Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Rivalry by Beth Bolden Release Blitz

The first time NFL quarterback Heath Harris meets Sam Crawford, it’s just them, a luxury yacht and a few days of fun in the sun. Sam turns out to be nothing like Heath expects. He’s kind and funny and irreverent—and also unbelievably, shockingly sexy. For three short, glorious, life-changing days, there are no rules.

The second time they meet, Sam has just been traded to Heath’s team, and instead of lovers, now they're rivals. Heath has spent the last five years working desperately to be the best quarterback the Riptide could ever need, but when injuries threaten to derail his career, Sam is right there, standing on the sideline. Ready to take over, and ready to ruin everything Heath has given his life for.

Rival. Enemy. Teammate. Friend. Lover.

As their orbits collide, sparks fly, and Heath struggles to find the right label and the right box to shove Sam into, hoping to keep him contained. But Sam—and Heath’s feelings—refuse to cooperate.

Sam might not be just one of those things, he might be all of them, and so much more.

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Heath had forced himself not to get (even more) self-conscious when he changed into his swim trunks. You work your ass off in the weight room, he told himself firmly, you look good. But it was hard to ever imagine he looked as good as Sam did. Sam looked... Heath forced himself not to think about it, because the last thing he needed was to get hard in his trunks right now.

Brooke was already lying out on the open deck, a skimpy bikini revealing all her best assets. “Drew and Mark already took the skiff out with Captain Tom,” she said when Heath and Sam approached.

“Yeah, we’re going for a swim,” Sam said.

“And share secret quarterback tips? You two have fun.” Brooke’s knowing expression was baffling, but maybe she thought it was weird they were hanging out because they played for different teams.

“Uh,” Heath said, and then latched on to the bin of sunscreen options next to her. “We should put some protection on...”

Both Brooke and Sam looked at him shocked. “Um,” he realized, “sun protection.”

“Right,” Sam said, grinning. “You first.” Instead of the easy spray option, Sam plucked a bottle of lotion from the selection. Heath went hot and then cold, realizing that Sam definitely intended to touch him all over, and he was somehow going to have to keep his erection under control.

Normally, that wouldn’t have even been an issue, but somehow his dick had discovered its purpose in life after meeting Sam. He was already half-hard now, and as soon as Sam touched him, all bets were going to be off.

The lotion was cold as Sam squirted it onto his back, and that helped initially, but then his hands, warm and broad and confident, were there, smoothing the cream all over his back and shoulders. He used soft, long strokes, like he was both trying to reassure Heath and turn him on, all at the same time—even though Heath knew that couldn’t possibly be true. When his fingers drifted lower, nearly hitting the waistband of his swim trunks, Heath nearly gasped. It was the most erotic application of sunscreen that Heath had ever experienced, and the only thing that kept him from totally busting out of his trunks was latching on to the thought of how smelly Bran’s locker was by the end of the season.

“My turn,” Sam said, and to Heath’s surprise, his own voice was rather gravelly. Like he’d actually enjoyed touching Heath.

Sam touching him had felt like a combination of heaven and hell. Heath never imagined that reciprocating would somehow feel even more dangerous, but from the moment his fingers lightly brushed Sam’s skin, it was nearly game over. He was so smooth and powerful and soft, all contradictions wrapped up in this sexy, gorgeous package, and it was nearly impossible to stop when the lotion had been evenly distributed.

“Aren’t you two just the cutest,” Brooke said, and Heath jerked his hands back like he’d been electrocuted.

“I mean, so helpful with each other, even though you’re supposed to be rivals,” Brooke added.

They weren’t really rivals—Sam wasn’t even the starting quarterback for the Piranhas, but Heath latched on to her distraction like a lifeline. “We’re not rivals,” Heath said. “It’s not like that.” Sam nodded vigorously, and grabbed the lotion from Heath’s hands, clearly also eager to change the subject. Heath didn’t know why, but he was intrigued.

“You about ready to go in?” he asked Heath.

“Yeah, let me just get my face,” Heath said. He knew he was still too pale, especially considering he lived in Southern California. Too much time still spent indoors. Frankie was always harassing him, accusing him of becoming a recluse. She wasn’t completely wrong.

“Good, because I’m definitely ready,” Sam said, obviously eager to get away from Brooke, her inquisitive gaze still pinned to the pair of them.

Sam took off in a cannonball leap, before Heath could warn him that they didn’t know how deep the water was. You’re always looking before leaping, he thought ruefully. It was definitely a less exciting existence than the one Sam clearly enjoyed. Instead of jumping off the boat, Heath sat on the back ledge, and swinging his legs around, dropped down gently into the water. It was surprisingly warm, and he kicked powerfully to bring himself over to where Sam had surfaced, pushing his wet hair back, like he was a fucking supermodel.

“Feels damn good,” Sam said, and Heath nodded, keeping his distance as they both treaded water.

It would feel even better if they were pressed up together, wet skin against wet skin, but Heath would take the water reflecting in the intense blue of Sam’s eyes every day of the week. He’d never felt a color so viscerally—burning deep in his stomach, magnifying his arousal until the only thing keeping him from flying apart was the cool water against his dick.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4.5 Stars

Spoiler-Free Review.

