Monday, March 7, 2016

Us (Him #2) by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

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Can your favorite hockey players finish their first season together undefeated?

Five months in, NHL forward Ryan Wesley is having a record-breaking rookie season. He's living his dream of playing pro hockey and coming home every night to the man he loves–Jamie Canning, his longtime best friend turned boyfriend. There's just one problem: the most important relationship of his life is one he needs to keep hidden, or else face a media storm that will eclipse his success on the ice.

Jamie loves Wes. He really, truly does. But hiding sucks. It's not the life Jamie envisioned for himself, and the strain of keeping their secret is taking its toll. It doesn't help that his new job isn't going as smoothly as he'd hoped, but he knows he can power through it as long as he has Wes. At least apartment 10B is their retreat, where they can always be themselves.

Or can they? When Wes's nosiest teammate moves in upstairs, the threads of their carefully woven lie begin to unravel. With the outside world determined to take its best shot at them, can Wes and Jamie develop major-league relationship skills on the fly?

Warning: contains sexual situations, a vibrating chair, long-distance sexytimes, and proof that hockey players look hot in any shade of green.

As I write this, I have the cheesiest of grins that has not disappeared since I finished Us. I thought Him was pretty spectacular but with Us, the brilliant writing duo that is Bowen and Kennedy bring a whole new level of awesome!

Everything that we enjoyed about Him from the humor to the hot magic time is back. Things are better though not easier now that the honeymoon period is over. The difference now is having a relationship under stringent constraints. They both went into it agreeing that publicly acknowledging their relationship during Wes’ rookie year in Toronto would be unwise. The plan was to stay under the radar until Wes could formally come out at the end of the year along with the full support of the front office. Instead of being in love and enjoying their relationship, they’re “managing” it.

Us explores the dynamics of their relationship now that they’ve moved in together and how they’re handling the pressure from the time apart due to Wes’ constant travels, and the need for both of them to be secretive. Both suffer from insecurities: Wes wondering if Jamie will up and change his mind about being with him while Jamie feels embarrassment because he sees financial inequities in their arrangement. I felt most connected to Jamie’s story probably because his struggle with his identity as a person and a partner during this time resonated with me. How they conduct their relationship is directly tied to Wes’ career. Jamie’s not used to hiding himself and as a result he begins to feel isolated leading to resentment and confusion. Keeping things on the down low is not a healthy thing for either of them.

Complicating things would be one of Wes’ teammates moving into the same apartment building. People, you will love Blake! His larger-than-life persona is the much needed comic relief when things between our lovebirds get too tense. He also makes you nervous with his tendency to just barge in on the boys. But when he’s present, be prepared to double over laughing!

I enjoy reading M/M romances though in the past I’ve tended to go for the angst-filled tropes. Us (and Him before that) are different. The emotionally charged moments are balanced out by humor or exceptionally hot magic times. I did like seeing other aspects of their lives such as Wes in professional athlete mode and Jamie as a kids coach. There’s always that tiny bit of apprehension whether or not a sequel will deliver that magical thing we loved about the first book but also introduce something new to keep things interesting. Us is a success in both regards! Our boys are going to be okay.

~ Bel

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