candace.
1,176 reviews4,214 followers
February 7, 2017
Check out more of my reviews at www.bookaddicthaven.com

I've had this book sitting on my TBR for a long time. I had put off reading it for a few reasons, but the most notable reasons being that: 1) I am not a sports fan - at all- and I was worried I wouldn't enjoy it since this story was centered on two athletes; and 2) I was worried that I'd be disappointed after reading so many fantastic reviews for this book. Now that I've read it, I can say that neither of those concerns ended up coming to fruition.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and I thought that it was fabulous. I loved the humor and the wittiness of the heroine, Sal Casillas. Kulti was a real piece of work at times and I loved that Sal wasn't afraid to call him out on his assholery. (Yep! I'm making that a word.)

Sal and Kulti were a great pair. I spent a lot of time laughing my butt off at Sal's inner monologue. She was just so "human" that it was hard not to love her.

On the other hand, Reiner Kulti was an acquired taste. He was the polar opposite of the easy-going Sal. He was wound tight, closed-off and outright rude for most of this book. However, little by little, a softer side of him was revealed.

To say that this book was a slow-burn is putting it mildly. This story seemed to go on forever. I enjoyed it immensely, but I did think that it could have been trimmed down a little.

The only other thing that I would've changed was the ending. Don't get me wrong, I liked the way everything played out. I just wanted more. It took so long for Sal and Kulti to get their HEA and after all the time spent describing every detail of every game, I felt like more time should've been dedicated to them as a couple. After all, I waited long enough to get there.

Everything considered, I thought that this was a fantastic story. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all of my worries had been completely misplaced. I enjoyed every minute of this book. If you've been putting it off like I did, don't.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,203 reviews40.8k followers
August 7, 2022
Oh my goodness! This book is one of my all time favorite romances and in my opinion it’s still the best book the author has written!
Devouring Ted Lasso episodes reminded me of my love for soccer and I decided to reread this book for feeling so much better on my weekend!

Can you imagine a man you fell for when you were only thirteen, covering your bedroom walls, inside her school locker with photos of him, crying for days when you learned he got married!( even your father is the fan of the same man which makes things interesting)

Oh, I also mentioned you are 27, a member of very noisy, crowded but also good hearted family, an aspiring soccer star against your mother’s wishes, losing your chance to be in National Team because of your own fault and now the man of your dreams, your idol, your icon becomes your coach! Welcome to Sal Casillas’ world!

Is Sal’s life turns into a dream’s coming true or haunted nightmare by looking in the eyes of her long time crush? I think it’s the latter because: when she meets with Reiner Kulti, she realizes she’s not starstruck or happy for her longtime wish’s becoming true. Because the man she met is not the soccer star or the man she fell for when she was just a child: he’s reserved, cold, mean, troubled, broken: he’s shell of himself.

She helps him when he gets drunk by putting him in a cab, literally tucking him in his hotel bed, making sure he’s okay: but she gets threats instead of genuine thanks from him.

She stays patient: when he terrorizes her entire team, she just clenches her fists, gritting her teeth but she endures the torture. She thinks this is just a process. He must have hard time to adjust in his new life but when he dares to yell at her…. No freaking way, nobody can break her kind father’s heart!

Sal sees red and confronts with her coach even it means she’ll be out of the team…

But what if that troubled man also sees something in her. Not just something: he sees big potential and he wants to help her. What if your childhood idol not only turns into your best friend but also your lover: what if both of them can help each other to fix their own brokenness!

I love this book! Slow burn, emotional, smart, funny and it’s about soccer, family, second chances, self recovery, success, sacrifices, dreams!

I never get bored to reread a great book!
Profile Image for Jennifer Kyle.
2,378 reviews4,627 followers
August 9, 2021
4.5 Stars

”He was my coach. And I was his friend. Or something like that.”


Truth be told, I’m not a huge soccer fan but I played sports in my early years so reading about a professional female player is a total win for me. This sports theme book is centered around a full soccer season taking our heroine and her new coach through a slow building friendship to more.

Sal, our heroine is a professional soccer player who finds out that her team’s new assistant coach will be none other than Reiner Kulti. Kulti is a world famous retired German soccer star who Sal had been obsessed with as a young girl. Reiner Kulti was well written in his broody, rude clipped tone. I loved their interactions and rejoiced in the friendship and dreamed of their friendship heading into more.

”That was my first time using a lawn mower.'
I fucking knew it!! I didn't say that of course, instead I stuck with a very grown up, 'Oh really?”

Reiner was slow to reveal himself but his appreciation for Sal’s talent and the woman she is was worth the wait as the two come to the end of the season with strong feelings for one another.

”Hug me back,” the accented voice demanded from above.”

Overall, the writing, delivery and the humor were all very well done. The banter, those nicknames and Sal’s dad were also so very enjoyable. At times yes I have to admit the story was slow going for me but I held out hope that there was more behind this hot German superstar. In the end, he more than delivered in the love department and in the bedroom!

"You are my best friend, my love, my playmate and my teammate. You'll have a team with me wherever we are, with whatever we're playing."

Profile Image for Mysza.
476 reviews386 followers
June 12, 2015
"Every single thing that has ever happened in my life has led me here, Sal. Destiny is a ladder, a series of steps that takes you where you're supposed to go. I am the man that I am, and I have done the things that I've done, to get me to you."

The story is about twenty-seven-year-old Sal Casillas, who is a professional football (or soccer for some of you) player. Throughout her child and teenage years, she had a big crush on now retired German player - Reiner Kulti, he was the reason she started training football in the first place. Years went by and while growing up, she grew out of this infatuation. Now, she is playing for Houston Pipers and guess who took a position as a new assistant coach in her team? Kulti is a dick from the moment he starts working with the Pipers, but our Sal here won't take his shit calmly and quickly calls him on it. That's how their journey starts.

