Release Reviews: Match Point: Leigh Carman

Match Point (Sports of the Seasons #1)
Leigh Carmen
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Released July 20. 2016
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Two stubborn men.

One is a rude jerk. The other, the life of the party.

It was hate at first sight.

Pro beach volleyball players Finn Callahan and Dexter Savage have been rivals since college. While Finn always comes out on top on the court, Dexter’s carefree and fun-loving personality earns him scores of adoring men and women. And as much as Finn fights to deny it, there’s another reason for the tension he feels when Dex is around. Hate wasn’t the only thing he felt when he first laid eyes on his opponent.

When they’re forced to team up, the two men must bury their differences—on and off the court—if either of them is going to succeed professionally.

Sports romances are probably my favorite subgenre of all, so when the opportunity came up to read and review Match Point, the first release in Leigh Carman’s Sports of the Seasons series, of course I said yes. Now that I’ve read it, if I were forced to use only three words to describe the novel, they would be drama, drama, and drama. Okay, I exaggerate slightly, because words like hot certainly apply, but drama is definitely the driving force in this story.

Dexter Savage is one of the most popular players in professional beach volleyball, but his rival since college, Finn Callahan, is the one man who always stands between him and being the best in the game. Their rivalry has always been bitter; Finn is, and always has been, a rude and cocky jerk to Dex. Even then, Dex has always been adored by his fans, but what he doesn’t know is that Finn also wanted him. The only way Finn could deal with crushing on the hot, straight guy was to hate him. When separate accidents leave Dex and Finn without volleyball partners, joining up makes sense, but proximity brings their true feelings to the surface, things that could destroy not only their professional partnership but any chance at something personal as well.

Drama: In addition to the rivalry they started in college, both Finn and Dex have major issues in their pasts that shade their interactions with each other. The loss of Finn’s volleyball partner, the man who was also Finn’s fiancé, a fact that no one else knew, devastates him to the point where he not only leaves the pro tour but essentially shuts himself away. After Dex convinces him to come back, Finn is forced again to fight his attraction to Dex. While we learn near the beginning of the story that Dex’s driving motivation stems from a past of living on the street, the reason for this is revealed much later. Without going into spoiler territory, the events with Dex’s family also caused him to quash his sexual desires. As a result, when he begins to realize his attraction to Dex, he cannot deal with it. Add to that the fact that Finn’s family isn’t full of perfect acceptance either and there’s plenty of ways to cue up the angst.

More drama: As if their issues weren’t bad enough, both men suffer from a major case of stubbornness. So any time they interact about something, either professional or personal, they may start with the best of intentions, but all it takes is one wrong step and they both revert to fight-or-flight mode. Let’s just say they misstep a lot. No really, a LOT. I have to admit that there were several instances as the story progressed where I found myself rolling my eyes at just how over-the-top the drama level was during their interactions. Can you say drama queens? That’s a funny mental image considering how sexy the descriptions of these two are. On the plus side, though, all this dramatic stubborn manliness made for delicious sexual tension between the two. Will-they-or-won’t-they always works for me. As such, when they finally do get together, it’s not only intense and hot, but it’s emotional as well.

So yeah, I loved these two. However, the book wasn’t without flaws. The biggest of these is recurring problems with the point of view (POV). Throughout the novel, the feelings these two have regarding the other are usually about the same as those the other has—for example, they are often frustrated with each other at the same time—so unless a reference is made to something specific to one of the characters, it is easy to forget whose POV is being used during their interactions with one another. The author labels whose POV is being used at the start of the chapter and when it changes mid-chapter, but because their interactions often deal with things they have in common and their personalities are in many ways similar, I found myself wishing the author had made a better effort for clarity.

