Total Star Rating: 4 Stars
This was something that everyone can enjoy; a simple feel good story! I enjoyed this title, which was the story of two friends reuniting and discovering that sometimes it’s worth testing those bonds and moving into a deeper and more romantic territory. I know the subject matter isn’t for everyone: an LGBTQ+ love story (M/M specifically), and it being revolved around sports (Hockey specifically), but anyone who can enjoy a love story with two great characters that have such great chemistry and obviously just belong together, this is a title to look into!
The two MC’s complemented each other quite well, in my opinion, and were easy to get behind and support, and were overall just a delight to read! I especially enjoyed the self discovery that one character went through in order to accept himself and how things happen in the story. It wasn’t as angsty as other books have been, which is different, but not an all that bad choice. It still felt genuine and natural with the turnout still being oh so satisfying.
This is only part 1 of a duology, but I still felt that it stood as a standalone with how things turned out in the end. There were still some things left up in the air and had a few easter eggs of what was to come, but the ending is heartwarming nonetheless!
What It’s About:
Our mouths fit together so perfectly. Everytime we kiss, I fall even more in love with him, and it has nothing to do with sex or lust. It’s him. His closeness and his scent and the way he soothes me.– Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, “Him”
This story stars two college hockey players, Jamie Canning and Ryan Wesley. They’re total opposites; Jamie’s the golden boy from California with laid back, lazy good looks while Ryan’s demeanor is tattoos, piercings, and smart-ass remarks that tries to hide his disdain for his east coast aristocratic background. They met at a sleepaway hockey camp when they were 13, and had become friends over the years until the summer they turned 18. The final night of camp, something happened, and they became cut off from each other. Alcohol and a stupid bet got involved, and then eventually confusion and regret.
Years later as they’re about to graduate college, Ryan and Jamie run into each other again at the Frozen Four finals in college Hockey, and all the memories and anxiety come rushing back to the surface as they come face to face once again. Ryan is now out and proud, at least to his teammates and coaching staff (his parents know too, but thats a different story), and always regretted how far things went that last night at camp years ago with Jamie. He honestly never thought he’d get the chance to try and make amends, but he does, but the lingering feelings he had for his straight friend come back stronger than ever.
Jamie has always been frustrated at the situation at that final night years prior, mainly for never getting a response or any sort of answers. Fate ends up giving them a second chance, and they wind up being coaches and roommates at the very same camp where they met, years later for the summer after graduation.
It will be there that they reconnect, and Jamie gets some answers, but new ones rise up along the way, including one about the kind of person he is…
What I Liked:
- It’s A Sports M/M Romance! It’s becoming a favorite romance-genre niche of mine, but I’ve figured it’s because jocks are my personal preference in a potential lover. This story is definitely one of the best ones I’d read within this specific genre, but even someone who’s not into sports can enjoy it; it never gets too wordy on the mechanics of hockey, so no worries there!
- The Hot Sex Scenes! For fans of smut (like myself, no shame…) there’s plenty of steamy scenes between the MC’s to fog up the windows, hand against the glass and slides down and all that… I can only shrug and laugh at this one honestly! While hot, it was also fun to read Ryan and Jamie’s connection and see how vulnerable they get with each other as they peel away layers and become their true selves with each other and develop deeper feelings.
- The MC’s Are Both Incredibly Likeable! Both Jamie and Ryan are great main characters to follow as you read their story. The story switched back and forth between their point of views, and it worked fairly well; it was easy to distinguish between their two voices, they have some great qualities to make them great MC’s for the story to revolve around.
- Ryan’s Unrequited Love Story-Arc! What I mean by this is that Ryan has known he’s gay for a long time, and he also knew he was in love with Jamie since when they first met, even when Jamie still considered himself straight. Part of Ryan always thought it’d never work out; that he was absolutely pathetic for being in love with his straight friend who’d never return those feelings. I loved it later when they start to be together and Ryan would step back and remember all those sad thoughts, but then gaze at Jamie when he thought he wouldn’t notice, wondering how he got so lucky after all. It was such sweet and tender moments in the story, it gave the hopeless romantic in me the major feels!
- There’s Plenty of Humor! Just what I expected with Elle Kennedy, but there were plenty of hilarious moments in the story! I won’t give too much away, but some of it does involve coming out to parents and siblings through a Facebook group chat, a condom-couch, and two jocks trying to hook up in the back of a (really) small car!
Loved you every summer since I was thirteen years old. Love you even more now.”– Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy, “Him”
What I Didn’t Like:
- The Dialogue Can Be Juvenile…Elle Kennedy is so great with hilarious and witty dialogue between her MC’s in her romance titles, and this one doesn’t fall below that expectation, but I can say at some points in the story that it gets a little eye-roll worthy…BUT try to remember that while these guys are gay, they are also 22 year old athletes/jocks and have grown up around that locker room talk between the bro’s and the guys and all that; jocks are just kind of like that! I can attest to it; it wasn’t far off from what I’ve heard in a high school locker room while prepping for Football Games under those Friday night lights. The two authors get it pretty spot on and really, it doesn’t really mean anything; it’s pretty innocent. Luckily, things get much better when it’s just the two of them.
- There’s One Homophobic Character…So maybe a trigger warning, but there is a part of the story where the two MC’s have to deal with an older homophobic minor character. I kind of saw it coming; the setting for most of the story is a small lake-town (the kind midwesterners go visit whenever they spend a weekend at the cabin), so storyline-wise it was bound to happen, especially amongst a bunch of men playing a sport where homosexuality is still a sensitive subject depending who you talk to. It’s still such a bummer that similar situations still happen like that in real life, that two men who have feelings for each other can’t even hold hands for fear of judgment or persecution from other people’s ignorance and inability towards acceptance…Hopefully we’ll evolve past that someday… Luckily, I can happily add that not all the adults/coaches/parents/PR agents are like that in the story, and I give Coach Pat a huge shoutout!
A definite feel good, low angst, New Adult M/M sports romance that anyone who’s looking for some more LGBTQ+ titles can enjoy! Like other titles I’ve read by Elle Kennedy, it’s filled with witty banter, funny and relatable characters, steamy love scenes, and heartwarming fluff on top of it all. It was harder than I thought it would be to get my hands on this book, but it was worth the battle; it’s a definite shelf-keeper for me!
Thanks For Reading!
— Nick Goodsell