I received this book for free from the publicist in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
on July 28, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
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They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?
Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.
Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.
Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend...and a big one to learn about himself.
Warning: contains sexual situations, skinnydipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition.
Yep, you read that blurb right—this is a male/male (m/m) romance. It isn’t my usual reading fare, but I didn’t even need to read the blurb to know for sure that I’d read it. I’ve gushed over Sarina Bowen often enough, both in writing and on video, to cement my fanhood, but I haven’t really spoken of Elle Kennedy just yet—something that I’m about to fix. I became an instant fan of Elle’s upon reading The Deal. Her novels are fun, witty, and sexy, and her writing is the kind that makes me smile at the end of a tiring day. I was beyond excited when she and Sarina announced their collaboration on The Locker Room page.
After The Understatement of the Year, I knew that Sarina could pull off an m/m romance. It was just a question of how she could write an M/M hockey romance that was different from her previous novel…and of course, how well her writing and that of Elle’s would come together. I guess it wasn’t a surprise to find that the answer to that latter question was “amazingly well.”
HIM traces the evolution of the relationship between hockey players Wes and Jamie from an old friendship to a romantic fling. The first few chapters finds them gearing up for the hockey finals with their respective teams and reconnecting after nearly four years of radio silence. We quickly discover that Wes is gay while Jamie isn’t, and that Wes abruptly ended their friendship after a bet gone wild. Now, they’re roommates and coaches at a summer hockey camp, and they soon find a whole new dynamic to their friendship.
I loved how the story was told in dual POV, allowing me an intimate look at Wes and Jamie’s lives and their personal struggles with their changing relationship with each other. Since that fateful night that ended their boyhood friendship, Wes has been sure about his sexual orientation. Yet because of his close-minded parents and the gender stereotypes involved in his sport, he’s resigned himself to keeping his preferences under the radar and steers clear of serious relationships. To most people, he presents himself as a cocky guy who’s up for anything, but at his core, he’s scared of losing the things important to him because of his sexuality.
At the end of the day, I’m still gay—and he’s still straight. Even worse, I’m still in love with him.
On the other hand, calm and carefree Jamie has never questioned his sexuality. He loves women, and they love him back. But then his old friend comes back into his life and stirs up all these desires in him, making him think twice about who he was and what he wanted. It’s not just his orientation that he struggles with, but his career path as well. Instead of repressing his instincts, he explores them with an openness that I admired.
There’s nothing to see here, but like an idiot I stare a little while, looking for who knows what. A change. A sign.
What does a guy who’s not as straight as he thought look like, anyway?
As a reader who’s not all that exposed to m/m relationships, I found that Wes and Jamie’s personal conflicts gave me a better understanding of its aspects. Relationships are hard enough, but when you throw in matters of discrimination and identity in the mix, they’re even more challenging. Sarina and Elle wrote HIM in such a way that Wes and Jamie’s becoming a couple didn’t seem weird. It was natural and inevitable—built on friendship, mutual respect, and good ol’-fashioned love, just as any other functional relationship is.
There’s a warm feeling in my belly when I look at him. And it’s not just sexual. It’s—comfortable. Like we’re close even when he’s twenty yards ahead. I wear a consciousness of him like a second skin.
I’m not going to lie, there were some parts that had my eyes widening—maybe you can guess what those were—but I quickly got over that initial discomfort. (That’s an opening for a pun right there.) It helped that Sarina and Elle didn’t make everything out to be so serious. Wes and Jamie had these inside jokes running between them, and their antics were crazy and realistic at the same time. Their story proves that things may not turn out the way you planned them, but that doesn’t mean that the end result won’t be even more amazing than you thought—and that applies both to their love lives and their careers.
I had high expectations from Sarina and Elle, and in no way did they disappoint. HIM had the heat, heart, and sense that I’ve come to appreciate in both writers’ works, and I’d happily recommend this book to anyone who likes or would like to try out m/m romance. Here’s to hopefully more collaborations from Sarina and Elle! *keeping fingers crossed*
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