Reuben Taylor is a good rugby player. His plan is to go pro and play for the New Zealand All Blacks. It’s been his dream for so long and it’s all he knows and now his dream is close. However, Reuben has a lot of responsibilities. His abusive father still won’t leave him alone and his alcoholic brother, Craig, isn’t the best parent to Reuben’s nephew, Cory. Reuben believes Cory is on the autistic spectrum, but Craig refuses to have Cory evaluated and while Reuben loves his nephew, much of Cory’s care falls to Reuben. The biggest responsibility Reuben has is to make sure he is not outed. There has never been an out professional rugby player and Reuben doesn’t want to be the first. But it’s getting harder to deny who he is, especially when he meets Cameron Wano.
Cam has always known who he is and when he started wearing dresses at the age of 5 and makeup at the age of 8, there was no hiding. He took his share of bullying growing up, but Cam emerged stronger and secure in who he is. One look at Cam and Reuben is so far gone. Cam is wildly attracted to Reuben, but he refuses to go into the closet for anyone and after an attempted hookup goes awry, the men decide to be friends. Friends that can’t stop thinking about each other and flirting with each other and wanting to touch each other. Reuben had a dream to play rugby, but his ultimate dream may be a life with Cam.
Jay Hogan impressed me with her first book, First Impressions, and then I was so ready to check out Crossing the Touchline as it continues on in the same world. We met Cam in the first book as he was friends with Michael and they work at the same hospital and we get an early scene checking back in with Michael and Josh. Hogan offered a great first chapter in that first book, and again here in the prologue, and I was immediately drawn in. I really like when that opening chapter sets such a great tone of what is to come and Hogan does it well.
There was so much I liked about this book starting with both Cam and Reuben. Their chemistry is immediate and all consuming. Their internal dialogue and the snark and the banter and the way they notice each other initially sets the scene, but then continues on and grows as the book progresses.
The men had completely different upbringings and it is evident in the men they have become. It was clear who Cam was from an early age and he grew into himself with the help of supportive parents, whereas Reuben grew up with an abusive father and Reuben has no idea yet how to get out from his father’s grasp. Reuben also has no idea how to be a rugby player, come out, and have a relationship with a man that isn’t hidden. There is also just enough rugby to ground Reuben as an athlete, but not so much that it overwhelmed the story. The author did a great job of showing Reuben’s turmoil regarding all the aspects of his life and while he knows he wants to be with Cam, he would like everything to just work out on its own. But as the tension escalates in Reuben’s life, Hogan also does a great job of capturing the incredible pressure Reuben is under and the intensity of his situation.
One of the reasons Reuben keeps taking it from his father is due to his nephew who has special needs. Reuben’s brother can’t handle the responsibility and with threats of Reuben never being able to see Cory again, Reuben tries to stay in line. His father and brother do not appreciate anything Reuben does, whether it be his time or money, his father wants no part of having a “fag” for a son, and it was difficult to watch Reuben get treated as he does.
When Reuben starts spending time with Cam, it’s like the sun finally came out and the men relate to each other so well. Reuben likes all of Cam, including the eyeliner and soft lingerie, and the longing and heat and passion is evident in every single encounter. Cam goes against everything he stands for when he agrees to be Reuben’s secret, even for a short time, and without a definitive plan, you know things are going to get worse before they get better.
I love books where the dialogue and chemistry and story all come together and a book that I can’t wait to open up and Crossing the Touchline included so many aspects that made it a great book for me. There were openings set up for more in this world and I will be looking forward to that as well as anything Hogan has on offer next.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.