Summer Heat and SPLASH!–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt, review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M New Adult romance from J.R. Hart. SPLASH is an enemies-to-lovers romance that features a lifeguard unwillingly falling for an obnoxious pool patron, and unexpectedly finding the love of his life.

Catch the review, excerpt and enter to win a $10 GC below.
About the book:
Connor Molina’s summer can’t get any worse. He’s stuck in his college town taking summer classes, and he’s got a dead-end lifeguard job he’s too old for and a baby gay who’s thirsty for all the wrong guys.

Even worse? Tristan, a wild patron, won’t leave his section of the pool, splashing him and pulling stupid stunts to get his attention. When Tristan fakes a drowning to get closer to him, Connor’s furious, but he quickly realizes that Tristan’s reckless nature isn’t always infuriating…it’s also intriguing.

Can he let his guard down and let Tristan in, or will he be bound by his own rules and drown in the self-doubt this summer could free him from?

How about a little taste?

I overslept. One week into summer, and I’d already overslept. Showering? Not really an option. Nothing about the summer after my sophomore year of college had gone the way I planned for it to go, so oversleeping? Yeah, not super unsurprising. That was me, Connor Molina, epic fuck-up. I knew why I was stuck in that godforsaken town the entire fucking summer, and almost all of it had everything to do with going to parties more often than going to my 8:00 a.m. classes. Can anyone blame that on me, though? No. The blame goes to anyone who thought morning classes would ever be an acceptable thing for anyone to experience. Whoever came up with that idea should be locked away, key thrown away, all of it.

But summer started all wrong. My ultimate goal had been to go back home. You know, normal summer stuff. Swim laps in the backyard pool, slack off, maybe hook up a few times. I don’t know. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I wouldn’t be saying shit about that summer if it had. Uneventful stories never make for good reflections, do they? But that summer was eventful in ways I didn’t expect it to be. It’s part of what made my summer so, so fucked.

Instead of being home for the summer, I was there, at the Springdale Aquatic Center and Lap Pool, sitting in ungodly heat and staring at unnaturally blue-looking water. You know the kind of blue of skies and oceans and all that? No, this was hyperchlorinated blue, made more intense by the paint at the bottom until it was an intense cerulean. Instead of swimming in my parents’ greenish lap pool, I was trying to make sure no one drowned in this lap pool. Real upgrade there, Connor. Awesome.

You’d think that shit wouldn’t get old after a day and a half, but it did. The only perk was not getting audited in the first couple of days—if no one was checking to see whether I was watching closely enough, then I couldn’t get screwed over and lose my job if I missed the sign. Of course, it would have been no surprise if the summer went like that. Considering everything else that had happened so far, it would have made sense for it to blow up in my stupid face and leave me jobless too. But that didn’t happen. All I wanted was to make it through the summer without someone dying on my watch. That shouldn’t have been too much to ask.

Nothing about the job was worth the money. If you’re thinking about being a lifeguard, let this be your warning. It isn’t worth it. But I couldn’t back out no matter how badly I wanted to. It was on the schedule before we even had the most terrifying meeting ever, and I had no choice but to press on. Never mind that they made it clear the job was life-or-death during that meeting. Never mind that I hated the concept of ever setting foot in the pool again after the stuff their words stirred up in my mind.

Never mind that I was scared to death someone might drown right in front of me because of my own fuck-up or inability to keep them alive. Never mind the added pressure when I was already at my breaking point going into summer. All of it was horrifying, but I didn’t have the luxury of choice. Everything else was full. Literally every single damn summer job…full.

If I wouldn’t have had to be there in the first place, I could have slacked off and loafed around on my parents’ couch and watched shitty daytime talk shows, checked out The Price Is Right and tried to guess the price of a car I’d never own. But no, I had rent to pay. I still do. I had to have something to do. Every pizza delivery position, every law firm secretary job, every retail cashier option, all of it was full. I couldn’t even get a job sacking groceries, not that I would have taken a position clearly made for a high schooler. Any of those had to be better than lifeguarding though. Every job in town, even that, was for teenagers. I was underqualified for the good shit, but I was way overqualified for being a lifeguard.