And be aware, the book is long and their journey is long but oh so worth it. And though long it is, I devoured it. The writing is excellent, flows naturally, you turn page by page and never get bored. It's a classic example of slow build up, but it is exactly what made this book magical for me. The tension, the anticipation, it worked so fine here. Sal and Kulti started as kind of enemies, went to friends and then naturally, when they were ready, became lovers.

I loved their banter and bickering. Kulti was very serious and grumpy most of the time but he also had a healthy dose of humor in him, and Sal was no worse.
"I'll be back.
Okay, Arnold.
He's Austrian, not German, you little shit."
"Trust me; I've had the urge to punch you in the face a time or five."
"Have I told you that you remind me of a splinter I can't remove? You're incredibly annoying."
"I was in love with this pumpernickel. God help me, I think I wanted to cry."
Sal was such a likeable heroine, she was sweet, sincere, helpful and generally a nice girl. She, as no one else, was able to get close to Kulti, gained his trust and made him open up more.
"I had a man I respected that respected me, and he didn't care if the world knew we meant something to each other. Our friendship hadn't been given to either of us, we had worked at it. On top of that, I felt something for him even if he was egoistical, arrogant, stubborn pain in the ass. He was my egoistical, arrogant, stubborn pain in the ass."
Kulti, well, he was a man of a few words, and I totally dig that brooding, grumpy kind of heroes. He never said much but once he opened his mouth, here's what came out. Don't you just get swooned on the spot?
"My schnecke. My little snail, do you know that's what it means? It's a term of affection in my country. My love. My snail. I don't want to waste more time. I have nothing to hide and neither do you."
"I've been waiting, and I will keep on waiting until the time is right. You are my equal, my partner, my teammate, my best friend. I've done so many stupid things that you've made me regret - things I hope you will forgive me for and look beyond - but this, waiting a little longer for the love of my life, I can do.
You are the most honest, warm, loving person I know. Your loyalty and friendship amazes me every day. I have never wanted anything more in my life than I want your love, and I don't want to share that with anyone. I haven't done a single thing in my life to deserve you, schnecke, but I will never give up on you, and I won't let you give up on me."
And I loved the names she called him. I have Germany right across the border, been a few times, know the language a bit and I think her nicknames were so darn cute. Just a few...the human Berlin Wall, sauerkraut, German bratwurst, Chocolate Cake, Goddamn frankfurter, German tank, pumpernickel, pretzel face... Kulti didn't stay indebted for long and came up with Taco for her.

And if you read for the nookie than you might be disappointed, because there is almost none, almost... but those two scenes that were here, were effin hot! And the whole anticipation thing was so wonderful that it easily made up for lack of too much sex. And you know what? I didn't care, cause when the book is as good as this one you will get by without it.

Well, to sum up, I would give it perfect ten stars if I could.

And in the end, I just want to say this is why I love GR and my friends here, because I would have probably not read this book if not for Mo and Didi. I've had my sight on it for a long time but never got to it. If I didn't see their updates and reviews, I would probably never read it. So big shout out to you girls, thanks for updates:)

Guest reviewer at
Profile Image for  A. .
1,161 reviews4,169 followers
August 3, 2020
4 Stars

Boy this was....

Long. Really, really looooong. And slooooooow.

I'm not going to lie. I was struggling in the beginning until I reached the 30% mark and then finally, finally the story caught my interested.

And I liked it. I liked it A LOT. Because, let me quote from the book: "What a fucking douche-bag!"

He's perfect.

It's amazing how realistically the author portrays the slow development of their love and relationship. It’s also amazing how she managed to use almost every possible element so popular in the contemporary romance genre today and create a perfect enemies-turn-friends-turn-lovers coach-player forbidden loved-you-from-afar-since-childhood age-gap sports romance featuring a strong heroine and a silent, broody, jerk hero without being over the top or too cliché.

If you’re a fan of slow burn character-driven romances I highly recommend this book.


Enjoyment:: 4/5
Writing style: 4/5
Storyline: 4/5
Hero: 4.5/5
Heroine: 3.5/5
Secondary characters: 4/5
Hotness/chemistry: 4/5
Romance: 5/5
Angst: 3/5
Darkness level: 1/5
Humor: 3/5
Depth of the book: 5/5
POV: heroine, 1st person

Profile Image for Didi.
865 reviews288 followers
May 31, 2015
10+++++ STARS!!!!!

I haven't read a book in awhile that has left me so affected, so happy, so...GAH! I LOVED IT, LOVED IT, LOVED IT. I'm feeling particularly confused right now because I want to say so much but I don't know how! So to save time and space, I'll point out what I loved, adored, gobbled up so much:

1. SOCCER, SOCCER, SOCCER. Love that sport. The World Cup? It's a Holiday at my house where everything can wait until 'The Game' is over. Many books are soccer related, right? Sure, but not like this. This felt like I was in the game, it was realistic and amazingly, details of the sport were sporadically blended in and never took over the incredible, romantic storyline.

2. The older man/younger woman. Sure, it's also quite common, but a girl who's looked up to and admired a renowned and iconic soccer superstar, then to have said star become her best friend and slowly so much, much more? FANTASTICAL. I loved it. I can't even...

3. The slow, molasses worthy, pack a lunch, SLOW build up. I'll be honest, if you want the bang, bang, thank you ma'am, you ain't gonna get it here. This was a great example of using patience as a virtue. But damn, does it deliver in spades when they get together. The beauty is, the sexual tension and nuances of Kulti's and Sal's fantastic relationship was enough, it was beautiful, amazing, phenomenal and had my heart melting over and over...and that was when they were friends! When they got together? The steam, although not long was TO DIE FOR. The epilogue had me in tears, blissed out tears.