Another consequence of the frequency with which the author shifted between the two POVs is the fact that the storytelling sometimes felt jumpy. In fact, it often felt like I was reading a novella. But at least that was the only similarity to novellas I felt—none of that annoying skipping over parts of a romance that I love seeing in order to fit it in such a short length. This one hit all the important things, and it did so in a satisfying manner overall.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a sports junkie, I do love watching nearly any sport. And I do know a lot about several sports, so I find myself being a little critical of how the sports aspect is portrayed in this subgenre of romance. My knowledge of volleyball, though, is limited to when I had to play it in gym class or at the rare family-reunion-type event, so I can’t really pass judgment on how well the author portrayed it in the book. If you’re a stickler for this sort of thing, it’s not much of an issue anyway, since there are only a handful of places where the story tells what’s happening in a game or practice, and these instances are very short. She uses the right terminology, so as far as I’m concerned, the author did fine here.

As a whole, I enjoyed Match Point. And I think you will too, especially if you like stubborn men who are afraid to confront their feelings so that they deal with it by being belligerent toward each other, even though in this case, the drama struck me as slightly over the top. But that isn’t enough to keep me from looking forward to and reading the remaining books when they are released.

The author generously provided me a complimentary copy of Match Point in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Two champion pro volleyball players, formerly fierce rivals are partnered up for a tour. Let the games begin...

Dex Savage is likable, charming, and everyone's friend. But deep down he is lonely and anxious. He has a need for security that stems from his past. He is competitive and hates being second best.

Finn Callahan is not well liked, and is known to be a cocky jerk and hot-head. He is on top of his game, plans on staying that way, and loves gloating about it. But a sudden change in his life sends him into a tailspin of grief, depression, and alcohol. He needs something to motivate him out of his darkness.

His arch enemy, Dex,  appears to pull him out with a crazy idea to become a team despite their less than friendly interactions. They've hated and taunted each other since college. And both had their own reasons. They are volatile and aggressive. They can barely stand to be in the same room together without taunting, torturing, or getting mad. 

But then surprisingly they are dealing with more issues since Finn is closeted and gay, and Dex is straight, but is feeling all tingly around his new partner. There is now a new current running between them and neither knows what to do with it. Both are confused, anxious, and at times angry, or fearful. 

They have hot chemistry and a growing attraction that finally boils over. Their usual strong reactions spill over into their intense intimate scenes. In some ways they find happiness and passion together, but they also both have personal issues, insecurities, and decisions to face. There is plenty of angst and fight or flight...and this case sometimes the fights are real fights with fists. There is quite a bit of back and forth between them.

This is a fast-paced enemies-to-lovers story. It is adversarial, passionate, and has some emotional situations. As it went on it dug deeper into the characters and they had to tackle various problems. It touched on the media and how hard it is to be an out and gay athlete. It was about self awareness, trust, hope, security, and living life to the fullest. It not only dealt with the importance of romantic love, but also that of family. It was told in dual points of view letting us get into both of these dynamic guys' heads. I liked getting to know their motivations both past and present.

I did have a few issues with the book itself. The transitions seemed a bit choppy between chapters and scenes. At times it would skip to a new chapter or scene, but then go back and tell us what had come of the end of the scene before it. Even though I liked the dual points of view, I will admit that sometimes I would forget who was narrating that chapter or get the men confused in the middle of  a scene.

But overall, this was quick and hot M/M read about a sport that is not written about as much. And she packed a lot into it. The author is planning on three more stand-alones focusing on football, hockey, and baseball with some crossover cameos. That is such a fun idea and I will be interested to check them out.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

STANDALONE books in a 4-book series. However, characters do make cameos in other books and it may add to the experience to read in order.

Fair Catch (Football)
Power Play (Hockey)
Full Count (Baseball)

Leigh Carman (Heather C. Leigh) Website | Facebook | Twitter

Leigh Carman was born and raised in New England with all of its fall foliage and winter snow. She escaped to the South, where she currently lives outside Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two kids, and French Bulldog, Shelby.

She loves the Red Sox, the Patriots, and anything chocolate (but not white chocolate—everyone knows it’s not real chocolate so it doesn’t count), and has left explicit instructions in her will to have her ashes snuck into Fenway Park and sprinkled all over while her family enjoys beer, hot dogs, and a wicked good time.

Leigh also writes M/F dark romance under the name Heather C. Leigh. She also loves exploring the underbelly of fame and the crushing weight of those under the microscope 24/7.


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