Promo and Reviews: HIM and US: Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

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They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend...and a big one to learn about himself.

Warning: contains sexual situations, skinny dipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition.
There's a whole lot for lovers of MM romance to like about Him. There sure is a lot to drool over -- plenty of mouthwatering descriptions of these two hockey hunks and the blistering hot sex they engage in together -- but there's much more to it than that.

Before I start listing them, a quick reset is in order. Jamie Canning and Ryan "Wes" Wesley lived on opposite sides of the country, but they were inseparable besties during the six summers they attended an exclusive hockey camp in Lake Placid as teenagers, a long-distance friendship they kept up between summers. At least they did until something happened between them the day before camp ended the summer before they headed off to college. For the next four years, Jamie cannot figure out why Wes completely cut off all contact between them. The book starts with their paths crossing again at the end of their senior year in college when their respective hockey teams both make it to the Frozen Four for the national championship, their last college hurrah before each starts his career with different NHL teams. In the summers since high school, Jamie has been coaching at the same hockey camp they attended together as teens, so in an effort to reconnect and get his best friend back, he encourages Wes to call the camp's director and coach there for the summer as well. The bulk of the book covers what happens in the six weeks of camp and a little beyond that.

Okay, now for the short list:

- The friendship depicted between these two is so natural and realistic that it's almost palpable, both before and after they discover the sexual attraction between them is more than just one-sided. This foundation made the relationship that develops between them even more appealing for me as the reader.

- The tone and language the authors use for Jamie and Wes, both aloud and in their heads, is completely believable for a couple of 22-year-old jocks. The alternating point of view (POV) used throughout is seamlessly edited and very easy to follow, and the internal dialogue each has is just perfect for their characters. There's a lot of humor, both during their interactions and while they're in their own heads. It's all of this that made them feel real to me.

- Though it easily could have been written to be one, this is not a gay-for-you (GFY) pairing. Don't get me wrong, I love a good GFY story, but as a gay man, there's a chunk of me that just doesn't buy it as something that happens all that often in real life, so I like it even more when a character discovers something about their sexuality that's more than just a reaction to a single person. Here, Wes is gay, but Jamie discovers and quickly comes to terms with the fact that he's bisexual, and the authors handle this process beautifully. Jamie's internal conversation when he figures it out made me chuckle: 

"I'm attracted to women, no doubt about it. I'm also attracted to men, apparently. Wonderful. Complicated fellow, my dick."

Jamie sharing this revelation with Wes, though, is so perfectly done that it could not have been written any more in-character if they had held the proverbial pen to write it themselves: 

[From Wes's POV]
"Are you sure you want to do this?" I gnaw on the inside of my cheek. "You've kinda been running hot and cold on me all day."

He nods. "Needed to get some things straight in my head."

I snort at his choice of words. "Straight, huh?" I offer a pointed look at his very noticeable hard-on.

His mouth twitches. "My dick and I reached an understanding."

"Yeah? And what's that?" I ask curiously.

He shrugs. "We both like you."

Fuck yeah.

Fuck yeah, indeed!

As with any good romance, there's always something working to drive the main characters apart. In this case, it's time and prior commitments; summer must end. But these two authors know their characters so well that they've written the angst and reactions perfectly for them. And the resolution more than just works, it's just right.

So what didn't I like about the book? Nothing really. I hate to keep using the word "perfect," but I can't think of anything I wish had been different. So if the shoe fits, I guess.

Since reading the book, I've discovered that a sequel is in the works, and it looks to be a direct sequel instead of having new main characters in the same storyline. So now I'm nervous that they'll ruin it. But I guess I'll wait and see... I'll definitely be reading it, because these two authors know their characters, and they would truly be idiots to fuck it up.

This is definitely one of the best MM romances of 2015. Can I say it again? Fuck yeah!

No, I did not receive a free copy of this book for reviewing. I spent damn good money on it, and I would do it again and again, because this book is THAT DAMN GOOD! :-)

Kim, Tammy, and Rachel's  4.5 star reviews

Can your favorite hockey players finish their first season together undefeated?

Five months in, NHL forward Ryan Wesley is having a record-breaking rookie season. He's living his dream of playing pro hockey and coming home every night to the man he loves–Jamie Canning, his longtime best friend turned boyfriend. There's just one problem: the most important relationship of his life is one he needs to keep hidden, or else face a media storm that will eclipse his success on the ice.

