Sunday, January 18, 2015

Book Review: The Understatement of the Year (Ivy Years #3) by Sarina Bowen

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexuality from everyone. Including himself.

So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.

Dani's rating:

I decided to give this book a go even though I tend not to like first M/M books written by M/F authors. But this story didn't read like "chicks with dicks" at all.

Kudos to Sarina Bowen for a well-written, realistic story about two gay hockey players, one out to much publicity, another closeted and self-hating.

Michael Graham and John Rikker are well-rounded, complex characters. I adored Rikker, his bravery and capacity for forgiveness. He just wanted to be a good hockey player, not "the gay hockey player."

Best friends and lovers in high school, Rikker and Graham are torn apart by a hate crime.

Graham is so terrified of being gay, he paints his life in gray and black, not allowing himself to feel, sleeping with girls when he's drunk enough for everything to blur and can blame a lack of an orgasm on the alcohol.

Graham was not a sympathetic character throughout most of this story. The way he shunned and treated Rikker was despicable. I wanted Rikker to pull away, to push back, but that would not have worked with Graham, and Rikker knew that.

The secondary characters in this story really worked: Bella, the student team manager, who loves hockey AND hockey players; the coach with his inspirational speeches; Rikker's feisty and all kinds of awesome grandma; the other players (except for Big-D, who was a big ol' douchebag, but there's gotta be one of those on every team); and Rikker's ex-boyfriend, whom I totally loved (want his story before the HEA, please!).

The plot of the story did not read young. These were MEN dealing with adult dilemmas.

But the steam level, with the vague descriptions and all fade to black, was closer to YA, which was a tad disappointing.

Sing it with me: Because you know I'm all about that smut, that smut, no treble; I'm all 'bout that smut,'bout that smut, no treble.

Even so, this was a meaningful, enjoyable story. I got completely sucked in and couldn't stop reading. I would read any other M/M book by this author and can definitely recommend this one.

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