LGBT, New Adult Romance

My Review: Him (Him #1): by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Publish Date: August 2nd, 2015
Number of pages: 360 pages
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, LGBTQ+ (M/M)

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

This was something that everyone can enjoy; a simple feel good story! I enjoyed this title, which was the story of two friends reuniting and discovering that sometimes it’s worth testing those bonds and moving into a deeper and more romantic territory. I know the subject matter isn’t for everyone: an LGBTQ+ love story (M/M specifically), and it being revolved around sports (Hockey specifically), but anyone who can enjoy a love story with two great characters that have such great chemistry and obviously just belong together, this is a title to look into!

The two MC’s complemented each other quite well, in my opinion, and were easy to get behind and support, and were overall just a delight to read! I especially enjoyed the self discovery that one character went through in order to accept himself and how things happen in the story. It wasn’t as angsty as other books have been, which is different, but not an all that bad choice. It still felt genuine and natural with the turnout still being oh so satisfying.

This is only part 1 of a duology, but I still felt that it stood as a standalone with how things turned out in the end. There were still some things left up in the air and had a few easter eggs of what was to come, but the ending is heartwarming nonetheless!

What It’s About:

Our mouths fit together so perfectly. Everytime we kiss, I fall even more in love with him, and it has nothing to do with sex or lust. It’s him. His closeness and his scent and the way he soothes me.

– Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, “Him”

This story stars two college hockey players, Jamie Canning and Ryan Wesley. They’re total opposites; Jamie’s the golden boy from California with laid back, lazy good looks while Ryan’s demeanor is tattoos, piercings, and smart-ass remarks that tries to hide his disdain for his east coast aristocratic background. They met at a sleepaway hockey camp when they were 13, and had become friends over the years until the summer they turned 18. The final night of camp, something happened, and they became cut off from each other. Alcohol and a stupid bet got involved, and then eventually confusion and regret.

Years later as they’re about to graduate college, Ryan and Jamie run into each other again at the Frozen Four finals in college Hockey, and all the memories and anxiety come rushing back to the surface as they come face to face once again. Ryan is now out and proud, at least to his teammates and coaching staff (his parents know too, but thats a different story), and always regretted how far things went that last night at camp years ago with Jamie. He honestly never thought he’d get the chance to try and make amends, but he does, but the lingering feelings he had for his straight friend come back stronger than ever.

Jamie has always been frustrated at the situation at that final night years prior, mainly for never getting a response or any sort of answers. Fate ends up giving them a second chance, and they wind up being coaches and roommates at the very same camp where they met, years later for the summer after graduation.

It will be there that they reconnect, and Jamie gets some answers, but new ones rise up along the way, including one about the kind of person he is…

What I Liked:

  1. It’s A Sports M/M Romance! It’s becoming a favorite romance-genre niche of mine, but I’ve figured it’s because jocks are my personal preference in a potential lover. This story is definitely one of the best ones I’d read within this specific genre, but even someone who’s not into sports can enjoy it; it never gets too wordy on the mechanics of hockey, so no worries there!
  2. The Hot Sex Scenes! For fans of smut (like myself, no shame…) there’s plenty of steamy scenes between the MC’s to fog up the windows, hand against the glass and slides down and all that… I can only shrug and laugh at this one honestly! While hot, it was also fun to read Ryan and Jamie’s connection and see how vulnerable they get with each other as they peel away layers and become their true selves with each other and develop deeper feelings.
  3. The MC’s Are Both Incredibly Likeable! Both Jamie and Ryan are great main characters to follow as you read their story. The story switched back and forth between their point of views, and it worked fairly well; it was easy to distinguish between their two voices, they have some great qualities to make them great MC’s for the story to revolve around.
  4. Ryan’s Unrequited Love Story-Arc! What I mean by this is that Ryan has known he’s gay for a long time, and he also knew he was in love with Jamie since when they first met, even when Jamie still considered himself straight. Part of Ryan always thought it’d never work out; that he was absolutely pathetic for being in love with his straight friend who’d never return those feelings. I loved it later when they start to be together and Ryan would step back and remember all those sad thoughts, but then gaze at Jamie when he thought he wouldn’t notice, wondering how he got so lucky after all. It was such sweet and tender moments in the story, it gave the hopeless romantic in me the major feels!
  5. There’s Plenty of Humor! Just what I expected with Elle Kennedy, but there were plenty of hilarious moments in the story! I won’t give too much away, but some of it does involve coming out to parents and siblings through a Facebook group chat, a condom-couch, and two jocks trying to hook up in the back of a (really) small car!

Loved you every summer since I was thirteen years old. Love you even more now.”

– Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy, “Him”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Dialogue Can Be Juvenile…Elle Kennedy is so great with hilarious and witty dialogue between her MC’s in her romance titles, and this one doesn’t fall below that expectation, but I can say at some points in the story that it gets a little eye-roll worthy…BUT try to remember that while these guys are gay, they are also 22 year old athletes/jocks and have grown up around that locker room talk between the bro’s and the guys and all that; jocks are just kind of like that! I can attest to it; it wasn’t far off from what I’ve heard in a high school locker room while prepping for Football Games under those Friday night lights. The two authors get it pretty spot on and really, it doesn’t really mean anything; it’s pretty innocent. Luckily, things get much better when it’s just the two of them.
  2. There’s One Homophobic Character…So maybe a trigger warning, but there is a part of the story where the two MC’s have to deal with an older homophobic minor character. I kind of saw it coming; the setting for most of the story is a small lake-town (the kind midwesterners go visit whenever they spend a weekend at the cabin), so storyline-wise it was bound to happen, especially amongst a bunch of men playing a sport where homosexuality is still a sensitive subject depending who you talk to. It’s still such a bummer that similar situations still happen like that in real life, that two men who have feelings for each other can’t even hold hands for fear of judgment or persecution from other people’s ignorance and inability towards acceptance…Hopefully we’ll evolve past that someday… Luckily, I can happily add that not all the adults/coaches/parents/PR agents are like that in the story, and I give Coach Pat a huge shoutout!

