Hi all! Today I’m celebrating the release of one of my absolutely fave new M/M romances: UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR. This book had all the feels I dream of in a love story–and is especially poignant in light of the new revelations of gay players in the big leagues of sports.
About the book:
What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.
Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexual orientation from everyone. Including himself.
So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.
John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.
And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.
Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.
Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.
Warning: unlike the other books in this series, this heartbreaking love story is about two guys. Contains sexual situations, dance music, snarky t-shirts and a poker-playing grandmother.
K. So. Sometimes a book just fills my head and my heart and makes songs on the radio speak to me in a new way because I’m thinking of this story.
That’s is exactly how I felt about this book.
First, I was sure that Rikker and Graham were going to be buried by their FLAWS
They seriously made me feel the hole in my soul. Rikker is a gay athlete–he survived a hate beating as a teen, and being shipped off to his grandmother’s care after coming out, but reuniting with his first love, Graham, might just kill him. Five years have passed and, while Rikker’s physical wounds have healed, he’s still emotionally scarred by Graham’s abandonment.
He’s a great hockey player and a newly transferred student at Harkness ready to hit the ice. Despite being a transfer, Rikker is not subject to a yearlong suspension of play–because his previous coach violated the non-discrimination clause kicked him off the team when he was outed.
In order to avoid all the drama, Rikker reveals his orientation at the outset, and is subject to casual and overt homophobia–as well as some GREAT teammate support. Except, the one teammate he wishes to be there for him, well, won’t: Graham.
Graham is so deep in the closet he might be able to sit tea with Mr. Tumnus. He is attracted to men, and denies this at every turn. He seeks out women, always under the influence of alcohol. To hear his thoughts, when experiencing the slights and slams of Rikker–both direct and indirect only cements in Graham’s head what a coward he is.
People like Big-D have it wrong. They think that the gay guy is going to be the one who’s slowly soaping up his dick, watching you shampoo. But that’s not how it works in a varsity locker room on planet Earth. The gay guy is the one who discreetly goes about his business, showering quickly and then getting the hell out of there. He puts his underwear on when his skin is still damp, even though it will stick up his ass crack for the rest of the night.
He isn’t staring at you, and he’d rather eat broken glass than sport some wood in the locker room.
Still, Graham simmers with attraction for Rikker, and uses lots (and LOTS) of alcohol to quell it. Rikker himself can’t let go of the affection he held for his once best friend (and first love) even as he expects the taciturn Graham hates him, now. Imagine his surprised delight when Graham lets his defense shields slip…only to have them nearly discovered.
With shaking hands, he stumbled into his jeans.
I pulled the blanket up from the foot of the bed, mostly covering myself. And I watched a freaked-out Graham prepare for a hasty exit from my room. I could almost hear the worry loop trailing around inside his head. Never should have done that. Never should have done that.
Whatever. If he wanted to freak out and run away after hooking up with me, that was his loss. That’s what I was going to tell myself, anyway. What’s one more bruise on a battered heart? Mine probably already looked like a veteran NHL player’s face.
Before the door closed on him, he said one word to me. “Sorry.”
I was tired of hearing that word from him.
On the campus Rikker is mostly a pariah. He keeps to himself, attending classes and team events/practices only. He eats alone, and lives in a single room in a dorm filled with foreign students to whom he cannot relate. He longs for connection, and after one drunken hook-up he reaches out for Graham again, and Graham reaches back–only when it’s a clandestine meeting, however. And Rikker accepts this–because, well…
In the dark, he studied me. “Rik,” he whispered. “I had fun tonight.”
“Me too, G.”
He moved then, hitching across the seat to reach me. “One more,” he breathed. “For old time’s sake.” Then he turned my face toward his, capturing my mouth in a kiss.
Stupid or not, I just went with it. If you stripped away all the confusion and the old heartaches, I’d had an almost perfect day. And this right here was pretty much all I’d ever wanted from Graham. I wanted his friendship, and then I wanted him to reach for me at the end of the night. So for those few minutes, I had everything.
Yeah. I got super melty over this book. The first loves. The separations. The reconnection and healing of woulds long scabbed over. The comic relief! Oh, I think we all needs a “Skippy” in our lives. He’s Rikker’s effeminate ex who’s known for spouting his opinion, getting his way, and wearing t-shirts with outrageous slogans like Power Bottoms for Jesus. I loved him. And, of course there’s a girl with a Graham-crush who’s gonna get hurt..a bit. But, she takes it all well.
Hearing Milky Chance croon “I want you by my side/ so that I never feel alone again” and lament the lost years of affection due to the actions of others…well, I was glad Rikker and Graham got a Stolen Dance with each other…
The anxiety factor is tremendous. I couldn’t fault Graham for his closet-case antics. He’d seen the worst of homophobia up close and personal, and never recovered. Rikker helped Graham to see the better side of coming out–in some ways. It wasn’t easy for Rikker by any stretch. The media attention wasn’t pleasant, and Graham certainly didn’t want such a spotlight on his love life.
By the end, I swear, I was hearing OneRepublic banging their drums in my brain and I was drinking the sweet, sweet nectar of a satisfying read where the Love [never] Runs Out.
This was a fave book for me–gay, straight, erotic, whatever. It’s a powerful read and handles homophobia, closet-cases, unintentional outing, isolation, and sports in such a commanding way. There is little sex, but when it’s there it is amazingly rendered in the emotional context of the story. I hoped so hard for these two men to find their path together, and I think the arrangement they contrive at the end is more HEA than Happy For Now. (Well, I HOPE it is!)
Previous books in the series:
#1 The Year We Fell Down (March 2014)
#2 The Year We Hid Away (June 2014)
#2.5 Blonde Date (July 2014)
#3 The Understatement of the Year (October 1st, 2014)
About the author:
Sarina Bowen makes her home in the Green Mountains of Vermont, where she lives with her family, eight chickens and a large pile of skis and hockey equipment. She is a graduate of Yale University. You can catch up with Sarina online via Email, her website, Twitter, and Facebook.
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a signed copy of one IVY YEARS book (4 winners, win choice)
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!