Coming Out? Or PLAYING IT SAFE? A Review

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review for a M/M sports romance from new-to-me author Amy Andrews. PLAYING IT SAFE is this author’s first foray into writing M/M romance, though it’s the 7th book in her Sydney Smoke rugby romance series and she’s a USA bestseller in straight romance.

Playing it safeAbout the book:

Donovan Bane loves playing rugby for the Sydney Smoke. And if that means he has to keep his sexuality a secret, that’s a sacrifice he’s prepared to make. At least until after he retires, anyway. He doesn’t want to be the first pro rugby player in Australia to officially come out while still playing. The team doesn’t need the media shit storm and he’d rather be known for his footy skills. Which means no dating, no relationships, no sex. Nothing but playing ball.

Until one man suddenly changes everything…

Beckett Stanton is out and proud—and not looking for a guy who isn’t. Been there, done that, complete disaster. Unfortunately, on the first day of his new job working for the Sydney Smoke, he locks eyes with Donovan Bane and he’s a goner. Big, gruff, and athletic isn’t usually Beck’s type, but for some reason this man is ticking all his boxes. And it’s clear the feeling is mutual. It’s also clear that Donovan is not out, and doesn’t plan to be anytime soon. Still, Beck can’t resist being the man to show Donovan everything he’s been missing.

For the first time, Donovan doesn’t play it safe and allows himself to indulge in things with Beck he knows he can’t have. But when their relationship gets serious, he knows he has to choose between the career he loves and the man he loves, because how can he possibly have both?

My Review:

Donovan Bane is a stud of an elite rugby player, a star on the Sydney Smoke pro team. He’s a mountain of a man, half-Maori and bearing the tattoos of his lineage. He’s also a closeted gay man, divorced from his best friend, and father of a 14 year old daughter he loves more than life. Afraid that his career would suffer, he married his high school girlfriend, hiding his sexuality in his relationship. He’d pursued his true attraction only once, and it was a disaster. His ex-wife knows his sexuality–now–and she keeps his secret because she’s a good woman. But, she’d expressed issues with him coming out while their daughter is young, in case kids at school torment her because of it. And, well, being a high profile player means that there will be blow-back. Anyway, Donovan has never met a man he wants to come out for, anyway, until he meets Beckett.

Beckett Stanton is freshly out of a relationship and has just taken a new position in the finance division for the Smoke. He’s on the job a week before he meets Donovan, and boy is he impressed–with his body. And then his play. And, well, his kindness. Donovan, despite the dangerous attraction he feels for Beckett, spends time with the man after helping him with a flat bike tire in a rainstorm. The more time they spend together, the more they want one another, yet, Donovan is reticent to even dip his toe into physical intimacy because he recognizes it’s a slippery slope. There has never been an active out rugby player in Australia, and he doesn’t want to be the first. The problem is Beckett’s out. And, being around Beckett–while amazing and fulfilling–could jeopardize Donovan’s carefully curated straight persona.

This was an interesting book for reasons that didn’t necessarily pertain to the romance. First, I love sports romance in general. And, I’m always interested in interracial romances, and other cultures. We got a little peek into his Moari culture, and I loved learning a little more about Australia, through the eyes of both Donovan and Beckett. Their relationship is the focal point of the book, even as Donovan continues to deny himself. Beckett is willing to indulge himself a little, as a gay tutor for Donovan, but they both catch feelings pretty quickly.

For me, there seemed to be a lot of talk around the potential for Donovan to come out, and how that could never ever happen. It took up a lot of page time, and was the basis of conflict. Despite knowing that Donovan’s ex was his best friend we never actually have her on the page counseling him. And Miri, his beloved daughter, is only present in the epilogue on page. Donovan’s most fraught moments around coming out were all off page, and that was disappointing. I liked how Becket and Donovan interacted, especially as they connect in friendly ways, but I felt the pacing could have been better. Instead of mooning about, reflecting on every instance of intense arousal there could have been more moments of actual frank discussion abut their developing friendship, and the implications of their growing attraction.

I did enjoy Donovan’s sexual awakening, and both Donovan and Beckett seem like good guys. They genuinely seem to care about one another, even in the short time they spend. I wished we had more time seeing them do more than just hang out in their homes. It was also good to see the allies come out in force to stand beside Donovan.

Interested? You can find PLAYING IT SAFE on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I read a review copy courtesy of NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on the Rafflecopter giveaway link to enter to win a $15 Amazon GC.

About the Author:

Amy is an award-winning, USA Today best-selling Aussie author who has written seventy plus contemporary romances in both the traditional and digital markets.

Her books bring all the feels from sass, quirk and laughter to emotional grit and panty-melting heat.

She loves good books and great booze although she’ll take mediocre booze if there’s nothing else. For many, many years she was a registered nurse which means she knows things. Anatomical things. And she’s not afraid to use them!

She recently took a sea change and lives by the ocean with her husband of 29 years.

You can catch up with Amy online on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

KNOWING THE SCORE–A Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Can’t wait to share more rugby love from Kat Latham. I reviewed her book PLAYING IT CLOSE a few weeks back. What a hoot that was! Now I’ve turned back to read her first book in her London Legends series: KNOWING THE SCORE. That, right there, tells you I love an author’s work–I seek out other books from the same writer…

Knowing the Score (London Legends #1)About the book:

Rugby player Spencer Bailey is determined to win a spot on England’s World Cup team. But with a month break before the selectors start watching him, he’s eager to have fun with a woman who knows the score: the relationship will end when rugby season begins. The lovely American Caitlyn Sweeney seems perfect for the role of temporary lover, since her visa will run out soon anyway.

