Fire InsideRating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance
Length: Short Story

Eric Ramos has been hired to take care of up and coming NBA star Tyler Haley, who has had nothing but bad luck when it comes to personal assistants.  Outwardly self-assured and cocky, Tyler is fragile and trusting, far too trusting and susceptible to manipulation.

Eric works hard to remain professional, but small indicators lead him to believe that Tyler’s wants and needs are different than everyone thinks.  Eric decides that he cannot keep lying to Tyler and admits he is gay, and Tyler is surprisingly okay with the revelation.  This does not help with Eric’s increasing sexual frustration and, since Eric is not on duty for away games, he takes advantage of Tyler’s absence to find some companionship.  However, a text from Tyler makes Eric realize that he is not interested in just any old trick.

Their working relationship has always appeared to be of a more personal nature, more close friends than employer/employee.  A home game loss provides Eric with an eye-opener.  Tyler has a routine after every home game loss in an effort to live up to everyone’s expectations. Eric knows that this behavior is not healthy and confronts Tyler and the floodgates open.  All of the things that make Tyler tick come to light for the first time: the betrayals, the abandonment, the loss of innocence.  The employee must become more for the employer, but will Tyler let Eric in?

I seriously liked both Eric and Tyler, two very different characters that demonstrated depth and believable traits that made them feel real.  At times they sounded like an old married couple, with their silly conversations and familiarity.  Also, “the armadillo.” That’s all, just “the armadillo.”.  What a laugh, and shows the sweet innocence inherent in Tyler.

I also liked that this is a story with basketball that does not focus on the game, but rather on how the game and its people affect the characters.  I also liked the chapter headings. They are like phases of an military operation that is solely focused on Tyler and were clever in that they gave us an idea of what we were to expect without giving away any information.

The point of conflict was pretty obvious: homosexuality in sports and its effect on the mental health and well-being of the gay athlete.  The issue was really well addressed in Fire Inside. I felt for both closeted Tyler for what he did to fit in and for Eric who spent years closeted in the military, thus giving Eric a real understanding and empathy for his young charge.

I tend to be drawn to sports themed stories, which is funny since I am not athletic in the least, but this theme is a powerful one and I will definitely re-read Fire Inside again, for the simple, coherent story and the two great main characters.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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