Finn Callahan and Dexter Savage have been rival volleyball players since college. There wasn’t one specific incident that made them rivals, it’s just how it’s always been. Now they are professional beach players on rival teams and while Finn and his teammate win more, Dex’s winning personality scores him all the sponsors.
Finn knows the tension between them is more than just rivalry and Finn knows exactly how he felt when he first saw Dex. But Dex was the straight guy and since Finn knew he didn’t stand a chance with him, hating Dex became the next best option. When a tragedy and then an injury force the men to become a team, they have to find a way to work together in every aspect. Dex has a past that forced him to deny who he really was and Finn has been in the closet his entire life. The tension between the men is off the charts, but can they put aside their differences to become professional as well as personal partners? Game on.
The blurb on this book had me expecting a lighter sports-themed book with a built-in professional rivalry and then an enemies-to-lovers storyline. While it was some of those things, Finn is grieving and there were heavier themes to be found as well.
The beginning sets up the rivalry between the men. Finn was attracted to Dex when they met but he hadn’t fully come to terms with being gay at that point. He figured that if he couldn’t be with Dex, then he would hate him even through everyone loves outgoing Dex. The rivalry became out of control over the years and a civil word has never been spoken between the men.
Finn experiences a personal as well as professional tragedy that he can’t seem to pull himself out of and has no one to turn to. Subsequently, Dex’s teammate is injured, sending Dex to offer Finn a new partnership. This is where the sparks start to fly. Carman writes the tension between these guys so well. She writes the chemistry and the sizzle and the electric charge they feel when they brush against each other or take a swing at each other. And that’s the trajectory of the story. Dex is way confused about his feelings as he thinks, “No. Just no. I’m not attracted to a man. Not only a man, but Finn fucking Callahan. My dick pulses in my shorts. Oh fuck. Yes. Yes, I am.” We also get Finn’ POV as he can’t figure out whether he feels “lust, grief, anger, or hatred“ toward Dex and concludes that it’s all of them. Finn thinks he has no chance with Dex and Dex has to come to grips with his feelings and yet they want each other as they hate each other. While Dex’s mantra on the court becomes “I will not punch my teammate. I will not punch my teammate,” he’s not always successful and these guys are all over each other in every way.
Added to this are back stories and side stories for both men. Dex had a difficult childhood and lived on the streets at fifteen. He’s still freaked out about money, although he has plenty of it and has become consumed with signing as many sponsorship deals as possible. Those circumstances led him to denying his sexuality as he feels that if he wasn’t gay, bad things wouldn’t happen to him. He first has to discover who is and then come to terms with who he wants. I did need some more on his family story. It’s a storyline that’s been done before and came across as more of a plot device the way it was handled.
Finn as well has a story. When the tragedy in his life occurs, he sits out a season and spends most of his time drinking, not eating well, and not working out or training. Yet, when Dex comes calling he is still at the top of his game. He has distanced himself from his family since he feels he can’t come out to them and I also needed more than was given from the entire story with his family. There was also a dream sequence added in an effort to get the guys together seemingly quicker and, while the scene itself added heat, the lead into and out of the scene did not flow well to the scene around it.
This book is the first in a new sports series. The introduction of the next MC and then the handoff to that story was a bit clumsy, but I’m definitely on board for more athletes. The ending for Dex and Finn was also rushed and a lot of the issues that were so instrumental in their behavior were then brushed off.
The story of Dex and Finn becoming a couple worked well for me and the heated rivalry and tension between them was the highlight of the story. If you like stories about athletes who can turn up the heat both on and off the court, you could check out Match Point.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.