Julian has returned to Chicago after fifteen years. He has a potential new job and everything will be great, as long as he doesn’t run into Camdon. In a city the size of Chicago, the odds should be in his favor. But they are definitely not, as Julian runs into Camdon on his first night out and then learn they will be working on a charity event together. Julian and Camdon were only ever rivals until they weren’t, but Julian isn’t going to discuss that.
Camdon is trying to get over a breakup and, if that isn’t hard enough, he has to run into Julian hanging out with his closest friends. Camdon has no control around Julian and his temper rages. Camdon never wanted to see Julian again, but his friends and family have already opened up their group to allow space for Julian and it seems wherever he looks, Julian is there. But nobody knows all of what went down between Julian and Camdon, even they don’t have all the facts, and neither man is ready to open up to the other. Camdon blames Julian and Julian blames Camdon and while the men push each other away in one moment, their physical attraction is a live wire. There is much more to their story then either man is ready to deal with, but the men might just belong right next to each for all time.
Ex-Rivals is the third book in the Local Beats series and tells Camdon and Julian’s story. Their story does stand alone, but former MCs are present in their group of friends, so there is some series crossover.
I did struggle with this book and the story the men shared. Julian and Camdon were legendary rivals growing up, but at times, it seemed even more extreme than the word rivals would describe. So extreme that when Camdon’s friends even hear the name Julian, they all think of Camdon’s rival. Their former history is only told in pieces and I never did feel like I had the complete picture of this rivalry. When high school ended, Camdon thought he was going to be free of Julian, but then they went to the same college and their rivalry continued until there was a dramatic shift in their relationship. There is some peripheral conversation that there was more to the story of them winding up at the same college, but we never get that and we never see the shift in their relationship and never learn how that rivalry dramatically shifted. We do know that their entire relationship ended abruptly and both men refuse to talk about it and there is a lot of hurt on both sides. What this story narrows down to is that the men have a misunderstanding for 15 years and, even when confronted with it, refuse to acknowledge or discuss it.
I didn’t care for the way Camdon was treated. He has this close group of friends that are supposed to be on his side and support him. Yet, the moment Julian arrives, his friends and sisters embrace Julian, invite him over to Camdon’s home to hang out, and generally mock Camdon for his attitude. Camdon was the one that everyone always seemed to pile on for “fun” and they really didn’t seem to care much how upset Camdon truly was by having Julian in his space. Camdon and his sisters inherited a house from their grandparents and Camdon was the only one that wanted to live there, yet his sisters just show up whenever they want and the entire dynamic was off for me.
Julian’s personal backstory is a little cloudy as well, with his father being in prison. We are also only given brief glimpses of that story and it didn’t help in evolving his character. Camdon’s character wasn’t well developed either, as we are told he is a lawyer, but nothing in his story that we were shown supported this other than being told a few times he was indeed a lawyer. The dialogue was also off for me at times, as Camdon, who is in his 30s, refers to someone as his “third best friend.”
There were times when I certainly felt chemistry between the men and I was in the groove with their story, only to be pulled out yet again by the rest of their story around them not working for me as much. It then made it more difficult to get on board with Julian and Camdon deciding to have a relationship with benefits and refusing to discuss anything about the mountain of history blocking their path to moving forward. Ex-Rivals features a story of enemies to lovers, back to enemies, and back to lovers again that didn’t flow well enough for me to fully get caught up in it, but may certainly land differently for a different reader.