Jordan Shelby has left college to return to the beach town that bears his family name, for his grandfather who has become ill. His parents traveled often when Jordan was a child, they still do, and Jordan spent a lot of time with his grandparents. His grandmother was his champion, as a non-binary Jordan struggled to find his place in the world and, now that she is gone, Jordan’s grandfather tries hard. Jordan has always been filled with anxiety and a bad experience left swimming right up there at the top of the list. But Jordan is determined to get in the water for himself and for his grandfather and hiring Zane to help with that seems like a good idea.
Zane had a hard childhood with a drug-addicted mother who moved him from place to place until finally disappearing when Zane was 13. Zane then lived with his aunt and uncle who gave him a stable life. Things became unstable yet again when Zane was diagnosed with cancer and now that he’s been in remission for two years, he is looking ahead. As a personal trainer, he’s finally doing well professionally and when he sees Jordan, he is taken with one glance. But Jordan turns him down and deep down Zane doesn’t feel worthy of someone like Jordan, but when the men find common ground, they may be on to something special.
I found the characters in Testing the Waters interesting as this book opens up a new series set in a Florida beach town. Jordan refers to himself as both non-binary and gender queer and, while he doesn’t have himself all figured out, he finally has some of it. He’s also trying to figure out his anxiety and with therapy he recognizes what triggers him and he’s working on it. He doesn’t have a tremendous amount of support, which is part of his battle. His love life has not been going well and it seems he chooses wrong all of the time with men that are only intrigued with his outside. He’s determined not to make the same mistakes and even though he is attracted to Zane, he feels hiring him teach him to swim and help him get over his fear of the water is a better plan than dating him.
Zane is all cool guy on the outside. Good looking and flirty, he seems to have it all together, but Zane has his own issues to deal with regarding how his mother abandoned him and then his cancer diagnosis. The first part of this book had a good dose of hurt/comfort with the guys circling around their attraction. Zane thinks that wealthy Jordan would never be interested in a guy like him, but they both have a lot to learn about each other. I enjoyed getting to know these guys and the slow steps they were taking toward each other, as well as improving their lives.
There were other storylines, however, that didn’t work for me. First, was Jordan and how he left college for his grandfather. He learns his grandfather is ill and quits college and returns home. However, his grandfather is out of the country on vacation for most of the book and there was nothing ever said about what Jordan’s plans were regarding college. He just quit and that was the end of the story. Zane’s storyline with his mother was really the part that didn’t work for me. The later part of the book gets focused too much on this for me and opened up plot holes and took away from the flow of Jordan and Zane. By the end, the later part of the book had a much different feel than the earlier part and it never evened out again for me. We are introduced to other men in town throughout this book and I would be interested in reading their stories as the series continues in Shelby Beach.