Relay, by Layla Reyne
Series: Changing Lanes, Book 1
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: January 8, 2018
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Captain is not a title Alejandro “Alex” Cantu takes lightly. Elected by his teammates to helm the US Men’s Swim Team, he proudly accepts the role, despite juggling endless training, team administrative work, and helping out on the family farm. And despite his ex-lover, Dane Ellis—swimming’s biggest star—also making the Olympic Team.
Dane has been a pawn in his celebrity parents’ empire from crib to pool, flashing his camera-ready smile on demand and staying deeply in the closet. Only once did he drop the act—the summer he fell in love with Alex. Ten years later, Dane longs to cut his parents’ strings, drop his too-bright smile, and beg Alex for another chance.
Alex, though, isn’t ready to forgive and forget, and Dane is a distraction he doesn’t need on his team, until an injury forces Alex to accept Dane as his medley relay anchor. Working together, their passion reignites. When Dane’s parents threaten reprisal and Alex is accused of doping, the two must risk everything to prove Alex’s innocence, to love one another, and to win back their spots on the team, together.
Second Chance/Enemies to Lovers
Warnings for: Homophobic backstabbing and manipulative parents
So, I have a lot of feelings about this book. Because feelings are strong, I find it hard to articulate. If I could post a video of me waving my hands all around, maybe doing some charades, jumping up and down, making strange faces, and maybe floating a spoiler or two, that would be easier. Since that’s not going to happen, let me try and tell you what I think.
What I think is that this is a strong start to this series and I loved it. I loved it even though it had me frustrated and sad, pissed off and raging for much of it. At first it was the frustrated and sad feelings because OMG THE HATE. Alex is carrying a lot of hate around. Like, really a lot. That much hate hurts and can really impact life, you know? And in this case it does… dramatically. And all that hate made me frustrated until that turned to sadness because of the reasons for it. That hate was because of all these painful memories that won’t just go way, and decisions that can’t be changed. It was so sad. My heart hurt for Alex. But my heart also hurt for Dane. He’s carrying a lot of pain too, and nobody sees it.
When really getting into the story, and things start to change, I could see behind all the hate, behind all the pain, to the longing. The want. The need. The… love? Yes, the love and a serious case of lust. It’s there, and it is so strong and sweet and wonderful. It feels like something new and old all at the same time. The relationship between Alex and Dane is full of angst, totally and completely electric, and fun as hell to witness. And then there is another change, team wide. That feels fantastic and gives the book this whole other feel. Actually, the more I think about it, this really felt like a book in three very distinct acts, and that made for a reading that was smooth. So smooth that when I checked for notes and highlights, I had none. Not a single one. This is almost unheard of for me. I think I just didn’t want to stop to take the time to do them because that would have meant not moving on, not getting to the next act. And I needed to get there. I needed to know what happened next.
And yes, there are things that I would have appreciated more of, little things I would have liked to be slightly different or more flushed out. But none of those things were really worth thinking about once I got to the end. Once finished I just wanted to keep going and find out what happens next. If anything, I think one thing bothered me the most was the realness of the media questions. Not because of how real the media interactions seemed, but because it just reminded me of how stupid and inconsiderate the media can be. Alex, being a person of color and gay, made for the media not focusing on the accomplishments of the team and what they were working towards, but on his personal life. While sadly realistic, it still angered me a lot. So I guess, yay for realism? LOL
I really enjoyed each character that we get the privilege of meeting. Most especially Sebastian, Alex’s best friend. (Regarding Sebastian, a hearty thank you to the author for not nicknaming him Seb. Bas is a far superior nickname.) There is also Jacob, or ‘Pup’. These two… Book two of the series features Bas and Pup and I can’t wait for it! Not only do we get to see more of them, but with the way Relay ends, there is more story waiting to be told. Not just with Alex and Dean, but for the whole team.
And well, I suppose I didn’t enjoy every character. I hated Dane’s parents. I still hate them. I hate them with such rage. They’re such horrible people and I can’t, not for the life of me, think of any other character I hate as much as them right now.
With that, I highly recommend this book and series. I can only hope it goes longer than two books because I know I’m not going to get my fix so quickly. So if you’re looking for some sports romance, heavier on the romance but still with plenty of swimming, pick up Relay now.
Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart pounding romance. When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs. Layla is a member of Romance Writers of America and its San Francisco, Kiss of Death, and Rainbow Romance Writers chapters. She was a 2016 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist in Romantic Suspense.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review</