4. The writing...exquisite. I could not put this down, and this baby was long! But incredibly, when I finished I wanted to cry because I wanted more!

5. Sal. I like, not love most of the heroines I read about, but this awesome, kick-ass chick was amazing. I loved Sal as much as I loved Kulti and he was THE MAN. Sal was everything I've ever striven to be. She was the best person I wish I knew. And Kutli? Rough around the edges, yes, but a diamond underneath...sigh.

If I'm building this up then sorry if you'll be disappointed. But sometimes a book just jives with you and affects you in a way that's difficult to put in words. I dreamt about this book when I wasn't reading it, okay? I squeezed in time just to read a damn page! It never dragged, never wallowed and never let me down. I can't say enough. Just remember the love between these two is slow to deliver though you see it in all they do, all the time. The relationship Sal had with her dad was exemplary, touching and pulled at my heartstrings. If I could eat this book I would, I know I sound crazy. But seriously, the BEST I've read all year, possibly in the last two years. YES, THAT GOOD.

I'm checking out everything this author has written, up to and including any pamphlets she may have penned in her early writing career. This was funny, laugh out loud hilarious! Quoting what Sal called Kulti would look weird out of context ( eg. A German Bratwurst ), but I had to stop and catch my breath a few times! It was engaging, that word created alone for how this book kept me hooked, and incredibly romantic. I can't say enough but I'll stop here because I'm gonna start repeating myself, so yeah...FREAKING LOVED IT to the moon and back!!
Profile Image for Bibi.
1,282 reviews3,263 followers
July 31, 2021
The Wall of Winnipeg and Me was my first book by Mariana and after reading Kulti, I am now convinced the author is the queen of slow-burn romance but not entirely in a good way.

As with TWOWAM, this book also has a brooding H who basically broods for no apparent reason. Nothing wrong with the strong silent type but jeez Louise, must they also be douche-bags? Further, the MCs in both books were just annoying and had zero character development and I honestly couldn't care less about Sal, the h in Kulti, who has to be the most insipid, Milquetoast female character ever.

How could she have been so physically strong yet have such low self-esteem? Her whole being was a statement in incongruity. I really disliked the way she never ever rocked the boat but just accepted crap treatment from every and anyone. ARRRRRGGGGHHHH!

Gosh I am conflicted and have developed unreserved antipathy towards the author's style of zero emotions/kissing/sex (until the 90% mark) and to be honest, I'm not sure Kulti and Sal deserve their HEA.

In a nutshell, I felt the story was predictable, had too much soccer-speak (IMO) and for a book of 570 pages, I think only 200 pages or so are relevant. My chest burns.
Profile Image for Tessa Bailey.
Author 93 books40.5k followers
August 22, 2016
New favorite author. Hands down. I'm sure I can't say anything original here, because everyone loves this book, but I have to TRY. Because this book made me feel so many things. It was stellar.

One. Zapata's ability to really, honestly make me believe the heroine has no idea the hero would literally perish at her feet for a single touch...it's mind-blowing. And very difficult to pull off, especially when her heroines are so damn smart and emotionally mature. It makes the moment where they admit their feelings CRAZY amazing. Like, fireworks during a grand slam amazing.

Two. In both this book and The Wall of Winnipeg and Me, the hero and heroine make each other better people. Authentically, beautifully better. It happens over an extended period of time and each rung in the ladder to being their better selves is SO SATISFYING. Because they SHARE it. And it's balanced between the two characters.

Three. I love heroines. I especially love them when they're loyal as hell. When I can depend on the heroine to act out of loyalty (whether to herself, a friend, family member or the hero) no matter what happens, I'm that author's fan for life.

Go click this book STAT.
Profile Image for G.
459 reviews129 followers
December 26, 2022
Profile Image for Sophia Triad.
2,239 reviews3,456 followers
February 27, 2018
This book goes straight to the shelf with my favorite books because it combines three of the things that I value most in life:
2. TRUE LOVE and

First of all, I love football. Or soccer, as it is called on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. I think that it is the bestest sport that has been created on the face of Earth.
And you may think that I will tell you now a heartbreaking story about my childhood, how I used to go to the stadium and watch my favorite team kick ass every Sunday. The truth is that I went to watch my first football game when I was much much older. And it was unbelievable great! You see, my father believed that girls are not supposed to go and watch football matches. So, thank God for television…

On the other hand, although I was thirsty to watch my favorite team or the national team doing great in Europe, I had one disappointment after the other. Obviously Greece could not play good football internationally. I should have loved basketball more… Oh, well…
And not let me start about women’s football.

UEFA Euro 2004. Greece is the European Champion against all odds. Thank you, thank you, thank you Otto Rehhagel. Otto was the best coach my national team ever had.
So you may understand now why I adore and respect German football coaches – even Reiner Kulti, in our case, who (let’s face it) he may have been an excellent footballer…

He ran, and ran, and ran and by some miracle avoided every opposing player that went after him. He scored the most beautiful, ruthless goal in the top right corner of the net. The ball seemed to sail through the air with a one-way ticket to the record books.
My dad screamed. Eric yelled. The freaking stadium and the announcers lost it. This guy who had never played on such a platform had done what no one expected of him.

…but he was not a good enough coach. I am sure Sal Casillas, the best footballer in Pipers, can tell you all about it.

Sal and Kulti (aka Taco and German Chocolate Cake) will firstly be trainee and trainer, then friend and best friend and then the miracle will happen.

