Today Jay and Michelle are sharing a Buddy Review for The Quarterback by Tal Bauer. The story is a pretty direct follow up to The Jock and the characters make significant appearances in each other’s books. The relationships among the four men play a key role in this story and having read The Jock will enhance your experience here. Check out the overview below and then Jay and Michelle’s thoughts on the book.
Nick Swanscott had feared his relationship with his son, Justin, was ruined. Nick watched Justin pull away for years, but Nick has now divorced his homophobic wife and re-established his connection with Justin. Nick has even moved to the town where Nick and his boyfriend, Wes, go to college. They all see each other regularly, along with Wes’ best friend, Colton. Nick loves being a part of Justin’s life again, and has grown friendly with Wes and Colton.
Colton Hall is the star quarterback of the college national championship team. The NFL is calling, but Colton has decided to stick it out one more year in college. He loves the camaraderie of the team, particularly his incredibly close friendship with Wes, and he isn’t ready to give that up. Plus, another year in Texas will help make him a stronger player and a better leader. However, Colton’s dreams are crushed when he gets severely injured during practice. Suddenly, Colton is going from a top NFL prospect to potentially ending his career before it even starts.
When Colton gets hurt, Wes, Justin, and even Nick rally around him. With Colton’s father long gone from the scene and his mother busy at work, Nick is there to help Colton get sorted with his recovery. He keeps Colton company when the other boys can’t be around and even gets Colton a summer internship with his company to help keep him on the road to graduation.
With Wes and Justin out of town for the summer, Nick and Colton spend increasing time just the two of them, growing to be close friends. They spend days working together and nights hanging out in Nick’s apartment. Before long, Colton is realizing he has feelings for Nick, something that shocks him because he has never been into guys. While Colton works up the nerve to share his feelings with Nick, it turns out Nick is attracted to Colton as well. As the summer continues, the men grow closer, falling hard for one another. But Nick knows that there is no way Colton wants anything serious with a man 20 years his senior, especially not once football starts up again. And neither of them are quite sure how to tell Justin that Colton and Nick are dating. Not to mention that neither man is good about sharing what they want from the relationship long term. Nick and Colton have fallen hard for each other, but now they must figure out if there is a way to turn their summer romance into a lasting love.
Rating: 4 stars
I absolutely adored The Jock, so I was really eager to check out this follow-up story. Nick and Colton are both pivotal characters in the first book, but to be honest, I never even considered them together until I heard Bauer was writing this second story. I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure how Bauer was going to get these guys from “Justin’s dad” and “Wes’ best friend” to romantic partners. At the start, I had some trouble seeing them as friends and peers, particularly as Colton is injured and Nick seems to be taking on the role of father figure for Nick’s absent parents. But Bauer manages to make it work, and slowly we see a real friendship grow between Nick and Colton, one that exists independently of Justin and Wes. I think it was a smart choice to get the other couple out of town and give our MCs a chance to shine together outside of their light. They form a tight bond that slowly and unexpectedly turns from friendship into love.
One thing I loved about The Jock is the sense of intense, all consuming love. The story is so deeply emotional and moving and Justin and Wes are almost vibrating with their feelings for each other. While I didn’t find things resonated quite as much for me with Nick and Colton, there is still that same sense of intense emotion and love and having feelings that almost take over everything else. There is such passion and wonder about Nick and Colton’s relationship and I found myself very much swept up in their feelings.
Bauer is great at research and detail and I really liked the football elements to the story. It doesn’t overwhelm the book if you are not a sports fan, but the way Bauer gets into Colton’s head really helps convey his character. We see how Colton’s brain analyzes the game and the way this carries over to his internship and other aspects of his life. We also see how Colton’s leadership evolved from his role on the field and how much that has shaped him as a person. Bauer also really highlights the camaraderie and connection among the team, the bond that is built between them all. We particularly see it with Colton and Wes and the brotherhood they have between them. So I found this aspect of the book quite well developed and it really enhances the overall story.
As much as I enjoyed this book, I did find myself pulled out of the story at times by things that just didn’t quite come together for me. The first is the relationship among Justin, Wes, Nick, and Colton. We learn at the start of the story that Nick hangs out with the three college students all the time. They not only spend tons of time at Nick’s apartment, but he socializes with them regularly, going to bars and even parties with them. I get that Justin and Nick are close, but Justin is still a college student and Nick is his dad. This just felt so unrealistic to me that it kept throwing me out of the story. Now everyone’s mileage may vary here, and this isn’t an “it’s wrong” situation. But even as a parent of a college student with whom I am incredibly close, to the point of talking to her about five times a day when she is away at school, the idea that I would constantly hang out with her and her friends socially is just inconceivable. And while I am friendly with some of her friends, I am still very much in a parental role, not a “peer” friend. So, like I said, this is a personal opinion, but I found myself struggling here as I kept getting thrown out of the story by this dynamic.
