Sandy Williams is finally comfortable with who he is. He has no intention of labeling himself, and if he feels like wearing a skirt one day and pants the next, he’s done apologizing and letting people make him feel bad about it. However, Sandy hasn’t found the man yet that is proud of all the different sides to him and, at 34, Sandy’s starting to think he’s not out there.
Miller Harrison’s dream was to be a professional rugby player, but that dream came to a tragic end one careless night. He still is able to play though and is a successful Paralympian and needs the rush of wheelchair rugby to feed his soul. Miller’s close family knows that he is gay, but not his teammates, and a relationship wasn’t anything he planned. Until he literally runs into Sandy. Miller didn’t think that Sandy would be his type, but Sandy is the most beautiful man Miller has ever seen and everything is better with Sandy in his life. But life continues to throw obstacles in their way and while living against the grain is what both men know about well, they will have to adjust to living it together.
Against the Grain continues the Auckland Med series, which features the hospital where some of the characters work. Miller and Sandy are new to the series and their relationship does stand alone. Several former main characters from the series are mentioned here, with Cam and Reuben appearing on page, and it’s always a richer experience for me to have all of the background of the series. Hogan often creates interesting characters and Sandy and Miller are both well developed. The men are opposites in many ways and together they clash at first, but then settle into each other.
Sandy is unapologetically out and refuses to let anyone make him feel bad about himself ever again. He doesn’t want to label himself, but genderfluid would be the closest. He loves clothes and his mood directs his choices, but not everyone agrees with those choices. He’s had bad relationships and a father that left his family, but Sandy is done feeling bad. Miller knew where he was going until an injury derailed everything and now he spends part of his time in a wheelchair and part of his time getting around with canes. He continues his love of rugby from his wheelchair and he doesn’t want to look too far into the future when his body just can’t take the hits anymore, but that time is now. While Miller’s disability is a huge part of his life, I liked that it was a presented as a part of him and the book doesn’t dwell on what he can’t do.
The men have a rough start when they meet, but the chemistry and attraction is there as well. The men have a lot of challenges to face as Miller isn’t fully out and Sandy has pushback from being out and proud. There are also many external challenges the men face, from long standing family issues of their own, to getting involved in the domestic situation of a newly out teenager. This is a longer book and I felt the many challenges the men face pulled the story in a few too many different directions and the middle of the story did lag behind for me.
I did enjoy how the men were constantly reassessing their thoughts on the other as they got to know each other and realized there was much more to the other than first impressions. The descriptions of how they saw each other were well done.
With cameos from other MCs in the series, and a look ahead to a definite must read coming next for the series, Against the Grain is a good choice for characters taking an unapologetic stand for who they are and a gruff rugby player with a soft spot for the man he loves.