Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Real World by Amy Jo Cousins

When talking fails, it’s time to break out the big guns.

Five years ago, Tom Worthington busted his ass to overcome the fear and paranoia that led him to withdraw from the world and nearly lose his boyfriend. He never thought he’d find himself right back there, shutting Reese out, keeping secrets again.

Reese Anders is ready to try anything to get Tom to talk: if he can’t seduce his boyfriend with food, he’ll get Tom to open up in bed. But even Tom’s confession that his dad is getting out of prison soon doesn’t clear the air between them. And as the holidays approach, intensive mentoring from a new British boss creates more distractions, until Reese is keeping secrets of his own.

At a company Christmas party, it only takes Tom one look at Reese’s new boss to figure out how much danger their relationship is in. But he’s not about to let the connection that started all those years ago at Carlisle come to an end. It’s time to deal with their problems like adults. Face to face. Or back to front. Starting in the bedroom.

Warning: This book contains two adorable guys with way too many secrets, conciliatory rigatoni, a bedroom lesson on the power of multitasking, and indisputable evidence on what makes the perfect holiday HEA.

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Book 5
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Samhain Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

When I picked up Real World as a review book, I wasn’t aware that part of Tom and Reese’s story had already played out in Off Campus. The only other book I have read in the Bend or Break series is Level Hands and I assumed that the brief meeting of Tom and Reese in that book was their introduction to the series. Yet Cousins has written Real World in such a way that I had no problems keeping up with the story reading it without having read Off Campus. I was able to follow Tom and Reese’s story without any confusion as this is a look at their life together now. There are references to the past that made me realize that at least part of their story had been told previously, not because they were confusing references, but rather because the statements were loaded with just enough info that you know part of what happened, yet don’t get the details. Alas, this means that I now have yet another book on my to-be-read list because now that I’ve read this chapter in Tom and Reese’s life, I want to go back and see what they endured to become the couple I met in this installment.

I suspect that fans of the series will enjoy getting to catch up with Tom and Reese, but if you’re like me and haven’t read their first book, don’t fret. Cousins does an excellent job of “introducing” the guys in such a way that I got a pretty good feel for both of their personalities – through their actions, their thoughts about themselves, and their thoughts about each other – and I didn’t feel at a loss for the characters. Besides, what’s going on in Tom’s life with his father’s impending release, the term Ponzi scheme was all that was needed to understand why the man didn’t want to deal with it. I’ve also had my own share of “ostrich moments,” so I completely understood why Tom hoped that the problem would go away if he ignored it. And being on the other side of the equation as well, I understood Reese’s frustration when he knew Tom was shutting down on him (and everyone else) and his worries when he couldn’t get Tom to open up to him. Cousins weaves this apparent pattern of Tom’s behavior and inability/refusal to deal with an issue with Reese’s new ventures and accomplishments at work in such a way that the angst surrounding Tom and the harm his aloofness is doing to the relationship doesn’t overpower the story. That’s not to say that what Tom is doing – or more accurately, not doing – isn’t important, but rather Cousins strikes a nice balance between the good and the bad.

One of the things I appreciated about Real World is that Cousins wasn’t afraid to show that love doesn’t fix everything. The love, the connection, and the chemistry between Tom and Reese was obvious. Yet despite the fact that Tom and Reese are very much in love and have been together for several years, they both continue to struggle with issues from their past. Tom’s pattern of withdrawal leaves Reese vulnerable to the attentions of another man, which the author uses to show how so very easily someone could be tempted to cheat on their partner, and she does this with both care and realism. Fortunately, Tom’s withdrawal is not so complete that he is oblivious to the other man’s attraction to Reese when he sees them interact at a company Christmas party, and it serves as the catalyst Tom needs to pull his head out of the sand, get his act together, and make this Christmas one of the best for the couple. I do recommend keeping a tissue handy as the end had me a bit teary-eyed.

Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Real World (Bend or Break #5) by Amy Jo Cousins to read and review.

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