Sullivan “Van” Archer has achieved his dreams of playing professional football. He’s regarded as one of the best wide receivers, yet his life still feels empty. Trapped in the world of professional sports, Van feels that coming out would be career suicide. He has resigned himself to the fact that he will never have a real relationship, just hook-ups on the sly. This latest hook-up, however, has gotten way under his skin.
Toby really doesn’t want to be out at a club with his best friend, Leo. Toby is a quiet guy just trying to keep his head down after his past abusive relationship. He works from home and also teaches yoga, but working mostly from home means he just has to interact less. That is until he finds himself alone with Van Archer. Toby has no idea who the man is and their one night is forever seared into his memory. The men never expected to see each other again, but when Van is injured, Toby becomes his yoga instructor as he heals.
Van is completely captivated by Toby and while Toby is certainly attracted to Van, he’s terrified of getting close to another man. Van also cannot come out and the men will have to risk stepping way out of their comfort zone to be together. But even if they can let down their defenses around each other, Toby’s ex has no intention of letting Toby go.
When we first meet Toby, he is working on getting his life back together after leaving his abusive ex. He has a good friend in his neighbor, Leo, and it’s Leo who gets Toby to go out one night. Van and Toby meet when Van expresses interest in Toby for a discreet hookup. The author chose to keep this first meeting, with the exception of the introductions, off page so when the men are fondly reminiscing about each other in the early parts of the book, it was more difficult to connect with what they were remembering.
At first it was easy to see where each character was coming from, with Toby being wary and Van desperate to keep his orientation a secret from his teammates. The attraction between the men is clear, and with Van being a bit more dominant and Toby being bendy, it made for more than a few heated scenes.
The book jumps forward in time, often from a few weeks to months at once, and there were few details of what was happening during those times. So when an issue would arise, the scene would end only to pick back up again at a later date and it was harder to find a rhythm with these guys as they were together and then apart over and over.
The main issue I had here was the way Toby responded to his ex, Austin. Austin was a two-dimensional and predictable character. He abused and assaulted Toby during their relationship, yet when Austin calls him, Toby goes to see him alone. It was difficult to give Toby even a pass for going to see Austin once, let alone the several times that he did and here’s why:
Austin raped Toby at the end of their relationship, which was off page. Currently, he is stalking Toby and holding something as leverage over Toby and blackmailing him. Austin physically attacks and attempts to rape Toby again during one of their meetings and Toby refuses to press charges even though there is a witness. All of the recovery time is off page and then Toby goes to meet with Austin once again and Austin attempts to rape him yet again. Toby’s responses were incredibly frustrating as he just kept going back time and again and getting himself severely injured.
We were never shown Toby working through any of his issues, he just says he doesn’t want to talk about it, yet he is ready to be intimate with Van and it was too much to overcome to fully get into the story. Van also has his own issues, but he let his fear of being exposed overrule being able to stand up for or protect Toby and Van was given a whole lot of chances.
The book is filled with secrets and lack of communication and then the end offered a few lines of stories of secondary characters at the last minute to seemingly justify the other characters and that didn’t work for me. The attraction between the men at times worked for me, there is enough of a sense that Van is actually a football player, and Leo was a great scene stealer. The issues I had with Toby would be what would have me hesitate on giving this one a recommendation.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.