Jamie loves Wes. He really, truly does. But hiding sucks. It's not the life Jamie envisioned for himself, and the strain of keeping their secret is taking its toll. It doesn't help that his new job isn't going as smoothly as he'd hoped, but he knows he can power through it as long as he has Wes. At least apartment 10B is their retreat, where they can always be themselves.

Or can they? When Wes's noisiest teammate moves in upstairs, the threads of their carefully woven lie begin to unravel. With the outside world determined to take its best shot at them, can Wes and Jamie develop major-league relationship skills on the fly?

Warning: contains sexual situations, a vibrating chair, long-distance sexytimes, and proof that hockey players look hot in any shade of green.

More Jamie, more Wes. How can you go wrong? Us is the direct sequel to Him, one of my favorite MM romance novels ever. With that high of a bar, there are so many ways that Us could have been a disappointment, but in this case, thankfully, the authors did everything right this time too!

The novel starts about six months after Wes and Jamie move in together in Toronto, and Wes is (naturally) having a rookie NHL season for the record books. As they planned, they're still keeping their relationship quiet until the end of the season so that Wes can be judged for his skills not his love life, but the decision is definitely taking its toll, and since when does anything ever go according to plan? One of Wes's teammates, Blake, moves into the same complex, and despite being a hard guy to hate, he's adding even more tension to Wes and Jamie's relationship just by being in proximity. No spoilers here, but suffice it to say that it isn't long before the carefully laid plans unravel spectacularly.

In general, I'm always apprehensive about direct sequels for a few reasons. One, my favorite part of a romance is all the firsts: the looks, the touches and kisses, the sex, the realization of love. If these are already done in the first book, that already makes any direct sequel start on a bit of a downer for me. Two, direct sequels tend to exist to resolve a cliffhanger, and I truly despise cliffhangers in romance because they seem to be used as a way to break up a perfectly good 100K-word novel into multiple too-short novellas so the publishers can make more money off the pieces. And three, there are just so many ways the author can screw up the magic that existed in the original book.

Looking at Us, I'll start with the third point first. Thank God the authors did not screw up the chemistry between Jamie and Wes... I probably would have had to drive my semi up to Vermont and knock on every door in the state trying to find out why if they had. As far as issue #2, there was no cliffhanger in Him, and both books are amply long, so no problem here either. That, of course, leaves the first issue, and just like in a real relationship, there's not much you can do about it. Fortunately, Jamie and Wes are a believable couple, and the new pressures and situations the authors put their relationship in throughout this sequel are realistic (though the resolutions might be a touch on the really-best-case-scenario side, but it's a romance, so I can't really fault that), and they allow for some wonderful character growth both individually and for them as a couple. Except for the (understandable) lack of firsts, this book hit all the right buttons for me: a chest full of warm fuzzies upon completion was a great way to go to bed afterwards.

Overall, I loved Us, though just a teensy smidge less than Him, only because of what it can't have in it. And that's why I rate it only as a 4.5 stars instead of the full 5 that Him got. Even so, it's absolutely a must-read, but make sure you read them in order, because this book won't make sense without the back story.

And as far as Blake is concerned, he gets the spot as my #2 favorite secondary character in a romance of all time, behind Petey in J.F. Smith's Latakia. Blake is a total ham, but when things get rough, he's just perfect... can't help but love the guy! Though perhaps I should not refer to Blake as a secondary… the authors have already announced there will be a third story in this series, and this time it will be an MF spin-off featuring Blake. I can't wait!

I also paid for my copy of this book. In fact, it's the first book I've ever pre-ordered and rearranged my whole damn life around in order to read it as soon as I possibly could. No regrets!

Kim and Rachel's  5 star reviews

Sarina Bowen writes steamy, angsty Contemporary Romance and New Adult fiction from the wilds of Vermont.

The Ivy Years is her bestselling series. Centered around the hockey team at an elite Connecticut college, The Year We Fell Down began breaking hearts in March, 2014. There are three novels and a novella in the series so far. See http://www.sarinabowen.com/TheIvyYears for updates.

For lovers of angsty snowboarding heroes, Sarina also writes the Gravity  series! Coming in From the Cold features a downhill ski racer and one of the most unique plot conflicts in contemporary romance today. Falling From the Sky is book #2, about a freestyle snowboarder who nearly loses his life in the halfpipe.

Sarina enjoys skiing, coffee products and a nice glass of wine. She lives with her family, eight chickens and more ski gear and hockey equipment than seems necessary.

She would be honored to connect with you at http://www.sarinabowen.com.

A New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.

Elle writes romantic suspense and erotic contemporary romance for various  publishers. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to kee


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