Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Crossing the Touchline by Jay Hogan

What if you’ve worked your whole life for a dream, to play rugby for the most successful sports team on the planet, the New Zealand All Blacks?

What if that dream is so close you can smell it?

What if you meet someone?

What if you fall in love?

What if your dream will cost the man who’s stolen your heart?

And what if the dream changes?

Reuben Taylor has a choice to make.

Cameron Wano is that choice.

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Book 2
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Oh wow. I loved this story so much! This is a gritty, angst-filled read about the unlikely relationship between a rising rugby star and an A&E charge nurse.

I love the ‘star-crossed lovers’ feel to this story. And while this is Reuben’s book, it was Cam I fell hard for. Part flamboyant diva, part tiger, Cam is confident and fabulous. He’s the emotional grown up in the relationship, and every time Reuben let him down my heart broke a little bit for him. In contrast, Reuben is a little bit clueless. He desperately wants to secure his place with the All Blacks, but his dysfunctional family makes it almost impossible for him to focus on his sport. And while Reuben is fearless on the pitch, he can’t stand up to his father and he can’t make things right for his nephew. Reuben constantly hurts Cam, but it is never intentional. The heat between Cam and Reuben is combustible and I love the way they complement each other perfectly. The sweet, sexy chemistry between Cam and Reuben is fantastic.

I love the balanced portrayal of gay men in this story. A few years ago, I remember teaching a PSHE lesson during Pride month and showing a video made by Gareth Thomas. The first comment by one of my rugby playing students was ‘I don’t mind gays like that – it’s the ones that go all girly that make me sick.’ M/M sports romance can sometimes seem to encourage this sort of divisive narrative, so I love the way the author of this book focuses on Cameron’s strengths. While Reuben is a rugby god, he’s also an emotional mess. Off the pitch, it’s Cameron who is fierce, centred, and in control of his life.

I also really enjoyed the rugby in this book. Rugby is much more familiar to me than American football, so I was able to really engage with the sport in this story. The All Blacks are spoken of with a hushed reverence by fans around the world and I loved the way this book made me feel like I was getting behind the scenes access to the legendary team.

This book isn’t without flaws. It’s a long read and the plot wanders in places. There’s also a whole lot going on. Reuben’s home life is complicated and ugly and more of the story focuses on his family relationships than on his rugby. And while Cam and Reuben are wonderfully complicated characters, I didn’t like the overly simplistic portrayal of characters like Reuben’s father. But ultimately, I loved this book. This is the first book I’ve read by the author and as soon as I finished it, I was searching Amazon for anything else by the same author. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything but I’m crossing my fingers for more in the near future.

This is the second in the series and I have not yet read book one, but will remedying that soon! It involves a couple who are side characters here, so it wasn't essential, but clearly the story is well worth a read. I didn't feel like I had missed elements important to Cameron and Rueben's story. What is interesting is that I couldn't resist reading this book because I am a huge sports romance fan, especially rugby, and actually the series is linked to medical romance – turns out that together they are fabulous!

Cam is a very much closeted rugby player with a total pig of a father, and a distracted single dad brother. He is holding everything together in the hopes of getting his big break with the All Blacks and saving his nephew from the life he has had. That means that his life can only be training and childcare for now. He is introduced to us, however, finding someone so irresistible at a wedding that he breaks all his rules and kisses the man, and then pushes him away when some teammates come to find him. Thankfully we recognise it as blind fear, rather than disinterest, and so does he. For Cam though, it is a nasty reminder of how denied he was by his only serious boyfriend... but you need to read the book to find out more.

As these two men fight an attraction which spills off the page, fate seems determined to keep causing them to meet, and they finally try for friends. Reuben tries to keep his nephew safe, and his father off his case, and his mind on the game – but really, his thoughts are of Cam, of how to balance rugby with love, and how to prevent his father from blackmailing him.

There was an amazing mix of small moments of calm and intense, surrounded by huge issues and how on earth they could be resolved. One could only admire both men, who in their way were trying their very best for each other, even if it took the inexperienced Reuben time to catch up.

Lovely, lovely book, thank you, Jay Hogan.

JAY HOGAN is a New Zealand author writing in m/m romance, romantic suspense, and fantasy. She has travelled extensively and has lived in the US, Canada, France, Australia, and South Korea. She has a BA degree in nursing and in theology, and in another life, she was an intensive care nurse, counselor, and a lecturer.

Though a late bloomer publishing-wise, she has always had pen to paper from poetry to fiction, benefitting from the unwavering support of a long-suffering husband and the services of an in-house beta reader—oops, sorry, she means daughter.

She is a cat aficionado, especially of Maine Coons, and an avid dog lover (but don’t tell the cat). She loves to cook (pretty damn good), loves to sing (pretty damn average), and as for loving full-time writing—absolutely… depending of course on the day, the word count, the deadline, how obliging her characters are, the ambient temperature in the Western Sahara, whether Jupiter is rising, the size of the ozone hole over New Zealand, and how much coffee she’s had.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Crossing the Touchline (Auckland Med. #2) by Jay Hogan to read and review.

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