Peyton Miller is a college quarterback and the son of two famous former-pro football players. He’s grown up in the spotlight of elite sports, and it’s a lot of pressure. His little brother decided he’d go the agent side of the game, leaving Peyton to carry the Talon-Miller mantle. He’s dominated his game at Franklin University and it’s senior year–time to win the college championships, as well as position himself as a top draft pick. That’s why Peyton’s especially troubled when he encounters a ghost from his past: Levi Vanderbilt.
Peyton and Levi attended a prestigious prep school back in Chicago, and spent one brief hour of awkward teenage sex together at Levi’s graduation party. Peyton knows his dads won’t be upset about him being bisexual, but Peyton worries coming out could upset his draft prospects, or disrupt team morale and kill their playoff chances. Still, the curiosity that ignited in Peyton four years ago is blazing now that Levi is on FU’s campus.
Levi is assured to inherit an enormous fortune, so why is he willing to throw it all away to study art, instead of working for the law degree his family thinks he’s earning at Franklin U? Did he really cross the country to share a campus with Peyton and see if their unexpected chemistry was real? Peyton’s confused, but Levi’s subterfuges to hide his yearning don’t last long. Soon, Levi’s romancing the quarterback and experiencing actual familial affection from Peyton’s family. His own folks are stone-cold in all matters, and they don’t mind playing hardball with Levi’s tuition and allowance.
If Levi’s family has its way, he’ll be on the first plane back to Chicago. But Peyton’s determined to be a hero, on and off the field, and this Romeo and Julian story is not going softly into its goodnight.
This is the second book I’ve read from this multi-author Franklin U series. It’s fine to read it as a standalone, as there is barely any crossover of characters between books. For me, even as a longtime football watcher and fan, I found the football parts to be tedious. They got too much page time, with overly descriptive passages that were still confusing. Peyton also does way too much telling; his viewpoint seems intended to evoke hyper focus, but he’s constantly distracted. I found him tiring, from his constant worries about the draft — even while in high school — to how he’s only a hook-up person. His mercurial focus then zeroes in on Levi, rather than school, family, or football, and it felt disingenuous.
Levi’s motivation felt thin; his rather desperate hope to connect with Peyton, after their one-nighter four years earlier, clashes with him being afraid to commit. I questioned how this could be after he lied to his family, then moved 3000 miles just to share a campus with the boy he’d had an uncomfortable fumble with once, while high. The history seemed contrived and bizarre, and I’d probably have been more into the romance if these guys had just met in college. As they were hardly even acquaintances in high school, this backstory made little impact and only highlighted how unsuited they were as a couple.
The tone of the story, with both Peyton and Levi hiding their relationship from their parents, seemed juvenile. The dialogue and banter had a locker-room, bro-talk vibe, cementing that younger mindset. To me, Levi and Peyton didn’t mature much from the high school grad party scene at the beginning, which lowered my enjoyment. It’s an HEA for the couple, but I wasn’t fully engaged, as they both felt one-dimensional to me.