Division I college football coach Peyton Stone has a secret. It’s not so much that he’s gay. It’s that he’s fallen in love with his older Iraq-War-vet-turned-starting-QB Brady Winter. Willing to deny himself for the sake of the Golden Eagles football team, Peyton focuses helping his team score touchdowns, but when he discovers the attraction is mutual, he jumps in with both feet.
For each, the stakes are high: bowls, limelight, press, and the NFL. But Peyton and Brady find time during the season to carve out their own private and sexy refuge. Only jealous whispers force the head coach to see what he didn’t want to see and he tears the two apart. It’s only when Brady’s war injuries threaten his health that Peyton reluctantly returns to the team -- under cover! The two concoct a plan to pass off Peyton as Brady at the bowl game, thereby preserving Brady’s health and perhaps earning a national championship. Will anyone notice the difference? Does anyone really want to? Most of all, can the pair’s sense of honor outlast the deception?
I'm at such a loss with this one. I've basically spent the day pondering this book. I finished it early this morning and I actually started my review shortly after, and now it's the middle of the afternoon, and still I've got nothing. I didn't hate it, It certainly wasn't horrendously bad. In fact, I liked the blurb, it intrigued me. Seriously sports, ex-military. Forbidden romance, coach falls in love with the star quarterback. So much of it whispering 'come on, you know you're going to enjoy this' and I did to a point. But when all was said and done, it ended up only being a little more than ok and not filled with the awesomeness that I was hoping for.
So I spent the day asking myself why, and here's what I came up with my biggest issue was balance or a lack thereof. I'm okay with characters that I really passionately dislike...okay, I out and out hate them, and there were a couple of those in this story.
First there was...Head Coach Toby Hackett. This man was every parent's worst nightmare. Yes, I know he was coaching college football, that level one step away from the pros. Sorry, don't care the man was a bullying, misogynistic douche. He didn't inspire or motivate, he bullied and intimidated. He had no redeeming qualities, zero, none. The fact that he was married was both astounding and appalling...seriously, where was that woman's self esteem? On vacation?
Along with Coach Hackett there was Brian. Brian was some kind of special, and I'm sure there's a spot waiting for him in the fiery depths of hell, and if there isn't, there should be.
To me both of these characters reflect well on the author's skill as a writer because it's not that often that I hate a fictional character with the passion that I have for these two men.
As well as characters that if I allowed myself I could probably go on and on about how intensely I dislike them. There were a few that were okay.
Characters such as 'Bobby' or 'Robert' Tarrington, the head trainer. He ended up being a bit of a surprise. At the beginning of the story he was shaping up to be as big of a jerk as Coach Hackett. Fortunately as the story progressed we were shown a little bit of a different side to Bobby, and he ended up being okay, and it turned out that ended up liking Bobby and his boyfriend Cory. Do I want a story for them...nope, I'm good.
Peyton's mother Loretta was an interesting character in her own way. Although someone needs to tell her. If you have to constantly ask your child who they love the most...you can be pretty sure it's not you. She was by no means the worst of mothers and in her own way she did come through for Peyton...but again, she was only okay.
What I didn't have was anyone that I could love as much as I disliked the coach and Brian, and that was the crux of my problem. So yeah, it's on me. I know for some people it's not an issue, but for me, I need that balance to help make the story work for me.
While Peyton was one of the main characters, I found that I just really didn't care for him a lot of the time. To me, he seemed moody and a bit wishy-washy, and at other times I felt like Peyton had turned into an angst-ridden teenager with a little emo thrown in for good measure, and since a lot of this story was from Peyton's POV, I got to spend a lot of time in Peyton's head, and it just wasn't fun in there. I had a teenager, I did my time in angsty emo land and going back isn't not good, especially when the character is supposed to be 26 years old...Peyton, put your emo years behind you and move on.
Last of all is Brady. Brady had strong potential, and I did like him. I just didn't get to have as much page time with him, so I didn't become as invested in Brady as I might have. Ironically the person who I liked the most but who got the least amount of page time was Brady's father.
I'm not quite sure how to explain the ending on this one either. While it wasn't an HEA, a lot of it was definitely an HFN with strong potential, but there was a part of it that although not what I would have expected, at the same time I totally tip my hat to the author because it worked and was far more realistic than it would have been, had he taken the story in a different direction.
So for me this all translated into a disconnect from the story because while I really, really disliked the 'bad guys' (Coach Hackett, Brian) I didn't have anybody to really, really like. There was no positive to balance the negative, and as unfair as it is, had this been the other way around, I probably would have given this book a glowing review because hey, happiness, sunshine and all the feelz, who doesn't love that.
An ARC of this book was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
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