Saturday, November 12, 2016

No! Jocks Don't Date Guys by Wade Kelly

What is a sexy soccer stud supposed to do when “following family tradition” falls 180 degrees opposite his closeted ideal?

From birth, Chris Jackson has been schooled on how to land a cheerleader. After all, his father married one, and his father’s father before him. Heck, even his older brother married a stereotypical cheerleader the summer before Chris went off to college. For two years, Chris dodges invasive questions about relationships by blaming his lack of female companionship on grueling practices and heavy course loads. But his lack of interest in girls should’ve given his family a clue. It isn’t until Chris mentions meeting a boy that his father’s synapses short-circuit.

Alonzo Martin is anything but a buxom blond. From his black hair, combat boots, and trench coat to his nail polish and guyliner, the mysterious introvert isn’t easily persuaded to date. Alonzo’s insecurities keep Chris at arm’s length, but Alonzo’s painful past might meet its match in the charismatic jock’s winning smile and sense of humor.

When opposites attract, only cheerleaders and gummy bears can help overcome fear and family tradition.

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Book 2
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
Dreamspinner Press

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I’m uncomfortable posting this review because I both enjoy the author and their books. But, no matter what, sometimes a book is just not a good fit for a reader. This was the case this time around for me – maybe mood-based, or simply one of the characters rubbing me the wrong way.

Excuse the following review. As a writer, it’s difficult for me to read and fall into the story. It’s a rare occasion that I manage that, as I had with the others in the series. However, this book had my editor hat slipping on, to the point I almost didn’t finish the book. So my apologies for what is more of a rant than a review. Basically, this is what my notes would have been had I edited for the author.
Truly, I wish I could just be a normal reader, but I can’t.

After devouring the other books in one sitting, this one was difficult for me to complete. So few pages seemed to anger, frustrate, and make me put the book down. Having read this series starting at book 3, then going back to read book 1 and 1.5, I found the feel of this book to be completely different than the others. Darker, less funny, yet more shallow. I know that sounds odd, how a dark book could read shallow, but the issues were at the surface, far removed from the narrator, even if it was his boyfriend going through the issues. The issues were glossed over, never shown, always from a third-party.

Chris is a strong character, solid and compassionate to a fault, even if that meant he was treated with disregard, whether it be his family or friends. It did feel as if Chris was shutting Doug out, his BFF, as he was getting to know Lonnie, which is par for the course during the insanity of a new relationship. So other than hurting the guy closest to him, everyone else’s needs and emotions came first.

Alonzo – Lonnie, I never felt connected to him. It was just at the surface, never learning his personality. He liked to read and listen to Green Day, run away, and had emotional scars. Just because he has issues and a dark past doesn’t mean he gets a pass to act pitiful and disrespectful, nor does it mean I will automatically like him. If it isn’t shown, but merely told or glossed over, no matter what had happened to him, it no longer matters. If it’s a major part of the story, then it needs to be shown.

I would have liked Lonnie if he had only ‘tried’ just a bit to get to know his own boyfriend. The entire book was about catering to Lonnie’s needs, with him giving nothing in return but taking. I get it, he has issues. But if he can’t give anything to Chris, then he isn’t ready for a relationship and he should only be friends with Chris. I don’t even believe Lonnie was capable of being a good friend, because friends need to help their friends in return as well.

I never felt the connection between Chris and Lonnie. Chris spent the entirety of the novel trying to get to know Lonnie, with Lonnie never asking Chris questions and never even attempting to get to know him outside of watching him play soccer on occasion or availing himself to eating with him in the cafeteria, even if he didn’t speak and acted totally put out by the experience. This behavior removed whatever was sweet building between the pair, because Lonnie gave his conversation, smiles, laughter, and easy-going attitude to strangers, but never the man the reader assumed he loved.

Actions speak louder than words and Lonnie’s actions screamed how he didn’t care one iota for Chris, outside of using him in the bedroom.

This book was about Chris and Lonnie, right? Not about Lonnie finding new friends and no longer needing Chris at all? How is that romance? While I understand and appreciate having a different set of friends in a couple, it’s to the detriment of their relationship if Lonnie never lets Chris in because he’s so guarded, yet he tells strangers all about himself. That’s a contradiction. Guarded people don’t tell their horror stories to strangers, move in with them immediately, and make them their BFFs in hours, while ignoring their friends, family, therapist, and boyfriend.

Scenes which would have had a major impact on the story never happened, ones that would have shown the strength in their relationship. Chris heard everything from outside parties, whether it be Lonnie’s sister or his new friends.

When his breakdown happened, Lonnie allowed others to hold him up, care for him, while shutting Chris out. Then when Chris was feeling insecure about their relationship, Lance (Lonnie’s new friend) would tell him to stop being jealous.

Is it really jealousy to not know anything about your boyfriend, especially his well-being? Lance and his fiancé didn’t even have the common sense to contact Lonnie’s sister or boyfriend when he was missing, so I found their behavior disgusting. Yes, if Lonnie was comfortable, good. But to allow Lonnie’s friends and family to wonder where he was, if he was hurt or dead, and on the verge of filing a missing person’s report, but they didn’t contact anyone. With Lance’s boyfriend a nurse, he knew better than that.

Then to add insult to injury that Chris is jealous of Lance. No. It’s called why are we dating if I know nothing of you, not even your location, and you show no need to get to know me. No common courtesy to make sure I’m not worried. But all Lonnie wanted to do is kiss Chris in front of Lance to prove that he’s brave and not going to cheat. They were past cheating – how about talking to his boyfriend, that he gives a crap about him. At all. Prove there is a reason Chris should stick around. That’s not jealousy. That’s not using Chris as a notch on a bedpost to make you feel sexy and confident about yourself.