The Rivalry was my first taste of Beth Bolden. After reading this novel, as a new-to-me author, I'm more than curious to check out her backlist and see what more is in store in the future.

Two NFL quarterbacks from rival teams meet for the first time on a three-day fishing excursion on a yacht. This is where it could have turned into enemies-to-lovers, but more a quickie friendship springs up, which develops into more. This shifts into a slight enemies-to-lovers premise, but is more miscommunication and situational factors than anything.

The man in charge: Heath is super focused on his career, needing to be the best of the best. He struggles to let his guard down, as well as just relax and make buddies. He's always questioned his sexuality, due to a lack of interest, until he finally finds someone that throbs that spark.

Sam has been riding the bench an entire season, the backup QB, and he's looking to be traded in order to see some game time. He's naturally gifted, enjoys the sport, but doesn't take it too seriously. It's not life or death for him.

Heath and Sam are a good balance, both on and off the field. Without spoilers about the how/why/when, the guys come back into each other's lives, it creates plenty of yummy tension, almost a slow-burn. Toss in the family and team dynamics, their names always being flashed in the spotlight, and the fear of coming out of the closet, The Rivalry was an engrossing read that I couldn't put down.

More than pleased I stuck it out, I'm not going to sugarcoat the beginning. I struggled. I actually contemplated DNFing for the first 10%. Nothing against the storyline itself. I feared the writing style wasn't to my taste.

The first page was Heath describing the Sun. Many descriptors, the sentences pretty much repeating what the previous one said, but using different words from the thesaurus.

As a man who grew up in Texas, currently lives in California, the waxing poetic about the Sun in Florida, the heat, the brightness, to a flowery purple prose degree, when this was a heart-hardened adult quarterback... Texas and California are SUNNY and HOT, not much differently than Florida, minus the suffocating humidity that wasn't described.

It wasn't the discrepancy, it was how uber focused, spending more than a page on "It's HOT." The descriptions were overboard, burying the story beneath. I understand setting a scene, trying to draw life to the surroundings, but for the first chapter or so, it was overpowering. This writing style eventually leveled out and this stopped shortly in the beginning, where the story became organic, so I was pleased I didn't get discouraged and call it quits.

I'd highly recommend The Rivalry to fans of MM Romance, particularly the sports subgenre. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

This is an exciting and emotional sports romance. It’s the story of two NFL athletes competing for the same position on the same team. It’s also the story of two men who can’t stop themselves from falling in love with each other.

This is a high angst, high drama read. Heath and Sam are addictive characters. When we first meet Sam, he is a reckless rookie. Heath is a disciplined veteran grappling with a potentially career ending injury. The men are opposites in almost every way but the chemistry when they are together is electric. Add in the fact that they are closeted athletes under constant media scrutiny – and Heath’s dark childhood secrets – and this is a book full of emotional turmoil. Readers who love dramatic fallouts, exaggerated miscommunication, and relationship drama will love this story. Readers who want understated realism need to look elsewhere.

I loved the characters and the relationships in this book. The detailed insider’s perspective on the lives of professional athletes is fascinating. The pacing is a little bit erratic with a few too many slow moments. For a sports romance, the focus is sometimes too much on the football at the expense of character and relationship development, but this makes some sense with both characters being professional athletes. There is some heat in this story but the relationship feels sweet rather than sexy.

I am a huge sports romance fan, and really enjoyed the direction which this one took. Some elements were familiar, but the way that they first meet was very clever.

Stuck alone on a fishing trip (even a very deluxe one) is not what Heath wanted at all, but then he finds another NFL QB from across the country on board – Sam. And suddenly he realises that he finds him attractive. After years of working hard to leave his unhappy home life and finding that football was the key to his escape, he had never found any interest in dating, and had always only ever gone out with women. But here is a very manly man who makes his heart race. Confusing and yet the chemistry cannot be restrained, even if he refuses to verbalise it. Sam admits that he has had a distant crush on Heath for a long time, but holds back all his thoughts, as he doesn't get the feeling that Heath is really fully engaged. Little does he know that Heath is new to the whole situation.

This introduction to the men gives the reader some really interesting insights into their thoughts, their hang-ups, and their issues. It sets the scene perfectly, which then unfolds giving us a clear understanding of the title of the book.

Beth Bolden does a great job of setting it up so we want to believe it will work out, but at the same time there is a complicated journey to get there. It is wonderful to read of their progress and the fact that Heath in particular acknowledges that he needs to move past his childhood fears. He learns to trust that his first thoughts on Sam's importance to his life, back on the fishing trip, were right.

A lifelong Oregonian, Beth Bolden has just recently moved to North Carolina with her supportive husband and their sweet kitten, Earl Grey. Beth still believes in Keeping Portland Weird, and intends to be just as weird in Raleigh.

Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. She’s published sixteen novels and six novellas.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Rivalry by Beth Bolden to read and review for this tour.

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