“This is what matters. You are my gift, my second chance, and I will cherish you and your dream. I will protect both of you.
I’ve been waiting, and I will keep on waiting until the time is right. You are my equal, my partner, my teammate, my best friend. I’ve done so many stupid things that you’ve made me regret—things I hope you will forgive me for and look beyond— but this, waiting a little longer for the love of my life, I can do.”

Between angst, family moments, hard training, commitment and passion, bad choices, careers that are ready to fly or to be destroyed; Kulti will manage to squeeze his life into Sal’s life. Not that Sal was not ready to love him. She was in love with him since before she knew what love it.

But of course whatever was meant to be, it will always find a way.

“Every single thing that has ever happened in my life has led me here, Sal. Destiny is a ladder, a series of steps that takes you where you’re supposed to go. I am the man that I am, and I have done the things that I’ve done, to get me to you.”

I don’t think I want to say much about the story. I only want to emphasize that it is a sloooow-burn romance as most of Mariana Zapata’s books.
I never thought I would find a guy that talks less that Aiden Graves (The Wall of Winnipeg and Me) actually.

Anyway, enjoy the book!!!
Profile Image for EmBibliophile.
499 reviews1,147 followers
May 22, 2023
Re-read #2 (5/21/2023) 4.5 ‘Schnecke’ stars

When I brought the book out to read it, my sister saw it and she was like “what? is that a huge 500+ pages book?? Do you know what is it about??” And I’m like yeah…it’s actually a reread. She was like “something is seriously wrong with you.”

Also, her father being her no 1 fan was the most adorable thing ever!!

4.5 stars

But it wasn’t like I could or would think about that too much. He was my coach. And I was his friend. Or something like that.

This is the slowest slow burn romance in the history of slow burn romances!!

This was a HUGE book, but you know what? I wouldn’t have minded a few more chapters. It was so freakin enjoyable!! I could’ve kept on reading about those two forever.

”Trust me; I've had the urge to punch you in the face a time or five."

Kulti has been Sal’s hero when she was a child. She grew up worshipping him. Now he’s her coach, but he’s nothing like the man she though he was. Sal is a professional soccer player who has goal to achieve and dreams to reach. Her character is perfect and inspiring! I loved her so much! Reiner Kulti is such a German chocolate cake. He’s broody and kinda rude. Put this two together and you get a perfect story.

”Every single thing that has ever happened in my life has led me here, Sal. Destiny is a ladder, a series of steps that takes you where you're supposed to go. I am the man that I am, and I have done the things that I've done, to get me to you."

I’ve reached the point where I’ve lost hope that anything is going to happen between this two! But it was all worth it in the end. This book was so perfect. I loved the cute banters and those cute nicknames!! Loved Sal’s unapologetic fierce character. Kulti and Sal’s relationship and how it turned from hate to cute friendship to a beautiful heartwarming romance. I loved Sal’s relation with her family, specially her father. It also has such a great supportive friendship. I loved how the book was full of details but there was never a dull moment. I didn’t feel bored at all. This is a book that will put a stupid smile on your face. I really loved it.

”You are my best friend, my love, my playmate and my teammate. You’ll have a team with me wherever we are, with whatever we’re playing.”
Profile Image for Phuong ✯.
617 reviews5,144 followers
July 11, 2020
4.25 stars

When one door closes, another one opens. I might just have to do a little breaking and entering to get the right one for me.

I don't even know how to start this review. So just let's start with the German representation or better how Americans see Germans. I have really mixed feelings about it tbh. The Hero of this book is called Kulti, Rey is also acceptable, but in this house we do not claim the name Reiner EVER. EVER. EVER! There are literally hundreds of German names and Mariana has to choose the ugliest one why?

Kulti is a famous German football player (the sports where you kick a ball around with your feet) who starts to coach for the club Sal is playing for. Every time Sal starts to call Kulti "Bratwurst", "Sauerkraut" or "Pretzel face" it was hilarious. No matter in which situation, whenever she would call him Bratwurst in her head, I laughed so hard, I was afraid to damaged some organs. It's so random, I don't think any German would use that as an insult. It's one of these cases where "it's freaking stupid, that it's funny".

But then we have Sal telling that people would call Kulti "Führer" when they hate him. My first reaction when reading that was shock. Hitler is such a sensitive topic in German history that I would NEVER NEVER NEVER in my life think of calling someone like that. I don't know, but I feel like only ignorant people who don't know German history would say that. So when Sal had to remind herself not to call Kulti that, I was like "eh that's not so cool…i don't really like this". Maybe I'm just oversensitive cuz that part of history is so integrated in my brain, I conducted an experience and asked some people how they would react if someone would call them "Führer" to their face and it's too good not to share with you.

Respondent 1: 😮😮😮😮😮 what the fuck?
Me: That's not really an answer tho
Respondent 1: I don't know, I would probably be too shocked to react.

Respondent 2: ….
Respondent 2: Why do I feel like only non-germans would use that as an insult?
Respondent 2: You know I'm right
Me: Let me guess, these people think all we eat is Bratwurst and Sauerkraut …
Me: ….
Me: uhm …. Are you a mindreader?
Respondent 2: Tell them we don't drink beer for breakfast
Me: that wasn't even the question wth

Respondent 3: I'd punch that asshole in the face.

Respondent 4: Are you reading a book about Hitler?
Me: No, it's actually a romance book where the heroine has to remind herself to not call the Hero who is German that
Respondent 4: *shakes his head and walks away*

I cannot speak for everyone, but you won't make any german friends anytime soon if you think that's an valid insult to call them.

So that part made me lowkey uncomfortable, but I can mostly overlook it because it was only mentioned a couple of times at the beginning when Kulti was really pissing Sal off.