Conclusion:

A definite feel good, low angst, New Adult M/M sports romance that anyone who’s looking for some more LGBTQ+ titles can enjoy! Like other titles I’ve read by Elle Kennedy, it’s filled with witty banter, funny and relatable characters, steamy love scenes, and heartwarming fluff on top of it all. It was harder than I thought it would be to get my hands on this book, but it was worth the battle; it’s a definite shelf-keeper for me!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, New Adult Romance

My Review: Red, White, and Royal Blue: by Casey McQuiston

Publish Date: May 14th 2019
Number of Pages: 423 Pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre(s): Contemporary, New Adult Romance, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

One thing that I love to see is that there is so much more LGBTQ representation in literature nowadays. Identifying myself as a part of the queer community, it really is uplifting and feels like I’m not only acknowledged, I feel like I’m more understood and accepted amongst in this world when there are authors that write these stories, there are publishers that release these stories, and there are fellow readers who also enjoy these stories.

Representation truly matters. People who are different and who don’t fit into the typical social criteria need to feel like they are seen and that they matter, because they do! They need to feel like that when they read stories with characters that are just like them. It normalizes the exposure of LGBTQ+, and thus, helps create a society that realizes that there is no social agenda, only a want and need for unity and respect for our differences.

Yes, books are powerful tools if they can be tools to help us achieve that!

This is a debut novel, so some could say that the writer’s style reads similar to a royal romance fan fiction, but it’s still a great love story that is receiving a surprising amount of publicity as being the big queer romance story of the summer! One of the main aspects of the story is politics, which was expected when the two main characters is the bisexual fictional half-latino son of the president and the (fictional) gay prince of Wales.

I am by no means a big fan of politics, in fact I only skimmed the parts of the story where there’s a substantial amount of information about how it all works, I can still say I immensely enjoyed this title despite all that. Compared to the love story, it’s truly such a small aspect of this book, so don’t let that be the reason to deter you from picking it up!

What It’s About:

It’s a sweet, hilarious, and thoughtful love story between the son of the President of the United States and the second born Prince of Wales.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, along with his older sister and best friend, are the “White House Trio,” the marketing strategy designed by his mom, President Ellen Claremont (Yes, a WOMAN president). They are America’s version of royalty, and are treated as such with the paparazzi that follows them around, and the rumors written in Us Weekly and People. They get invited to the Royal Wedding overseas, to which Alex is less than enthused about because it means he’ll have to see Prince Henry, his long time rival. It turns out worse than expected, and a confrontation leads to an international scandal.

With re-elections on the horizon, President Claremont issues a fake friendship as a PR stunt in order to do damage control, but Alex unintentionally starts a bigger news story; he falls for the royal prince. They begin a hot and heavy secret relationship, and everything Alex thinks he knows gets blown out of the water and he questions everything: Is it all worth it? How can you do the things you still want to do with everything stacked against you? and What can you do to be remembered in history?

What I liked:

  1. The Romance! I am a hopeless romantic at heart, and while I’m not the biggest fan of “fluff,” this story had equal fluff with steam and humor to this a definite worthwhile story. Alex and Henry had a great relationship and were incredibly easy to like and support as they fight for their love despite all that threatened to tear them apart.
  2. The Theme About The Importance of Family! It was a major theme of the story and was shown in many different ways: Alex and his relationship with his best friend along with his sister, Prince Henry and his sister, Alex’s relationship with his estranged father, Henry and his older brother and mother, his friendship with his BFF Pez (picture a flaming male version of Awkwafina in Crazy Rich Asians) even both of their relationships with their heads of security. One of my favorite scenes was one where President Claremont organizes a family dinner one night, and turns off the “power suit” and just switches personas and becomes just their mom again; it was a warm and really touching scene.
  3. There is a Woman President! A female President who’s a badass in the office, and a badass mom who loves her family on top of it, and still makes time for them. I totally picture her being portrayed by Connie Briton if they ever make this into a movie!
  4. The LGBTQ Representation! Like I said earlier, it’s so relieving to see a novel with two gay male characters get so much attention and so much mainstream hype. Back in the earlier 2000’s, it felt like these kinds of books, or any books where LGBTQ was a main aspect of the story, it was pushed aside or kind of taboo, so they didn’t get as much hype, and there was no big excitement over the release of titles like that. Now it’s 2019, and this book is on the New York Times Best Sellers list! I hope to keep seeing this as more and more titles come out in the future.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Politics…I’m not a big fan of Politics; while it worked for this story, if they could’ve had parents in different occupations, that would’ve been fine too. This has nothing really against the story or how it was written or even against the author, it’s more just a small personal quirk for me. Luckily, the author didn’t become too technical in matters of terms or explanations behind anything that happens concerning Politics.

Conclusion:

It’s a sweet and sexy romance that’s perfect for the warmer months of summer, and I enjoyed this story so much, it was such a joy to read. Alex is a strong willed, smart mouthed protagonist that I would just adore having as an actual friend. The author crafted such a heartwarming story in the aftermath of the 2016 elections and what it’s done to our country ever since.

I won’t ever really talk about Politics or what my opinions are with anyone, not even most of my family, but it was interesting to read an almost alternate-universe kind of story where a woman actually won and became a great President. Even if it stars two men as the two romantic interests, I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, well written romance, fiction about politics and stories that showcase the importance of family.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell