Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.75 stars
Narrator: Piers Ryman
Length: 9 hours, 18 minutes
I am a selfish person. I have loved the District Line series since I first read it, and when the audio books came up for review, I didn’t even think to allow anyone else to review them. There’s something about revisiting a favorite world or favorite characters through someone else’s eyes that can make the experience that much better. And, I have to say, I have been — for the most part — delighted with the job Piers Ryman has done with this series. Going back for a quick re-listen to some chapters from the first book (as one does), you can tell how much growth Seb and Jay have gone through by listening to the confidence in their voices through Ryman’s narration. In the first book, Kick Off, Seb is sharper, his brittle fragility more evident in the way he speaks. Jay is slower, more thoughtful, and not as sure of himself as he is in this third book.
While there’s a lot of football action in these books, and even a good deal of time spent with Seb’s band, The Drops, and how their career is taking off (with a focus on the sheer amount of work and effort that goes into it; this is no overnight, miracle moment; Seb has been putting his whole life into this), the main focus is the relationship between Seb and Jay.
Jay is struggling to be a good, quiet, unassuming footballer. He’s gay, he’s out, but he’s not going to let that be the focus of his career. However, that doesn’t stop the bigots and homophobes, and when one of them aims a sharp kick to his knee, Jay has to deal with not just the pain — and the anger at the other player — but his own feelings on who and what he is. His own insecurities, encouraged and exacerbated by the drugs, the pain, and the uncertainty of his future fuel his fears that he might not be enough for Seb now that he’s so injured. Seb wants to be public with their love, so why can’t he? Will Seb leave him if he can’t be open? Will Seb, who expresses his love more through actions than words, find comfort in someone else’s arms since Jay can’t even get it up for a quick blowjob?
Seb knows Jay is hurt and hurting, but he doesn’t know how to help. He knows the anger isn’t directed at him, and he knows that his own anger at what happened to Jay isn’t helping, but he, too, is suffering beneath a weight he doesn’t know how to carry. He can’t fix this, can’t throw money at it, can’t just laugh it away with a well-timed quip, so … he avoids it. He focuses on the things he can fix, like his band, the one thing that — before Jay — was everything he wanted. Even so, he ignores the phone, the emails, all of it for Jay, but when Jay tells him to go it’s as much as Jay saying he doesn’t want Seb around, so Seb, taking him at his word, gathers up his feelings and runs off to the one thing he can do right.
The previous book, Break Through, was more focused on Seb’s inner demons, his relationship with Stephen and his father, his anger at the mother who left him behind, and at the distance he’d put between himself and his friends all for money … until Jay came back into his life and made Seb realize that he’d rather be happy with Jay than rich without him. And now it’s Jay’s turn. Jay’s profession is a physical one with a focus on his health, his athleticism, and his ability to last in a sport that sees its share of physical break downs. When the worst happens, his leg taken away from him, Jay is left with all those inner thoughts circling around not just his relationship with Seb, but his relationship with himself.
The raw emotions, the anger — both justified and not — the half measures he takes for the good of other people, all of it has to be examined and weighed against what he really wants. He has Seb and sports, so why isn’t he happy with it? What more does he want? How much more does he have to give or take? What is the line in the sand he will not cross? It’s a lot of angst, but it’s all to a purpose and in the end, as with Seb in Break Through, Jay comes to a decision that is the best for him and his happiness.
You know, if you’ve read my other reviews on this series, that I’m going to tell you to read it. And listen to it. This is one of only two series that I have purchased both Ebooks and audio books for because they’re just that good. The characters are amazing, the relationship is beautiful, and the writing and the narration are just that good. I really hope you enjoy these books as much as I have.