Jealousy? To have strangers know more about your boyfriend, when they met him hours ago? Shouldn’t a boyfriend be the first person you tell where you’re living now? That your family is speaking with you? What your therapist said? Yes. Instead of showing the couple getting stronger during a difficult time, Chris is left in the dark while Lonnie goes shopping with Lance and another new friend.

There was no resolution to something that was a major thread in the novel. Through Chris, the reader is yet again ‘told’ what happened via third-party hearsay, never connecting Chris to Lonnie through intimate conversation, which would have invested the reader in their relationship. It was very junior high for characters who were already working professionals, and/or upper classmen in college.

“Lonnie’s been living here this week, didn’t you know?” Lance grinds it in, informing both Chris and the reader about Lonnie’s whereabouts and the resolution to his breakdown. “Oh, don’t be jealous, Chris. Lonnie talks about you constantly.”

Really? Because this is Chris’s narration, and the reader never hears Lonnie speak, or even shows the slightest interest in Chris whatsoever, going as far as ignoring Chris from page one until the very end, including during his breakdown, after kicking Chris and running away.

“I know Lonnie just had a breakdown, but doesn’t he look hot in pinstripe pants?” Lance was more worried about this instead of reassuring Chris, and Lonnie was more interested in feeling sexy than sane.

When it came to Chris needing support, going to his house for Lonnie to meet his family. “My dad isn’t taking it well.” Instead of being supportive, like Chris had been then entire novel, Lonnie’s reply was, “Hmm… you told me that already.” Dismissive disregard. Maybe Chris had, maybe not, but it wasn’t on the pages, because this was occurring while Lonnie was being selfish and making everything about him. When Chris tries to open up, Lonnie is shutting him down.

I would have loved to see one of the love interests opening up to the other. Chris would have loved Lonnie doing so, and would have loved Lonnie returning the favor. But that never happened, so the reader loses out on being told via third-party hearsay.

The author can tell the reader how it is, but when it’s written a different way, I can’t buy into it. Lonnie wasn’t supportive – didn’t act like a boyfriend. Their entire relationship was one-sided. At the same time, Chris’s father, and all the cheerleaders themselves, was so off-the-wall at odds with the dark elements surrounding Lonnie, the elements never explored, that the book itself felt beyond disjointed. It was like whiplash with the silliness. Really? Cheerleaders? A professional, married middle-age man and father of two? THAT is his malfunction? Dad was the shallowest character to grace any book I’ve ever read.

This bizarre, out of place, thread of storyline ruined the novel for me, and the characters. I ended up only enjoying Chris and his soccer mates, yet feeling resentment toward Lonnie and his new friends, the cheerleaders (on behalf of the female population on how the cheerleaders were written), and the dad.

I felt disconnected reading this novel, because everything was happening off-scene, by other characters who weren’t the narrator, removing any connection between the reader and characters and the characters to other characters.

I wanted to experience the connection outside of messing around and making out. The romantic couple didn’t do anything together – they had no conversations that bound them together. I felt more chemistry of a platonic sort between the friendships of the series than I did with the romantic relationship between Chris and Lonnie, because the friends hung out and conversed – connected on a human level. Whereas the author just told us Chris was crazy about Lonnie, and Chris assumed Lonnie loved him, even if his actions and behavior stated the opposite.

I felt Lonnie as vapid as the cheerleaders. When it was anything of importance, Lonnie had to go shopping, worry about his eyeliner and nail polish, and completely freeze Chris out. While it’s amazing Lonnie had a support system, as did Chris, Lonnie was one of the most selfish characters I’ve ever read. 100% one-sided. Lonnie had Chris skip a yearly tradition simply for brunch – something that could be done any day of the year (not that it mattered, as it was all written off-scene, but the actions spoke of selfishness). More worried about brunch, shopping, his new clothes, nail polish, and whether his makeup was smeared, then attempts at sex, Lonnie refused to connect with Chris outside of the bedroom.

Sure, the ending was Lonnie’s way of trying to give Chris want he needed, but even that wasn’t about Chris. That was about feeding into Chris’s Dad’s silly, childish insanity. It would have meant more if there was ONE intimate conversation between them at some point. ONE!

This book didn’t work for me. While I’ve enjoyed the series and cast of characters the author has created, and I look forward to more, I’m not partial to the overuse of exclamation points or the bizarre point of view change-ups out of nowhere. It just feels unnecessary and drags the story down.

In the end, I look forward to hearing more about Ellis’s core group of friends, Chris’s group of friends, and I hope Lonnie and his buddies fade to the background, as I felt them as vapid as the cheerleaders. But I know, since I read book #3 first, Lonnie is bizarrely written as a reserved, sage soul, one who I wished had been present on the pages of his book.

Also Available in the Jock Series

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
Dreamspinner Press

For reviews & more info, check out our My Roommate's a Jock? Well, Crap! post.

Book 3
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
Dreamspinner Press

For reviews & more info, check out our Back Off! That’s My Jock post.

Wade Kelly lives and writes in conservative, small-town America on the east coast where it’s not easy to live free and open in one's beliefs. Wade writes passionately about controversial issues and strives to make a difference by making people think. Wade does not have a background in writing or philosophy, but still draws from personal experience to ponder contentious subjects on paper. There is a lot of pain in the world and people need hope. When not writing, she is thinking about writing, and more than likely scribbling ideas on sticky notes in the car while playing “taxi driver” for her three children. She likes snakes, can’t spell, and has a tendency to make people cry.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of No! Jocks Don't Date Guys (Jock #2) by Wade Kelly to read and review.

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