Level Hands, by Amy Jo Cousins (Bend or Break, Book 4)
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (August 25, 2015)
Pages Count: 293 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5
* I received an advanced copy of this novel from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. *
Rafael took up rowing after Denny introduced it to them when they were teens in Chicago. Now in college, Rafi is on a rowing scholarship at the posh, east-coast school that Denny attends. Two problems: he doesn’t fit in with the rich, white kids around him; and he already has a reputation… as the guy who only got in because of Denny’s family’s money.
Rafi didn’t even know if he was offended or embarrassed. Jesuchristo, Denny. You couldn’t keep your mouth shut? He didn’t know what bothered him more: the idea that he was showing up on campus with some kind of claim already laid on him by a guy he’d kissed one time on the lakefront two years ago, or that everyone knew he’d kissed the guy, period.
The big problem here was Rafi’s character. He’s inconsistent, and it was frustrating as a reader because I couldn’t relate to him. One second he’s running scared, refusing to commit or do anything with Denny, and the next he’s making out with Denny in the boathouse. Too much back and forth!
I also thought that Rafi was too worried about his reputation. He’s openly gay, and only one guy on the entire rowing team cares. There are other openly gay guys on the team, and no one bothers them. So why is he so afraid to be seen with Denny? Who cares if Denny’s family bought his place at school? I get that he wants to prove himself, but he does prove himself over and over while rowing.
But the writing is the same high quality that I expect from Amy Jo Cousins, and the side characters really made this novel enjoyable. Austin is hilarious, and I really hope that Book 5 is about him! And Denny is endlessly patient, putting up with Rafi’s hot and cold and always being there to support him.
“Speak for yourself. I’m a fucking tower of hypermasculinity,” Austin said loftily between tamale bites.
“Yeah. Sure. That’s what we all thought when we caught you on your knees in the boathouse,” Denny said.
The final verdict? Enjoyable, but Rafi is not the easiest character to relate to and his mood swings are exhausting for the reader and the rest of the characters.
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