“I’ve been waiting, and I will keep on waiting until the time is right. You are my equal, my partner, my teammate, my best friend. I’ve done so many stupid things that you’ve made me regret—things I hope you will forgive me for and look beyond— but this, waiting a little longer for the love of my life, I can do."

Like all the other MZ books, the development between Sal and Kulti is really really slow. It takes a good while until these two even interact with each other for the first time. It's working for MZ books, so why even change a running system?


I adore the big german bratwurst. He proves time and time again that he cares for Sal by getting gifts for her father, coming to Sal's football camps with the kids, getting shoes for the kids at camp, standing up for her in front of the asshole manager etc. When he said that he kept Sal's letter to him in his house in Germany, omg my heart. Kulti always taking the letter with him whenever he goes and Sal playing football because Kulti inspired her as a player. THAT'S ON SOULMATISM! And please, that additional epilogue on MZ website … Salkulti with their kids is so cute! 🥺

“I care about things,” he argued.
“Oh? Like what?”
“Winning.” I bit my lip to keep from laughing.
“My fish.”
His fish. Jesus Christ.

Kulti is a freaking comedian! I see a clear pattern in MZ heroes. They're cold, broody, don't care about anything besides their animal and being best at the sport they do. These are actually the kind of heroes that work best for me. If I have to read slowburn extreme like the ones Mariana Zapata writes, then at least I want to see some change in H's behaviour over time.

Another thing Miss Zapata excels at is writing family dynamics! I love how she writes the different family relationships. In this book especially Sal and her father. Her father is freaking adorable. I love how supportive he is of her career. How he is the #1 Kulti fan and can't speak when Kulti is around. He is the best and needs to be protected.

Even though this book was still a bit too slowburn for my taste, I have learn to appreciate these books more and more with every year. It's a great book and I can see why everyone loves it.

Profile Image for Mira☁️.
48 reviews160 followers
July 20, 2021

'This is what matters. You are my gift, my second chance, and I will cherish you and your dream. I will protect both of you'
I’m now convinced that Mariana Zapata writes the best slow burn ever and the slowest slow burn but It’s so worth it at the end. I loved this book so much, I think this book took the same spot as wait for me this is how much I loved this book.

I love Sal so much, she workes so hard to get to her position and she works other jobs too. She never depends on anyone and she’s kind and hopeful. Sal’s character is so caring and loving even at the begging with the rude players and kulti, I loved that about her. I thought Dallas from wait for it is grumpy but oh boy Kulti is the definition of a grumpy character. In the beginning, he is rude and so grumpy but slowly he became one of my favorite book boyfriends. I loved him so much and how he cares for Sal in his ways.

Sal and Kulti relationship is such a roller coaster and such a beautiful one at the same time. I loved how they slowly opened up to one another and cared for each other so much. and there are those little moments between them that make my heart melt.

Sal relationship with her father is so beautiful I loved them so much and her father and Kulti is the cutest thing ever. This book also discusses how the female players are treated differently and how their treatment is unfair.

this one romance was slower than wait for me but there’s not a single part where I got bored with the book I couldn’t stop reading and it was so worth the wait. I can’t wait to read her other books, Mariana Zapata is becoming one of my favorite authors♥️.
Profile Image for Wendy'sThoughts.
2,652 reviews3,235 followers
September 24, 2022
5 Schnecke Stars
* * * * * and any other you may want to personally add! Spoiler Free-A 2015 Review
I have started this review a few times since reading; had a review halfway done and then in editing lost it- What else is new- you have all heard it before... The next time I sat and just thought about all of the amazing feelings and memories this book brought home to me.

Before I go into my personal review, please take a moment to read the reviews which brought me to this amazing reading experience. The following reviews en-capsule all of the feelings and intensity of emotions one can feel after reading this. These reviews by Mo and Didi started my desire to read Kulti.

Here is Mo's Review:
Here is Didi's Review:

In talking about this book, as I mentioned before posting today, it is the type of book you will either throw yourself into or not...It is not the usual romance of love/hate and then boom they look at each other and HEA lust etc... There is so much to this because it is surrounded by a story that highlights so much about women's lives in Sport; Sport itself or anything you dedicated your whole life to achieve. It is all of this focus, determination, understanding of what is important, and finally, learning to stand up and look out for the one who is the most important in these types of pursuits... the person who is doing all of this... You.

These types of ideas and themes cannot be told in a vacuum...and Mariana Zapata created this story as if it were made out of 100 layers of filo dough for the finest, sweet yet tart pastry ever.

Our main gal, Sal, is part of an amazing family in so many ways. It has the warmth, history, and understanding of not being perfect but unique; unique in the ways sports families are- supportive, understanding of what is needed to have the children excel, and willing to sacrifice in order for the talent to grow. The father is a Football/Futbol/Soccer fan; her older brother showed talent early and was on his way when Sal at six started to become interested, too. The mother wished for other sports for her first daughter making her take karate and swimming as part of the deal to do Soccer. Yet Soccer was the passion and language which bonded Sal to her father the most...laying a foundation that became so strong... they were equally best friends as well as father and daughter as they both matured over the years.

We learn of the turning point for Sal which will guide her throughout her life and career. It was the Atus Cup Semi-Final between Spain and Germany. This match happens every three years and is the most-watched event in the world. It looks as if Germany has no chance to come back and win. The family is watching on their TV and outcomes one of the last players allowed for Germany. He is this lanky, teenage man/child who approaches the field with no fear or apprehension, no concern of never playing at this International level in such a crucial game before... No... he came to win his body and attitude said.....and he did. He played like he was unbeatable; ruthless and in the end performed like no other.

