The hardest battle is the fight to be yourself....
Jesse Solomona has always tried to be the perfect straight guy--a cocky sports fan capable of drinking more than he did in his fraternity days and an expert at one-night-stands. That he hooks up with just as many men as he does women is a secret Jesse's been hiding for years, fearful of losing his family and tight group of friends. He's a Kensington boy--a group of guys that grew up in the same neighborhood and somehow all ended up back in their hometown. They, and his family, are the only things that still matter in his otherwise soul-sucking life.
Chuck Dunn, a tattooed and pierced sports photographer, has refused to step back into the closet since he was disowned by his family, but he keeps choosing men who can't fully be with him. Finally free from a long-term relationship he should've ended years ago, he quits his high-profile gig in favor of getting back to the art of sports photography--documenting a local boxing club that works with at-risk teenagers. He may not have the same swagger anymore, but he's working to be happy with who he is.
When Chuck joins one of the Kensington boys' community center sports leagues, Jesse's self-imposed rules are systematically demolished. But there's one barrier Jesse can't find the strength to break through--coming out to the other Kensington boys. Chuck knows hooking up with Jesse is a bad idea. Falling for him even worse. But he can't stay away.
Chuck is damaged by his past. Jesse is frightened about his future. But, together, they may just be able to come out of the shade.
For me, this was a story with which I most definitely did *not* immediately connect.
When the book began and I was introduced to the world of the Kensington Boys, it was all so completely... Bro Dude. There was even caveman speak for fucksake!
Instead of this tight-knit group of men in their thirties coming across as grown-ups, it felt much more like they were still stuck in their college fraternity days. Or worse, high school.
They were getting drunk and acting immature in nearly every single scene, which got tiring and old pretty quickly. I'm assuming that was why a few of my Goodreads friends DNF'd the story pretty early on.
The book eventually got better, to the point that there were actual feelings, instead of just grunts and groans as pitchers of beer were passed around the tables by grown man-children with wives and families at home.
I really liked Chuck right from the start, and Jesse was okay, but it took a while for me to connect with him, after coming across as yet another of those closeted "Yeah, your dick is in my mouth, but I'm still straight, man" kinda guys.
The story did eventually bring me around to the point where I was fully invested in Jesse and Chuck's relationship, thankfully, so I enjoyed the story as a whole.
What I didn't enjoy as much was Jesse's alcoholism, which was completely unexpected, since he didn't seem any more out of control with his drinking than any of the other Kensington Boys.
We were *told*, not *shown*, about his problems with getting drunk and becoming belligerent in the past (referred to as him going "Godzilla"), but it was so out of left field that the plot point felt contrived to me.
"Order up! One heaping plate of steaming, hot drama for table 5." *ding-ding*
One slutty ex-girlfriend, a flurry of shots, and one run-in with the law later and we saw the MC's broken up, which has never been my favorite thing in stories. But at least that time was used wisely here, which increased my liking of where the story ultimately headed.
In regards to steam, this was *not* a slow burn read, as the pair met, hung out, then immediately got down and dirty with one another. Then post-separation through the end of the book, the sex is pretty sparse.
This was a fairly-angsty read, but never really tip-toed up to the line of comically absurd, being more of a steady stream of "OMG, give these two a break, already."
I'd rate this story at around 3.75 stars, after dropping the score a bit for the lack-luster sections at the beginning, which didn't work for me at all.
My ARC copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.
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