Wednesday, December 16, 2015

ARC Review: Winter Ball by Amy Lane

Winter Ball
Through a miserable adolescence and a lonely adulthood, Skipper Keith has dreamed of nothing but family. The closest he gets is the rec league soccer team he coaches after work—and his star player and best friend, Richie Scoggins.

One brisk night in late October, a postpractice convo in Richie’s car turns into a sexual encounter neither of them expected—nor want to forget. Soon Skip and Richie are living for the weekends and their winter league soccer games—and the games they enjoy off the field. Through broken noses, holiday decorating, and the killer flu, they learn more about each other than they ever dreamed possible. Every new discovery takes them further beyond the boundaries of the soccer field and into the infinite possibilities of the best relationship of Skipper’s life.

Skipper can’t dream of a better family than Richie—but Richie’s got real family entanglements he can’t shake off. Skipper needs to convince Richie to stay with him beyond winter ball so the relationship they started on the field might become their happy future in real life!

Todd's rating:

I absolutely LOVED and adored so much about this book.

First, Skip, whose deep longing for friends and a real family made my heart ache. He'd dreamed and planned toward both since he was in middle school, after his parents divorced, but it hadn't ever really happened for him. He had no solid faith that he'd every be anything other than alone.

Then Richie, who'd been his dysfunctional family's verbal punching bag since his mother skipped town when he was a teen and he later started doing the books at his father's junk yard. He was a spunky, little spitfire with a bit of a temper to match his flaming ginger hair.

The two met 6 years prior, during tech school, and became fast friends, spending many hours together either playing on their recreational league soccer team, the Scorpions, or just hanging out at Skip's small house. But only as friends.

But during an after-practice beer in Skip's car, an accidental touch lit a fire inside them that could never be put out, so the two got hot and heavy pretty quickly.

It's pretty funny how quickly two 25 year old guys talking about how sex had never been that great with their ex-girlfriends could take an extremely interesting, and sexy, twist.

And sweet baby Jesus, Amy put some hot and nasty ass words on the page this time, let me tell you. And, to my delight, a whole lot of them.
In the sudden silence, Skip could hear Richie’s breathless moan, and then that sound again, of a spoonful of tapioca flung at a canvas sail.

Skip’s vision darkened and he came, huge, dumping what felt to be a lifetime of spend into Richie, marking him from the inside out as irrevocably Skip’s now, nobody else’s. Skip was this kind of friend, and nobody else could be.
(I'm not sure I'll ever see tapioca pudding again without having truly dirty thoughts, just sayin'.)

But fucking hell, once Skip and Richie got a taste of ' the pene ,' it was all game over and check please, with a healthy dose of "get your ass naked right NOW, dammit!"

Anywhooo, now that I have your attention... ;- )

The story was also chocked full of feels, too.

Skip was so gentle and loving with Richie, even the descriptions of something as ordinary as lying in bed together, just talking, were a thing of beauty. Their connection was bone-deep, with every tender touch meaning the world and giving both men something that they'd never truly had before.
“I wish you didn’t have to go home.”

Richie didn’t look horrified—he looked sad.

“Yeah, me too.” They’d locked Hazel in the bathroom, so they were standing in a lighted doorway. The whole world could see them. And Richie grinned up at him and tapped his cheek gently with a knuckle. “You think I want to leave a place that serves cold pizza for breakfast and has Almond Joys?”
It really was amazing to watch and turned out to be one of my very favorite aspects of the story.

Another large part of the story that I enjoyed was the friendship that developed between the men and Carpenter, Skip's personable, overweight co-worker. Over the course of the story, they went from work friends to genuine family.

Plus, there were plenty of parts in the story that kept me cracking up. Like when Mason, "Mr. Gay Porn", Skip's company's VP of Sales, would call and blatantly hit on him (yes, that set Richie's jealousy on high heat), then thanked him for not suing for sexual harassment. Wiping the floor with Carpenter's douchey, pretentious high school friends while golfing. Skip throwing up on command on the soccer field to get what he wanted. All of that stuff was pure gold in my eyes.

For me, this book worked so well because of the delicate balance of attraction, tenderness, humor, friendship and family that was so well maintained. And the sex, of course. Every little thing was doled out to the reader in precisely the correct amount, never really over-the-top and most certainly never dragging down the story's momentum.

The sex never came across as gratuitous, the feels never felt forced and the conflict from Richie's family never approached a level of melodrama.

The book really was pretty much perfect for me and ended with a strong HEA.

The only, and I mean only, thing that I maybe, kinda, sorta would've liked to see was a short epilogue of a year or so down the road, but that's mostly just me being especially greedy for more Amy Lane.

Sue me, we've all been there, people, so don't judge. : )

So yes, this one was a very solid 4.5 stars in my book and I highly recommend picking it up at your first opportunity.

My copy of this book was provided by the publisher for a fair, unbiased review.

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