In those moments of joy in her family's home, Sal saw what all that could mean and feel like... to cause strangers to be united in Joy and Spirit...

It showed her that anything was possible...
That you could do what no one believed you could do...

Seven-year-old Sal had her epiphany and from that moment on she knew 2 things:

She was going to make others feel the same way one day because Soccer was going to be what she was going to do...


Reiner Kulti and her were going to marry and have wonderful Soccer loving babies together.

Well, part of her dream was in the making; at 27, Sal was playing for the Houston Pipers and had been instrumental in the team's championship-winning season... They put her front and center in the mural on the wall of the entrance. She had been with the team going on 4 years now and was regarded well by her teammates and coach. She had learned patience and understanding from her father's lessons of "pulling up her big girl socks" and to attack the things she feared... to make herself do them even through the fear. In other words, she was a remarkable woman.

She had lived through all the years of training; pushing herself when others would relax. She knew what she wanted and did not let others dictate how she saw herself. She was comfortable with her strong and able body; she knew her routine of running every morning 5 miles put her ahead in the training bank... making her the fastest and best on the field. She put up with her mother's wanting her to be someone she wasn't when the comments came of her putting on a little makeup or dress would be a way for her to "find" someone. She knew her mother meant no harm... it was just her way. She even allowed her baby sister to ignore her at times...understanding she felt left out by her dislike of all sports.

She also had the ability to try to let go of all the political and personal hurts she had experienced over the years. It was part of the journey, but they hurt and under minded more than the physical pain. She had worked through the most recent disappointment of not being on the National Team due to no fault of her own....just being a pawn in circumstances not of her choosing.

So as she listens to her coach tell her she is needed to be part of a press conference (something which makes her suffer from such intense stage fright she has shakes, nausea, and a mouth that acts on its own), she only hears him say, "and Reiner Kulti is going to be the new assistant coach, so that is why the press."

Noooooooooooooo...As the rest of the words are sounding like Waaa Waaa from the Charlie Brown cartoon, all Sal can think about is this cannot be happening.

Her 13-year-old self was heartbroken when Kulti, Soccer Icon, married an actress/model. It hurt and was something that took quite some time to get over even though the marriage ended months after. He then almost destroyed her brother's career during a game. How was she going to handle being in the same room, let alone having to talk and work with him...

After a disastrous press conference with the only saving grace being that Kulti was a no-show, Sal knows she has to buckle down and figure out how to deal with this situation. She talks with her dad, who idolizes Kulti even after what he did to her brother. He guides her to understand these things happen in sports and to just move on. He gives her encouragement as always in his way they have with each other and she is better.

Side Note- The relationship she has with her father is one of the most heartwarming in my reading experience. Through all of Sal's interactions with him, they reminded me of mine with my Dad. My Dad was a force; he had this ability to talk with anyone and have them feel he was sincerely interested. I have memories after memories of times when we would experience things never anticipated because of his curiosity and willingness to engage. The way Sal's father talks and shares with her brings all of that back.

The other thing which Sal decides to use is the age-old trick of thinking of something universal to all humans no matter the talent or icon status:

Poop...yes, that wonderful method to bring all people down to the level they need to be on...We all do it... so by that reasoning...no one is more special than any other...It is a tool she uses to allow her to be on the same field and not make a fool of herself...

Now to the idea of Reiner Kulti- this is a man who is in a situation of his making but not because he wishes to be there. He has regrets and now he is here as an assistant coach for an American Women's Soccer team. He could be with any other team on any other continent. He is a man of few words, documented with a terrible temper, and one of the most talented players ever. He is hiding secrets and Sal senses there is more to all of this.

So the setup of our gal having her obsession for so many years be her assistant coach and how she handles it is the major part. We see the interaction between the two of them... her having to help him out of a sticky situation, to begin with...then it continues when she confronts his rudeness to her father during a fan event. It is a turning point for Kulti and then the level of contact between them changes- they become careful friends.

There is more, though. We see how Sal must battle jealousy, unmerited gossip, and the pain of being an athlete. She is focused and easy in her life having her family as a support system with two close teammates as personal friends and her business partner.

We see how women who work just as hard in Sports are not nearly as compensated or respected as their counterparts. How most, unless having the means, need outside jobs in order to support themselves.

What we experience overall is the growth of a Stubborn German to become more humane and his critical influence in instilling more confidence and performance in Sal. There is so much more but I shall allow you to discover it.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful humor woven seamlessly in every scene. The banter and cutting wit of Sal is perfection. One of the delights was hearing all the names she calls this man, in her head as well as out loud to his face.

So to sum up my love of this book- take it as it is given...it tells the true story of Professional Sport in America for Women; gives insight into the type of drive needed to succeed in Sport as well as any pursuit; there is romance and allows us to experience that anything is possible...

Before Review but After Reading
What is important about this book are the feelings you may have ... if you allow yourself to feel them.

This is not a quick ramp-up to romance... this is entirely different and some may love it and others may feel it is not their cuppa- but for me...

It brought so many memories and feelings to the surface... it just worked.

I need to edit my thoughts with this one... because if I don't the review will go on and on :D :D

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Profile Image for Wendys Wycked Words.
1,557 reviews3,815 followers
December 22, 2019
Re-read again still absolutely love the shit out of this book and I still have a major girl crush going on ;)

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I can honestly say that this book has been the best I've read this year so far !! It was absolutely awesome. It's hard for me to explain why I loved it so much. Maybe it was the great writing style. It could also be, because of the amazing characters. I loved Sal and Kulti, but I also really Sal's father and her friends. The character build was really good.

