Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Luke and Mario are co-captains of the Rough Riders, a popular athletic team that participates in three different sports throughout the year. When Mario dumps Luke one day before practice, Derek happens to be jogging by. He’s immediately attracted to Luke and quickly realizes he is also the captain of the team he wishes to join. Luke invites Derek to the practice and he soon becomes an indispensable part of the team.
Luke is gay and, due to a horrible experience many years ago, is terrified of coming out of the closet to his team. Because Mario is so frustrated with living a lie, he thinks breaking up with Luke will get him to admit that he is gay to the team in order to win Mario back. Instead, it has the opposite effect. Luke turns to Derek instead and finds he has feelings for him that he never had even in his 10-year relationship with Mario. Derek recently broke up with a closeted boyfriend and won’t play Luke’s game for long. Luke has to decide if he’s going to let Derek go to keep his sexuality hidden or if he’s willing to risk it all for a chance at love.
Rough Riders is a short, entertaining read with the added benefit of some sweaty, ripped athletes. My heart went out to Luke, who is dealing with a traumatic event from his past and I found Derek the perfect person to help him heal. Mario was a bit of an ass at first, but once I understood his intent, I loved him as well. I love team sports. (*sigh*) The camaraderie of the team showed in their playful banter, and it doesn’t hurt a bit when there’s a locker room shower scene involved.
This book did suffer from a bout of insta-love. Luke was in a relationship with Mario for ten years and never told him he loved him, yet after only a short while with Derek, he knows he’s in love. An unfortunate side effect of a novella is that there’s not much time to allow a relationship to develop, so when the declaration of love comes so quickly, it seems unrealistic. Do I believe Derek and Luke belong together? Absolutely. I just wish they could’ve spent more time together before the HEA.
Along with a hasty rush to confess their undying love for each other, I was also a little bit bugged by the coming out part of the book. The premise of the story is that Luke cannot come out of the closet, yet it’s resolved in a rather anticlimactic manner. It seemed a flimsy foundation on which to base the main conflict of the book.
All in all, though, I really enjoyed this short novella. It’s easy to read and is sweet and light. It’s also steamy and satisfying. While there are some elements of the plot that didn’t sit particularly well with me, I still had a great time reading it. And I’d love to be in the stands to watch these men play.
P.S. Devon is giving away a copy of Rough Riders and its companion story Rough Awakening in our Jock Week giveaway so be sure to check it out. Also, we reviewed Rough Awakening as part of the Unconventional at Best anthology from Total-E-Bound.