Author: Katey Hawthorne
Publisher: Loose Id
Hansen Marks first meets Sam MacLeod when he sees him almost blow up a toaster in the college cafeteria. Hansen instantly recognizes that Sam is someone like himself — a person with “awakened” superpowers. In Hansen’s case, he can create and control fire, while Sam’s powers lie with electricity. Sam is shocked when Hansen approaches him because he never realized there were others out there with powers too. Unlike Hansen who grew up in a family of awakened, Sam was adopted and never met anyone else like himself. His power is strong, but still not totally within his control.
A few years later we find Sam and Hansen as best friends and roommates. But although Sam appears to see Hansen as just a friend, Hansen is totally into Sam. He has been crushing hard since college, but he understands that things aren’t going to happen between them. Sam has a girlfriend after all (despite the fact that things between them are fizzling fast). Yet that doesn’t keep Hansen from lusting after him, especially when Sam walks around the house in only his underwear.
Sam is still periodically frying electrical appliances as he figures out how to keep his abilities in check. His power is strong and when his emotions are high they sometimes get out of his control. One night he accidentally starts an electrical fire, and fortunately Hansen is right there to put it out. But others see them and suddenly the men risk exposure for their abilities, something Hansen especially knows can lead to trouble.
As the guys are dealing with this, things in their relationship are heating up as well. Hansen finally confirms to Sam that he is gay, and Sam admits he has been attracted to Hansen all along. And when Sam breaks up with his girlfriend, the guys take their first steps toward a relationship together. Although Hansen worries a bit about whether this is what Sam really wants, Sam reassures him that these feeling are not new. Now the guys just need to figure out whether they can make things work between them while dealing with threats of exposure and Sam’s lack of control over his powers.
I really liked Equilibrium and getting to know Sam and Hansen. I especially enjoyed the contrast between the guys in terms of their backgrounds. Having grown up in an awakened family, these things are second nature to Hansen. He has trained to use his powers for years and comes from a family of people who know and understand him. Sam, on the other hand, just suddenly woke up one day sparking electricity and having no idea what was going on. Although he is close with his family, he had no one to help him deal with his powers until Hansen and has felt alone in many ways. Hansen is able to give him a sense of community and make him feel less isolated. Sam says at one point that Hansen has saved his life, helping him figure things out and feel less scared or like a freak. We get the story from Hanson’s POV, which allows us to watch Sam as he grows in his power, control, and self-confidence.
I also liked the way things work out with Sam’s girlfriend Nessa. Although both Sam and Nessa behave badly during the breakup, they are able to work things out over the course of the book and remain friends, and even confidants. Both end up in a better place than they were when they were together. I really appreciated seeing them work through their mistakes rather than relegating Nessa to the “bitchy ex-girlfriend” role that is all too common in m/m romance. We can understand her point of view and both of them move forward to better things after their break up.
The title of the story refers to Nash Equilibrium, a game theory that deals with figuring out people’s self interests as a way to determine their behavior and your own best actions. At least I think that’s the gist of it. I will admit that despite careful reading, this did go a bit over my head. It comes up primarily regarding Hansen’s concerns about whether Sam is really serious about a relationship with him, especially since he has only seen him with women prior to the two of them dating.
Which leads me to my other small issue, which is I was a bit confused about Hansen. As readers we know he is gay from the start, but I had trouble understanding if he is out before he and Sam begin dating. It seemed odd that if Hansen was out that Sam would have no idea when the two are such close friends. By the end of the book it is clear that Hansen’s family knew he is gay, so I assume he was partially out at least? But maybe only to them? In reality, this doesn’t really matter to the story, but I did find it confusing.
Overall I really enjoyed Equilibrium. I loved the contrast between Sam and Hansen and the mixture of strength and vulnerability that they each had. The book nicely blends the various plot points of Sam learning his powers, combined with the guys facing threats of exposure, along with the building of the relationship between them. Sam and Hansen were both great characters and very hot together. Really good story.
P.S. This book is a Superpowered Love story. The books are not really a series as they don’t relate to one another with the exception of the shared reality of people awakened to their powers. Personally I think Riot Boy does a bit better job explaining the basics of the powers since one of the heroes is a “sleeper” but I do think you can read them in any order, or just pick and choose. For more about these books you may also want to check out my interview with Katey Hawthorne.
And now two mini reviews for some free short stories that follow Equilibrium…
Jealousy: A Love Story
This is a free short story that is told from Sam’s POV and reunites us with guys after they have been dating a while and are settled into their life together. We also catch back up with some of their friends, including Nessa and her boyfriend Jarrett. The guys meet Jarrett’s younger brother Marco, who takes an immediately liking to Hansen. Hansen is oblivious, but Sam is incredibly jealous at this other guy sniffing around his hot boyfriend and ultimately Sam and Hansen have to work it out.
I loved this story and thought it was a great addition to Equilibrium. I really enjoyed revisiting the characters and there is a lot happening in the small number of pages. A lot of the issues from Equilibrium are touched on a bit and it rounds out that book nicely. Oh, and did I mention it’s smoking hot? Unlike many free shorts, there is actually quite a lot of plot happening here. But it is worth it just for the hotness between Sam and Hansen.
Best Gift Ever
In Best Gift Ever, Hansen and Sam head out to the Marks family lake house for some time alone over the Christmas holiday. Things are going well for the guys, but there a few issues rumbling around. First, Hansen is having a bit of trouble dealing with the differences in their finances (he still being in school while Sam makes great money). He is not jealous or resentful, but he feels bad that he can’t afford to buy Sam nice holiday gifts or pay his own way all the time. Things are also a bit up in the air for Hansen’s next steps with school and Sam worries a bit about whether Hansen intends to include him in those plans. But mostly the story focuses on some hot and heavy loving between the guys and a chance for them to romance it up. This one is crazy hot, you guys. The scene on the porch with the blanket? Wow. We get to see a bit of Hansen’s dominant side and things are awfully sexy. So a bit of a lighter story but lots of fun and definitely worth reading. It leaves us in a nice place in Sam and Hansen’s relationship and a great way to end their story.