One of the other reasons I loved this book is : SOCCER. I am from the Netherlands, and we are all about soccer. It was really refreshing for me, to finally read a book about a sport that I know really well !!

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I wasn't bored for a second and that is impressing because this book is pretty long !!

It also made me pee my pants laughing....damn the heroine, she was so freaking funny :)) She is definitely one of my all-time favorite heroines. I absolutely adored Salome !! I wanted to be her new best friend...I might have a huge girl crush going on :P

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So what is it about...

It's about a girl who grew up to be a professional soccer player. Her brother is also a professional player and her dad is her biggest fan. She grew up watching Reiner Kulti (a famous German player) on tv and decided she wanted to be him...and marry him. Of course reality got in the way of her dreams because when she was 17, he married someone else. He was 13 years older and she had never met him in person, but it still broke her 17-year-old delusional heart :(

“It was the worst non-break-up ever in the history of imaginary relationships with a man who didn't even know I existed.” 

“You get one free pass.” – Scandal Gif-Cap

Still, she focused on playing and being the best...which isn't as easy being a girl, playing a sport mostly played by men. She is a very nice girl, she has a nice set of balls on the field, but she is still very much a good girl.

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When she is 27, her coach lets her know that they've hired a new assistant coach..... non-other than Reiner Kulti. At that time, Sal doesn't know how she feels about this. Her 17-year-old heart is still broken and pissed, but she is also angry at him because of a soccer incident that happened between him and her brother. On the other hand, he has always been her idol and her reason for playing soccer in the first place. Also, her dad absolutely idolizes Kulti.

So she sucks up all her negative feelings and decides to just go with it. She would love to learn something from the best. Turns out the best is a freaking asshole !! He made more than one mistake and Sal finally has enough and can't take any more of his shit. She blows...which ironically is the start of an amazing friendship :))

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I'm not gonna say anymore, just that I loved every page of this one. This Bratwurst and Taco were great together. The banter between them had me in stitches.

Now I will say, don't go into this one thinking it will be all romance and steam.....To be honest, the steam takes a very very long time...For me, someone who absolutely loves steam, it wasn't a problem. Which says a lot :) The way their relationship grew and how they became friends and finally more than friends was absolutely swoon-worthy to me

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“You are my equal, my partner, my teammate, my best friend.”

I am sure I will read this book many many times over. It was that freaking awesome! This one definitely goes in my "all-time" top 10 of mf books.

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I would love to give it 10 stars...but I can only give 5, so that's what it will be !!
Profile Image for ♥ℂĦℝΪՖƬΪℕÅ.
230 reviews3,933 followers
July 12, 2019
3 German Chocolate Cake ★'s

“You are the most honest, good thing that I've ever had. I won't deny it to anyone.”

My Sal & Rey❤

“You are my equal, my partner, my teammate, my best friend.”

This is my very first Marinna Zapata book. There are so many amazing reviews for this book, I was really excited to dive in, but it kinda left me drowning. I didn't HATE it, not at all, but I can't say I love it either. It was ridiculously freaking long (like 16 hours and 13 minutes to be exact) especially when 65% of the book nothing really happens. Seriously Zapata could have easily cut half the book out and it would have made all the difference. Plus it really could have used more editing. Kulti is a slow burn romance and when I say "slow burn" I mean it was a Sloooowwww burn romance if you can even call any of what happened romance. There was also far too much soccer-speak for my liking.

“This is what matters. You are my gift, my second chance, and I will cherish you and your dream. I will protect both of you.”

Some of the things that really drove me crazy are the overabundance of using the same words over and over again. There were pages upon pages of the word "poop" and a tone of food names. It was a little funny at first but honestly, it was annoyingly excessive.

To name a few:
•Poop •The German •Brautwurst •Saurkraut •German Chocolate Cake •Pumpernickel •Reindeer •German dingle-berry •German Tank • Berlin •Rey •Taco •Schnecke❤ (and so many more).

“You don’t get to live your dreams by waiting around for someone to hand them to you.”

My favorite character in this entire book would absolutely have to be Sal's father. He was such a loving, hilarious and really such an incredible character. None of the other family members stood out, they just faded into the background because really Sal's father was the light in the midst of dull moments for me!

Sal is the kickass main female character. I did like her for the most part. I love the way she stood up for what she believes in and the way she defends the people she loves. But she also came across really immature for being a 27 year old and it was really annoying/childish that every time she found herself checking Kulti out she literally thought of poop or him pooping. It was... Weird. Disgusting. and to be frank it was absurd.

As for the main male character, Kulti was a complete and utter ASSHOLE! He was self-important, rude to everyone, self-indulgent, brooding, quiet, emotionally unstable and an all-around douchebag. But hey apparently it's cool because he's like super HOT and the "King" of soccer. Yadda yadda yadda. I also felt that he has the least character development throughout. So yeah I didn't really care for him. At all, if I'm being honest.

As for their so-called connection. I just didn't get it nor did they truly have that great of chemistry. But maybe I missed it with all the repetition and me not caring for the hero. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Another thing I'd like to mention is my disappointment that Sal's brother Eric NEVER makes an appearance. Yet apparently they are super close and talk to each other ALL THE TIME. But nope. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Ziltch.

If I look past all of the things that bugged me about this book, I can say it was okay. I did enjoy the second half of the story. Still didn't love it (obviously) but it did have some good parts.

“You are the least shameful thing in my life.”

Would I recommend this book? No probably not. Then again I know a lot of people love the shit outta it. So...maybe?

Do I intend on reading another book by this author? Hmm. I'm not totally sure. Perhaps in the future. I don't wanna write her off just get.

