Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrators: Teddy Hamilton, Jacob Morgan
Length: 8 hours, 4 minutes
Jamie Canning and Ryan Wesley spent some of the best summers of their lives together at an elite hockey camp in Lake Placid. They only saw each other during the summer, but they were the best of friends. That is until Wes abruptly stopped talking to Jamie after their last summer together and Jamie has no idea why. The two went on to play for different college teams and now both schools are headed to the national championship where Wes and Jamie will undoubtably cross paths.
Wes has been in love with Jamie forever, and even after four years apart, that feeling hasn’t faded. Wes knows he shouldn’t have stopped talking to Jamie, but things got complicated that last summer and Wes felt like he had to pull back to spare his heart and keep things from being even more awkward. When the guys run into each other at the national championships, they can’t help but rekindle their friendship. And when Wes learns that Jamie will be a coach at their old hockey camp before heading to the NHL at the end of the summer, Wes decides to follow.
Being around Jamie is a blessing and a curse for Wes. Their strong friendship continues to grow and it is wonderful to be with his best friend again. But Wes’ feelings never went away and being around Jamie all the time is practically torture for him. He knows Jamie is straight and would never have an interest in him. But to Wes’ surprise, that is not actually the case, as Jamie finds himself unexpectedly drawn to Wes and interested in exploring things between them. The summer heats up as Jamie and Wes act on their attraction and the feelings between them start to grow. But Wes is a top NHL recruit and he knows being out during his rookie year is bound to be a problem, so he plans to stay in the closet. Not to mention that Jamie is headed to another team in the league. Now, Wes and Jamie have to figure out if they want a chance to be together and, if so, how they can make that happen in the face of a complicated future.
Him is the first book in Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy’s two-book series about best friends Jamie Canning and Ryan Wesley and their path to love. The book was originally published back in 2015 and it is a story that is well loved and often talked about among romance readers. Somehow, I had never read the book, so when I had a chance at the audio, I was eager to check it out.
This is a sexy, new adult, friends-to-lovers, bisexual awakening story. While there are some side characters of importance, this story is really very closely focused on Wes and Jamie, which gives it a nice intensity. The story starts as the guys prepare to be face to face for the first time in four years as their teams are both competing in the national championship. We know something happened to halt their friendship, and we quickly learn it is Wes who stopped speaking to Jamie, and the explanation as to why slowly unfolds. Seeing each other again reminds the guys how much they care about each other and how important they are to each other, and Wes arranges to join Jamie at the hockey camp. The guys just fit together so well and they barely miss a beat in coming back together as best friends. But Wes is also pining for Jamie and Jamie has no idea. So we also see this transition as Jamie begins to realize he is drawn to Wes and the guys act on their attraction. There is a great heat between them and a lot of intensity as the pair spend the summer exploring all kinds of things together. As much as Wes and Jamie are right for each other, though, the future is uncertain. Wes can’t see Jamie wanting him long term, not to mention he is wary about being out during his rookie season. Plus, the guys are supposed to be playing for different teams. So they need to work through how they might be able to have a future together and if they even want one. There is some emotional angst here, particularly on Wes’ part, but once the guys act on their feelings, it is generally smooth sailing between them. I loved Jamie and Wes together and really enjoyed their dynamic. They are playful and a bit snarky and you can really feel that they are both best friends as well as lovers.
As I said, this story is really focused on the relationship between them, but we also get some nice scenes at the hockey camp with Jamie and Wes and some of the kids they coach. I also really enjoyed getting a sense of Lake Placid and the authors make the most of the setting to really give the story a nice sense of place. We also get to see the contrast between Wes’ cold and unfeeling family and Jamie’s warm and loving one. They open their hearts to Wes and there are some really nice moments between them. This story also gives Jamie a chance to explore what he wants for his future, so there is a great new adult feel here as he figures himself out. I’ll also throw in I really appreciate that Holly, Jamie’s early friend with benefits, isn’t made out to be the villain here. She wants more than Jamie can give, but rather than being a source of conflict, she becomes a support for Jamie, which I really liked.
I listened to this in audio with dual narration by Teddy Hamilton and Jacob Morgan. I am not always a fan of dual narrators as sometimes the transitions between POV chapters can feel jarring, but that wasn’t the case here. Although Hamilton and Morgan have very different voices and styles, they blended together well and the flow felt very natural to me. Neither narrator relies a lot on expansive voice work for the characters, but I think that is fine here given how much focus is on Jamie and Wes. The voices the narrators do include all worked well. I will say, though, that this is a case where I preferred one narrator over the other. I found Morgan’s narration just a little too flat. It isn’t terrible by any means, but the emotions just didn’t come through enough for me. When someone is mad or sad or turned on, it just didn’t translate through the narration that well. In comparison, Hamilton has much more animation in his voice and really brings his chapters to life. So my rating here is an average of my feelings on each narrator, as I really couldn’t rate them the same.
I am so glad I finally had a chance to check out this story and I can see why it is a reader favorite. I have the second audio lined up and I am looking forward to the resolution of Wes and Jamie’s journey.