Liam Shaughnessy is a survivor. When he was bullied in school, he learned how to defend himself. When his father was a drunk and his mother worked two jobs, he took care of his younger siblings. Liam rose from the streets of Cincinnati through the ranks of underground cage fighting to have a shot at a title in Vegas. Except, his Irish Catholic family doesn’t know his secret. That secret he trusted to his oldest friend, his current manager, and that may have been a mistake. But, Liam is on the verge of being big news in the boxing world and the only thing that would make it better would be to have Michael Fairweather at this side.
Well, technically, Michael is at his side. Michael is his trainer and masseuse and his blonde hair and gorgeous muscular body make it impossible for Liam to keep pretending that he is straight. He doesn’t want to have to pretend anymore. Michael is the star in each and every one of Liam’s fantasies, but while Michael is completely out and the men share a special bond, Michael also has a boyfriend. Liam can’t risk his career, his money hungry manager won’t allow it, but his loneliness and his intense desire for Michael is overwhelming and suffocating him. All of his life Liam has known three things: Fight. Honor. Win. He doesn’t realize his biggest fight might be outside of the ring.
This book opens with an edgy, hard hitting first person narrative that put me right in the groove. We quickly swirl through Liam’s early years and his introduction to cage matches. All he knows is training and fighting at this point. His training sessions have become torture as he longs for Michael’s touch. He knows who he is and he knows the vast divide between him and Michael (whom he calls Mikey in his head).
With dancing gray eyes, wavy golden hair, at ease with everyone, Mikey was my total opposite. I was broody. He was breezy. I was a foul-mouthed bastard raised on the streets, and he had health, wealth, and wow-power whenever he smiled.
I preferred to glare.
But Liam thinks that his feelings are one sided. After all, his manager, Devlin, keeps setting him up with women for publicity. Michael has a man, and oh yeah, Michael has no idea that Liam is gay. Liam’s thoughts go a million miles an hour when he thinks of how Michael’s own athletic career came to an end and what he does to him.
His on-the-field opportunities came to a screeching halt when he’d suffered a career-ending injury. After that, he’s turned to his other passion. Making my cock hard twenty-four-seven. Or maybe that was my passion, since Michael didn’t have a goddamn clue what he did to me.
The story here is that while Liam is intensely devoted to his career and hitting the big time, he’s also intensely lonely. He’s not only seeking physical gratification, which hell yes he wants that, preferably with Michael, but he also wants someone to kiss him and hold him and love him. We also are shown that Liam is a good guy as he’s devoted to his siblings and tries to make their lives just a bit better as well.
The book is solely from Liam’s point of view so the story is then consumed by his imposing presence. We are put directly into his thoughts and Warren lays out all of his emotions from his overwhelming feelings for Michael, to his fear of coming out, to his intense training sessions, and she does an exemplary job of having us walk in Liam’s shoes. The chemistry and tension between Liam and Michael is off the charts and even when they get together and challenge themselves to take things slow, these guys are intense and so very dirty while being erotic with a hint of sweet.
I enjoy reading about relationships that start from all different angles and here Michael is in a relationship with someone else for about half of the book. It worked for the story being told, but if you’re sensitive to that, here’s a heads up should you need one. We are not given Michael’s point of view at all and the ending and the ultimate wrap up of the story was a little too easy for me. Everything from their relationship, to Michael’s ex, to the issues with Liam’s manager, to Liam coming out, was all wrapped up neatly and it then took away for me from all of the dramatic and intense feelings that led up to the conclusion.
This is the first book I have read by Rie Warren and her style suits me. This book is listed as book one in a series and I will be keeping my eyes open for any follow ups. While there were areas of the book that were a little over the top, it ultimately offered two hard hitting characters that were a great match. If you are looking for explosive chemistry and dialogue with an edge, check out In the Ring.