On Christmas Eve, Erik is stuck in an airport bar on a business trip to Buffalo when he meets a travel writer named Seth. This is a week after Erik’s twenty year marriage has ended. After a mix-up in their accommodation they end up being roommates. Erik’s company owns the inn. I was a little worried at first since Erik is not the nicest guy and stress seems to make him worse. Their odd conversations turns strangely sexual. The awkward flirting continues as Erik wrestles with being attracted to Seth, but it sounds like Seth has been the only person he’s been attracted to for over a decade so he just…goes with it. Seth is a little too good to be true. The intimacy and trust, since they are both open and honest people, makes the sex more than just physical. What’s great about this is they actually communicate about their hopes and fears. This happen fast yet had moments that were sweet and hot. However, I felt a little removed from it like it engaged my head rather than my heart.
Vic Newcomb has been best friends with Ash since boarding school. He is briefly in book one. You don’t have to read book one or read these in order to understand the plot. Since he’s suffering from hypertension, Ash books him in with his masseuse, Amani Idrissi. Vic is the rich, egostistical, privileged, white man. Amani is the poor, talented, hardworking black man working his way through school. Vic is intrigued by him and during the course of their conversation offers to pay him for cello lessons. He ends up paying him for something else entirely, and that twists the layers of intimacy they are creating. As they both fall in love, trying to remember this is a business contract, they hurt each other.
I liked the characters and wanted them to be happy together. The author’s writing style weaves the audience into their intimacy with alternating POVs. Even though the words master and sub are used, the kink is mild and has more to do with voluntary power exchange. This also plays with the bi for you/out for you trope. With all of Amani’s pride at the beginning of this, it all but disappears as they become a couple. It seems unlikely that the money was such a big deal, is just no longer an issue. It also seems strange Vic doesn’t tell Ash about Amani. There are never any ramifications to a rich, famous, straight CEO suddenly dating a femme, black Moroccan man. In other words, it’s a nice fantasy, but I wanted a little more realism–a little more depth. However, there are references to Richard Gere, so if this is a take on Pretty Woman, that may be unfair of me and there is something to be said for writing the world how we want it to be.
This starts in first person with Jason experiencing a horrible act of violence. He is saved by a stranger named Liam and they are both probably in shock because they flee the scene and wash off any evidence. Not that I’m sure how any of it would have helped the police. With the killer still at large, they are holed up in a hotel room. Two months later Jason has PTSD and is not coping well. Once again, Liam comes to his rescue. When they start back to school in the Fall, their relationship continues to develop. All of the sudden Jase is like a new, different person or maybe he is his old self. I don’t know because I don’t know who he was before the event. What I do know is that the second half of the book focuses on yet another tragedy, this one is Liam’s past. The point is for Jase to save Liam, as Liam saved Jase. The confrontation with a fellow survivor seems created just for drama and conflict. When there is yet another emergency, Jase’s reaction is OTT. Liam does need to see a mental health professional, but all of this feels like an adult Afterschool Special (yes, I am aware this dates me) with a pointed message and no subtlety.
People can get close when they’ve shared life changing moments, but this is slightly exploitative–as if the tragedy is a way to execute a gay for you story. The sex scenes are not all that sexy, just intense. There could be a believable, heartfelt story of a man who realizes he’s attracted to another man in the wake of a trauma. Tragedies make people question who they are and confront their view of themselves. Two guys bonding and realizing they are bisexual when they develop feelings for each other is entirely possible. This would have been more realistic if they had gotten to know each other first, before the sexual element was introduced. They even read more as demisexual, although I’m not sure that fits either. Then they get to the point of power exchange and I feel like that is another reason/excuse given to why they are attracted to each other. It’s the delivery that makes it feel unnatural.
The message of the book is a good one (“gay, straight, bi, pan…all labels, and I don’t need them”); I’m just not convinced by the execution of this example. But this message rings loud and clear, “time to live life fully because you never know when it’s all going to be over.”
The cover art by Natasha Snow shows the two main characters and a theater that played such a huge part in their story. The pixelation seems to convey how scattered and torn apart they are by trauma.
This is the second book in the series and should be read in order for maximum emotional impact. A year later, Blue is still basically in the closet. Happily ever afters are work.
So, I’m not going to lie: I was upset about Blue using a beard. Keeping this secret is destroying what they have. At the end of book one Blue had planned to come out and it was Kelly who stopped him. In this book, Blue has let the fear take over and Kelly is the one that wants to be part of a normal relationship where he can participate in Blue’s life like any of the other guys on the team and their wives/girlfriends. Blue was also supposedly the romantic one, yet it is Kelly that seems to be waiting for the big gesture while still not being all in. As a gay man, Kelly understands what Blue would face coming out publicly way better than Blue does. Fear of losing Blue when the discrimination starts, of Blue resenting him, makes him hold back a bit of himself. Even as annoyed as I was, this book sucked me right in.
Of course, Blue is good at pushing things away too–like thoughts of retirement and fear of injury. This time, I was glad to see more football. It was important to show more of Blue’s family as it lets the readers know that Kelly is not correct in blaming football for all of their problems. There were several moments when I wanted to strangle Blue, but I understood all too well why he is the person he is and wanted him to make better choices for his own happiness. Conner has been a good and supportive friend to Kelly, but it’s nice to see that Blue has friends who have his back also. There are some incredibly painful moments in this, but the author doesn’t wallow in them. Those big moments in life (wedding, birth, major illness, death, coming out) are when you find out who really cares for you, and it’s not always who you think, or even hope.
This worked really well as a duology and the epilogue was everything I wanted for these guys, where it was always going in between the bouts of mild angst. I enjoyed both of these books.
The cover art is by Kanaxa. I like the cover, and I supposed it is supposed to be Blue. Blue has new tattoos, as discussed in the book, but not as many as that, and of course, the tattoos are not the same as this model.
Kelly Cannon is having a very bad night. This book throws you in the deep end immediately. But sometimes you can’t ignore things anymore and Kelly is in love with his best friend, NFL player Britton “Blue” Montgomery. With Blue under so much pressure in his career, to have to worry about losing his best friend too is not helping. I can say I liked Kelly right away. I loved the use of humor. It took me longer to warm up to Blue, but then he does get less time on page at the beginning. After being in their heads, I can say these two deserve each other. The most difficult part of this book is being in Blue’s head, how does he not know?! Oh course, it’s obvious why. But, there comes a point when he can’t lie to himself anymore either. Turning a 17 year friendship into a relationship is not without its ups and downs.
This just feels natural. I love their interactions. Even during sex, they are themselves with humor and banter. Just when I thought they couldn’t be mature about things, they proved me wrong. The reminiscing about childhood events really works in this story as they both think about how much their relationship means to them. Kelly’s family adds so much to this story, I can’t imagine it without them but, it makes Blue’s family a glaring omission. I would have liked to see them too, even though his dad doesn’t sound pleasant. There is nothing about his brother. Still, they have made an impact on who Blue is and it would have added another layer.
There were small issues I had, like how accepting everyone is, which is less realistic than the rest of the book. There is also the timing of Kelly basically giving Blue an ultimatum–while I understood his feelings and why, the particular moment had me more sympathetic with Blue than Kelly. Maybe that’s on purpose though, and I just didn’t realize it. For anyone who likes friends to lovers, the nerd and the jock theme, and bisexual for you, as well as a coming out story, this is your book. Because there is a full range of emotions here, and it’s realistic without being overly dramatic, it doesn’t feel like a list of tropes.