I also found the internship storyline hard to believe on a few levels. We know Nick is a top executive at his company, so I could accept he arranges an internship for Colton at the last minute. But I found it really hard to believe that as a summer intern with zero experience, Colton is essentially Nick’s number two person on this huge, years-in-the-making deal that is going down. He travels with Nick, meets with the client, and even gives the big presentation. While we are told Nick has this whole team working under him, Colton seems to be the only one involved, even on the day of the launch of this enormous new project. Surely given the magnitude of the project, there would be a ton of staff involved making sure it all goes off perfectly, but instead, it is somehow the summer intern who is the only person Nick has on board. Again, your mileage may vary. Maybe summer interns do get to fly on private helicopters, dine at exclusive steakhouses with just their boss and the top client, and travel all over the state while the entire corporate professional staff stays home. But I had trouble swallowing it.
What really set me off, however, is the fact that Nick is ultimately sleeping with his college-aged summer intern, yet there is not even a mention in the book of him considering the implications of that. Nick is a kind, considerate man and presented as a highly skilled professional. The idea that it never occurs to him that this is a massive conflict of interest and an HR nightmare seems insane. Nick is a 40+ year old man who is not only best friends with his intern, but then moves his intern into his home for the summer (platonically). When they travel for work trips, they share a hotel room. That in and of itself seems unlikely, but then Nick starts sleeping with his intern, even to the point of rimming Colton in his unlocked office during the day at work. I found I could hardly enjoy the scene because I kept freaking out that they haven’t even locked the door. I mean, just imagine if this was a 40-year-old man and a female college intern and any of this happening at work without a thought. As a reader, I had no problem with their relationship or their age gap or any of that, as Bauer makes me believe in their connection. But regardless, I really needed to see some reflection from Nick and acknowledgement that this is something that needs consideration.
I know most of these things fall into the suspend your disbelief area, since this is a romance and I should just go with it. But that is not always easy for me and I found myself pulled out of the book in a way that affected the flow of the story at times. All that said, I found myself enjoying the romance between Nick and Colton very much. I love the tone Bauer has brought to this series, and the deeply emotional, romantic intensity to these books really works for me. I so enjoyed seeing Nick and Colton figure out their next steps in life and the way they were able to grow with one another. And I found them ultimately quite sweet and romantic. Overall, I found this story a nice follow up to The Jock and definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of the first book.
Tal Bauer has released many books this year already and I have been reading them all. The Quarterback is a contemporary sports novel, as opposed to the mystery and drama of many of Bauer’s other books. While there is internal angst here portrayed by several of the characters throughout the series, these books definitely have a lighter touch by comparison.
Colton, as the title suggests, is the quarterback for the college football team. We met him as Wes’ best friend in the previous book, with Nick as Justin’s father. This story is told mostly from Colton’s point of view and Bauer was able to really get me into his head. Colton is a great quarterback, but also a great leader and understands the role he plays on the team, and I liked how Colton’s character was set up. Colton is also incredibly lonely. He hasn’t seen his father since he was 5, his mother is busy with her career, and Colton feels like there is no place for him. When he gets injured, Nick really steps in to help him out and despite Colton never having had feelings for a man before, he falls hard.
It’s a delicate balance here to determine if Colton sees Nick as a father figure. There are some hints to that, but Colton is mostly blown away by Nick’s caring nature as Colton recovers from a devastating injury. There is a lot going on with Colton once he catches feelings for Nick and those all-consuming feelings are written well. We barely get any point of view from Nick and I would have liked to have seen more from him. Later into the book, there is a chapter from Nick’s POV, but by that time it felt oddly placed for me to have his POV appear all of a sudden.
I could get on board with Nick being able to place Colton in a last minute internship due to his position in the company. It was more difficult to believe that Colton then became Nick’s second on a lucrative and important project that had been in the works for years. No one in the office seemed to mind that Colton was now the go to person on a large roll out that others had to have been working on for a long time.
It was also great to see more of Wes and Justin and how their relationship has progressed, but many things that were pivotal to their story happened off page and I felt a little like they needed another shorter book just for them. I also had issues with Justin’s reaction to Nick and Colton’s relationship. A lot of his story is about how Nick has been there for him and Justin doesn’t even take a breath to listen to his father at all here. I then also had issues with Wes’ reaction to Colton. Colton had always been there for the team, yet Colton then felt abandoned once again.
The strength of this book for me was Colton and then the intensity of the feelings on display between him and Nick. If you can get past some of the other details, Tal Bauer continues to be a good choice.