Caitlyn works for an international disaster relief organization and can handle the world’s worst crises, but she flinches from her own. Her past has left her with a fear of intimacy so deep that she has trouble getting close to anyone—until she meets sexy Spencer. His hot body and easygoing nature are too much for even her to resist.

Neither Caitlyn nor Spencer expects to fall hard for each other. But with their relationship deadline approaching, the old rules of the game seem less important than before…until past secrets surface, challenging everything they thought they knew about each other.

My Review:

First things first, tell me you do not want to lick that cover. Okay, now tell me like you mean it. Mmm-Hmm. Thought so.

Spencer Bailey is as delicious a character as that cover portrays. For. Real.

Spencer never takes lovers when he’s in season–he got burned bad by a groupie-turned-complainant when he was 19, and he’s still a bit shell-shocked. A man doesn’t “get over” an accusation of statutory rape all that easily.

While on his season break, Spencer’s looking for a discreet partner–preferably a woman who doesn’t know him as an athlete. His plans get derailed when his grandfather, and only living relative, suffers a heart attack during a walk. Thankfully, a beautiful (single) woman–Caitlyn–happened by and began CPR. Caitlyn’s used to rescue work; she works for an international aide organization and makes a living teaching women how to build proper latrines in refugee camps.

Both Spencer and his grandfather are smitten with Caitlyn. And, Spencer loves that she’s neither local, nor a rugby fan. This American is a refreshing breath, except for her little quirks–like biting him the first time he kisses her. Oh, and head butting him the second.

It seems Caitlyn’s not such a suave would-be lover. She’s got her reasons; mainly an unpunched V-card. Usually I get frustrated when I read a story about a late-20’s gal with no sexual experience, but Caitlyn’s backstory is so good I actually cheer it on. Especially seeing how this changes Spencer–for the better. Who says a 30ish prime athlete can’t be celibate?

Uh, nobody V! This is a romance!

Fear not, friends. We got a scorcher of a romance, here. It simply takes a bit more time to fully develop. And, when it does the developments are extreme. In a very good, and very bad way. Caitlyn tries to protect her heart from the devastating Englishman, but becoming a part of his world means embracing a part of her history she’s tried hard to forget: violence.

See, Caitlyn wasn’t always a bystander to domestic abuse. And there’s a five fingered reason why Big ‘Ol Spencer gives her the shakes for the first part of the book. I absolutely adored Spencer’s compassion, and his restraint. Still, seeing the brutality of rugby sends Caitlyn to the loo–and it’s not the only major discovery she makes at the rugby stadium. There’s something so completely endearing in this fledgling relationship. Spencer’s ready to move this to a whole new level–and gets the perfect excuse to do so–only to have his own past blow up in his face.

Ugh. I just wanted to cry when they left the registrar’s office without that marriage license!

Good thing? Caitlyn comes to terms with the horror of her past, and it’s the breakthrough she needed. We get a super satisfying HEA…

I loved the Brit lingo. I loved the slowly developed romance. I cringed in agony with Spencer each time Caitlyn pulled back, or left. And, I cherished the stand-up guy he was throughout. In real life there’s a sex scandal a week with athletes; while most are well-deserved, it’s true that some are not. I enjoyed the perspective of a falsely-accused man dealing with the aftermath YEARS after his accuser recanted. Plus, the circumspect way Spencer lived his life following that incident really showed his determination to be a better man–definitely a trait to admire.

Caitlyn was a real treat for a late-20’s ingenue. A complete character with real issues, and she dealt with them heroically. Loved her.

Interested? You can find KNOWING THE SCORE at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble–and likely other places. It’s been out a year now…

Kat LathamAbout Kat Latham: 

Kat Latham writes sexy contemporary romance, including the London Legends rugby series.

She’s a California girl who moved to Europe the day after graduating from UCLA, ditching her tank tops for raincoats. She spent several years teaching English in Prague followed by several more working for a humanitarian organization in London. She now lives with her British husband and baby girl in a small town in the rural Netherlands surrounded by miles and miles of green pasture, canals and Shetland ponies. Kat’s slowly adjusting to life in a place where bicycles and cows seem to outnumber people.

With degrees in English lit and human rights, she loves reading and writing stories that reflect the depth, humor and emotion of real life. She’s been fortunate enough to win some contests, including the Golden Pen and Ignite the Flame, though her Mom is most proud of Kat winning the sex-scene contest, Between the Sheets.

Through her British husband (Dr Smarty Pants, PhD), Kat’s gained a keen appreciation for rugby, cricket, and the sound of a pucka English accent saying words ending in ‘-er’. He inspired her to write a series about hot rugby players with incredibly sexy voices. The first in the series, Knowing the Score, was published by Carina Press in summer 2013.

Kat’s other career involves writing and editing for charities, and she’s had the privilege of traveling to Kenya, Ethiopia and Northern Ireland to write about the heroic people helping their communities survive poverty, inequality and hunger.

When she’s not traveling, reading or writing, Kat can be found sharing overly personal things on her blog, Twitter and Facebook.

****GIVEAWAY***

You can click onto Kat Latham’s site for a chance to win

a $50 gift card to an eRetailer of your choice,

a handmade bracelet and

a London Legends messenger bag

Good Luck!

 

I’m always telling you to keep reading my friends–Well here’s your chance for TWO FREE contemporary erotic romance titles: Click on my review of Bianca Giovanni’s CAPTURED and comment to win the first two books in that series…

Now you can keep reading my friends!