One summer. I promised them I’d work there for one summer, but after that, I had told myself there was no way in hell I’d ever be caught on that guard stand again. The whole job is complete and utter bullshit. No amount of SPF in the world could have gotten me through it either. I still don’t know how I didn’t lose my entire mind being there. Well, I do, but I didn’t at the time.

Sure, I probably took it a little bit too seriously, a little bit too personally whenever they mentioned, you know…drowning. None of my other coworkers gave a shit if someone were to die in their section. The thing is, they’re all basically kids, lifeguards are. High school babies at best, with a few going into college in the fall. I was the only jackass actually in college when I got the job, so, of course, none of them took it seriously. It made sense that they didn’t give a shit if something happened. None of us ever think it’ll happen to us. No one ever does, do they? But that stuff does happen. It does. I had seen it happen before, and the thought of letting it happen that summer somehow? I was horrified by the entire prospect. Don’t worry, nobody actually drowned over the summer, though the close calls were enough to make me hate the job regardless.

The summer didn’t start great, either. We were down two guards on the second day of work. One of them never bothered to call in, and I’m pretty sure she never showed up all summer anyway. The other one missed the audit ball and got sent home. Greg, the manager, tossed this little ball in the water in your section. Each ball represents someone drowning, and if you don’t jump in and save the ball in time, you get written up and sent home early. I’m not sure why they think sending you home is the right choice there. It’s not like it gives you more practice. To me, you should be buddy-guarding until you get it right, but that’s not how it goes, and it left us shorthanded. Way too shorthanded.

That’s why I scan the water, why I always keep scanning the water. The ball represents a life, someone she would have just let drown because she wasn’t even watching. Getting sent home was the least of her worries. Maybe if it had been a real person, she would have understood. We hadn’t been working together long enough for me to even know her name, and by the third audit she missed in two weeks, she was fired, so I never really got to know her anyway.

I don’t switch off when I’m working. I can’t. You never know who the hell might end up drowning on your watch, and I wasn’t about to have a death on my conscience. I couldn’t fathom the idea of telling someone’s mom, “hey, your kid drowned because I wasn’t paying attention,” or somehow having to deal with the consequences there, the nightmares or whatever else. It’s stuff like that making the job literally the worst in the world. If I looked away, who knows what might have happened? Maybe someone would have died. I don’t know. Maybe I was just fucking paranoid. Maybe I still am.

Or maybe it’s the way my section always attracted the biggest jackasses on the planet. The entire time I was working the first few days, regardless of the section I was in, there was this one guy. One damn kid who had to show off, basically. He and his buddies were there to break every rule, doing flips off the high dive, trying to play chicken. They were old enough to know better and old enough also to set a bad example for anyone younger—if they could do it, the younger kids thought it was safe to do too. It was impossible to watch everyone in my section when he kept pulling my focus, making me watch him and his friends carefully so nobody got killed.

He was there when I was manning the diving boards, attempting cannonballs and flips far beyond his skill level. When I moved on to the wide slide typically reserved for kids to slide down with his parents, he and his friends were shoving each other down and trying to launch themselves off. I’d tell him to sit on his ass (in nicer words) and not on his stomach, but halfway down he’d spin, flipping to skid down headfirst.

“He’s cute, isn’t he?” I can still remember James asking me that question and even now, a huge part of me wants to slap him over it.

“The one with the death wish? No, he’s not.” I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how half of the guards at this pool could think he was hot. I was there trying to watch, trying to keep track of everyone, and it felt like everyone else was simply there to gawk at the patrons. Being the only one actually there to work sucked, even if I got that they were just kids. You know, whatever, but some of us didn’t need the added distraction.