*I should mention that Callie Dalton (The Narrator) did a fantastic job!!! If your planning on reading this I definitely recommend the audiobook version.*

You’re supposed to protect what you love, Sal. You taught me that. I didn’t wake up one day and know I didn’t want to live without your horrible temper. I saw so much of me in you at first, but you aren’t like me at all. You’re you, and I will go to my grave before I let anyone change any part of you. I know that without a doubt in my mind. This,” he pointed between us. “This is what matters.”

“You are my best friend, my love, my playmate and my teammate. You’ll have a team with me wherever we are, with whatever we are playing.”
Profile Image for Flo.
286 reviews593 followers
February 6, 2016
5 **Fußball** STARS

“He was my coach. And I was his friend. Or something like that.”

What a fantastic read. A phenomenally written friends to lovers story surrounding a female soccer player and her new coach - a retired professional player, an icon and he is German. If you don't know, that happens to be my nationality and we like our football. So it was a foregone conclusion that I would love this just because of the premise alone. Add to that a brilliantly developed friendship, top notch bickering and fighting and a once in a lifetime love story. I was a gonner.

“Every single thing that has ever happened in my life has led me here, Sal. Destiny is a ladder, a series of steps that takes you where you’re supposed to go. I am the man that I am, and I have done the things that I’ve done, to get me to you.”

A little more about the story. Twenty-seven year old Sal Casillas always had a crush on now thirty-nine year old Reiner Kulti, her icon and the player and man who made her want to be the athlete she is today. The childhood crush is long gone, but he is still someone she holds dear to her heart. Imagine the surprise when he comes to Houston to be the new assistant coach.

They say, you never should meet your idols, right? Well, it turns out Kulti is a grumpy and silent guy, with a boatload of issues, who couldn't care less about his surroundings, or even teaching the girls anything. Really a disappointment and it doesn't take long for the strong willed Sal to clash with the man of her past dreams. You could say it is an enemy - to friends - to lovers story.

If nothing else Kulti is a slow burn. For everyone who hates insta-love, this might be just the book. A realistically developed relationship with a lot of ups and downs. A very detailed look into the world of women's soccer and the politics behind it. Enjoyable, addictive and heartwarming.

If you are interested to know, the author didn't butcher my mother tongue. She didn't use German all that much, but a lot of endearments and the odd phrase here and there was right on point. I really appreciate actual research when using another language. ;)

And just because...here is a fun fact. Superbowl 2014 - 111.5 Mio viewers. Viewers of the final match of the ‘soccer’ World Cup in 2010 - 909.6 Mio. You tell me which one is the real football. Just sayin'.

Profile Image for Hulya Kara Yuksel.
906 reviews1,082 followers
May 3, 2019
Edit: If you've read the book, pls check this cute bonus epilogue! Sal & Reiner Kulti are sooooo funny together. <3

Ps. Renégade and İlkim, thank you so much ladies for sharing it with me! I didn't have no idea if there was a bonus epilogue. Thank you for letting me know. Thank you! <3


OMG I'm mentally kicking myself for not reading this book sooner. I FLOVED it! <3
And I dare to say it's one of the best books that I've ever read... Yup, it was that good... :)

Ms.Zapata, you have a new fan! I'm gonna devour your other books ASAP! :D

“You’re a better person than I am, and I haven’t loved anything the way that I love you, schnecke. I would say we’re tied,” he argued. His smile was gentle, his skin bright and flushed. “I’ve been waiting every day of my life for you. Your honesty, your loyalty,” he punctuated each of my traits with a kiss to a different part of my face that had me grinning like a freaking fool.
“Your competitiveness, your fierceness, your kindness and this body… I would do anything for you. Lie, cheat and steal. There is nothing I wouldn’t do. Understand?”

Profile Image for D.L. Howe.
Author 13 books376 followers
August 12, 2021
Pull your big girl socks up and get ready for a fun ride!

This one sucked me in from the get go! Sal is hilarious, if she’s not careful she’ll find her way to my top 5 h’s.

If you ever wanted to play a drinking game that gave you alcohol poisoning, drink every time Sal thinks ‘poop.’ Dead!

I’m not sure why but I think I have a bit of a girl crush on Harlow.

“Your brother was that imbecile?” … oh dear. 😳

Aiden was silent and stoic and just a bit of an asshole. Kulti is a fucking prick, so obviously I like him better. 🤣🙈

The turning point when he went from not giving a single shit to riding her ass into the ground spread the widest smile across my face. Yeah he’s a crazy asshole but who does he have his eye on most of the time? Even if it’s out of animosity there’s a thin line between love and hate.

MZ does an amazing job describing the game, I’m not even a fan but I’m totally into it. And when they played one on one, I was living for it. And even if I’m not a fan I can’t deny that soccer players are far and away the hottest athletes. And if you disagree you’re gonna have to fight me. 🤣

Best moment? When the photos came out and they met with management and they told them they were friends. And when they asked what kind, he didn’t hesitate to say the greatest kind, that Sal was his best friend. 🥺🥰

The sexism is so in your face! Outside the fact that men obviously make way more money in soccer, and yes I’m aware it’s because they pull in more money. But that just exacerbates the fact that men are more popular because the population considers them superior players which is bs and sad. But then the issues that come up for Sal just because they’re friends. Because you realize if the shit hits the fan she’ll be out on her ass and he’ll be mostly unscathed.

And the worst part is, I don’t think most people realize how lonely it is to be a super star. For him to finally find someone that he trusts. Ugh I’m super emotional about the whole thing and they’re just so stinking cute!

Holy fucking shit! His reason for coaching her team! Gawd! Why am I crying?

It’s beautiful that it all started and ended in the same place.

But fuck! I really didn’t want that one to end.

Easily tied for my favorite read this year!
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