Title: Love at First Run
Author: Angel C. Aquino
Age Range: New Adult
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
After getting her heart broken, 23-year-old Diana Gomez is afraid to fall in love again. But when her office crush Paul invites her to join a running club with him, she goes for it. What she doesn’t know is that to be a part of the club, she actually has to train for a half marathon—and that she’ll meet Joshua, the handsome club veteran who becomes her unofficial running buddy. As if it isn’t hard enough to do speed work, interval training, and long runs after work and on weekends, she has to deal with her feelings for both boys and face her fears of falling in love.
Will she reach the finish line without getting herself (or her heart) injured? Journey with Diana as she reaches running milestones, overcomes obstacles, pushes herself to the limit, and discovers the strength within her… one kilometer at a time.
Content Warnings: Slut-shaming
The newest addition to the illustrious list of #romanceclass authors brings to the table a sweet, light-hearted romance featuring marathons, training, and lots of grilled pork. Love at First Run is about Diana Gomez, a creative who floats through life, content to stare at her office crush Paul from afar and silently hate on Amaya, the office hottie who is her rival for Paul’s affections. All of that changes when Paul invites Diana to join a running club, with the end-goal of eventually finishing a half-marathon. Excited at the thought of getting to spend more time with Paul, Diana says yes – despite having never so much as jogged in her life. Of course, the fly in that ointment is preternaturally thin and athletic Amaya, who also decides to join the running club and easily makes Diana look like the most unhealthy person on the planet.
Still, Diana finds herself beginning to actually enjoy training, mostly thanks to her new running buddy, Josh. Sparks fly and pretty soon Diana finds herself wondering what exactly she and Josh are. Set against the backdrop of various running trails from Manila to Baguio, Love at First Run is the story of Diana finding love and finding depth in her life.
Like most great contemporary romances, what takes Love at First Run to the next level of storytelling is the journey that the main character undergoes, outside of the love subplot. Diana basically just exists, going to work, going home, and repeating the cycle over and over again. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you; but Diana is clearly looking for something more, and she ends up finding that ‘something’ in running. The concept of self-improvement is one that’s very present in this book, and it’s something that I really appreciated. There is no actual enemy in life, after all – just your previous self. The only person you have to be better than is who you were yesterday. This is the lesson that Diana learns by getting into running.
I absolutely adore how Diana’s journey is portrayed. Of course, she starts out running because of a guy she’s interested in. But she sticks with it because she begins to enjoy it. She begins to see how running gives her a better creative headspace for her job, how it increases her energy levels, how it de-stresses her, how her muscles are leaner and she doesn’t get tired so easily, and just generally how regular physical activity is good for her body. Her monologue at the end of the book, when she was doing the Condura Skyway half-marathon, is just so inspiring. She talks about self-improvement, about self-care and doing things that make you feel good. If nothing else, pick up the book to read that part.
Those who have read my review of Like Nobody’s Watching know that I have a weakness for soft boys, and Joshua, Diana’s running partner, absolutely fits the bill. To be honest, at first I thought he was going to be a bit of an asshole, so I was pleasantly surprised when he turned out to be a funny, genuinely nice guy. He’s a self-confessed video game geek who misses his hometown (Baguio! Hooray for strawberries!) and is such a gentleman that it made my heart ache.
Throughout the whole book, not only is he sweet, caring of, and considerate to Diana, he’s absolutely respectful of her too. He doesn’t push himself on her when she says she’s not yet ready for a relationship, and is willing to wait for her no matter how long it takes. He’s the type of guy you know doesn’t expect a date or sex in exchange for doing nice things for girls (idiot boys who believe that the friendzone exists, take notes) and would have been perfectly happy being just friends with Diana if she didn’t feel the same way for him, simply because he cares about her and wants her in his life.
The one thing I didn’t like about Love at First Run was how it handled the character of Amaya. I felt that the dynamic between her and Diana emphasized the Madonna-whore dichotomy. On the one hand, you have sweet, wholesome Diana who doesn’t like clubs or drinking, dresses modestly, and is self-deprecating. On the other, Amaya is a sexy femme fatale who’s portrayed as perpetually being catty, being highly aware of her good looks, dressing in belly-baring sports bras and tight-fitting clothes, and partying it up at night. Diana gets her happy ending, while Amaya is left cold by Paul who regrets fooling around with her.
I feel that pitting female characters against each other just for the sake of adding a little drama in the mix is a cheap cop-out to actual conflict. I honestly think that the story would have moved along just fine even without Amaya’s character in there. There was no need for the “whore” foil to Diana’s “Madonna”.
Overall though, I have to say I really enjoyed reading this book! Love at First Run is a lovely story where the heroine undergoes a journey of self-improvement and finds love along the way. I highly recommend adding this to your TBR!
Love at First Run goes on sale on April 30! You can pre-order it here.