“You have to admit he’s at least a little bit cute,” James said, elbowing me in the ribs. I was half tempted to break his arm over the way he jabbed me.

“I don’t have to. He’s not being cute. He’s trying to crack his head open on the side of the pool. What are you doing over here anyway?” This wasn’t James’s section right then, not where I was, and I couldn’t understand why he was even where I was at, to be honest. Last I saw, he was supposed to be over by the lazy river, not close to me in the deep end.

“I’m on break,” he told me.

“Oh, so you’re over here lurking and trying to stare at him and everything else, getting in my way when I’m trying to do my job? Cool. Thanks.” I was only half joking. I tried to make myself seem as pleasant as possible, but a large part of me was really annoyed. The last thing I needed was James near me, trying to talk while I was taking this seriously. James was the only other openly gay guard there, and not even a small part of me was surprised he was interested in a dumbass like that one. I never tried to hide who I was, and if a girl at the pool flirted with me, she usually figured out she wasn’t my type pretty quickly. But James? He couldn’t hide it. Anyone could’ve clocked him from a mile away. He wasn’t subtle and it was okay, but it also got him in trouble. The town wasn’t the most open-minded place ever.

My Review:
Connor Molina is a college sophomore on a swim team for his university. He’d usually go back home for the summer break, but he messed up a course or two, and needs to take summer classes to maintain his eligibility and keep on track for his nursing degree. So, he’s taken a job as a lifeguard at a town pool not far from the apartment he shares with a teammate and occasional friend-with-benefits.

At the pool, Connor is plagued by the immature attention-seeking behavior of an otherwise attractive pool patron, Tristan. And, he’s a little bit hounded by an out high school aged fellow lifeguard who would happily toss his virginity at Tristan. Or Connor. James is horny, and not picky.

The more Tristan acts out, the more disgusted Connor is, and he makes no secret of his distaste, especially when Tristan fakes a drowning to trick Connor into kissing him. In the aftermath, Connor tears him a new a-hole and the tension between them skyrockets. Tristan is recalcitrant, and his sudden absence concerns Connor. And, that’s when he starts catching feelings.

Tristan has a precarious home life; raised by a man who isn’t his blood father, a man who’s an alcoholic with a sore temper. They have both had issues since Tristan’s mom died, but the grief plays out in passive-aggressive standoffs and Tristan occasionally couch surfing when his dad kicks him out for a few days or longer. He’s only just completed high school, and he’s planning to go to the local junior college to stay near his dad. He had better offers with schools that had real careers, but his only tie to his mom is through his home and his dad. The more that Connor and Tristan connect, the more that he sees beyond the happy-go-lucky, aggressive demeanor to the isolated young man who isn’t sure what his next move should be.

Connor tells this story, and it’s nice to see his frustration morph through shock, anger and lust into appreciation and love. Tristan’s talent in drawing astounds Connor and he pushes Tristan to look at his prospects in art and design, rather than the lackluster business degree he was pursuing. It’s a bit bittersweet for Connor, because those colleges are on the other side of the country, and he’s losing his heart to Tristan. The summer is coming to an end, and it’s clearly going to be the end of this summer fling turned into a true love story. The pacing was a little slow, for me, as Connor railed about Tristan and what a brat he was for at least the first third of the book. Then, he mooned a lot about the impending move for Tristan, once the arrangements are made for him to seek a new college plan. The love story is nice though, especially once Connor commits to Tristan. There are a lot of sexytimes, and some power games that play out to push Connor and Tristan only further together. The resolution is happier than the lead-up intimated, with Connor’s roomie playing a bit of a trick that rocks Connor’s work in the best way.

Interested? You can find SPLASH on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
J R Hart is a queer 30-something novelist passionate about telling romantic and erotic stories about LGBT+ characters. When J R isn’t writing, you can find her at the science museum with her son, cheering for her favorite soccer team, or at The Bean Coffee Co plotting her next work.

You can find J. R. on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.