Monday, January 24, 2022

Beth Bolden - Rough Contact

Neal Fisher knows heartbreak. It's the clock ticking down in the Super Bowl. It's missing the most important field goal of his life. It's losing everything: his thirteen year career as an NFL kicker, his future, and his pride.

Jamie Wright knows love. It's everything on the line as the crowd holds their breath. It's a perfect kick as the ball soars through the goal posts. It's NFL fame and glory laid out before him.
Neal is on his way out, and Jamie--if he can withstand the tryout pressure-- is on his way in. The one person Jamie should avoid is the veteran kicker, and the last thing Neal wants is to sink Jamie’s chances. But a chance meeting and a wild and undeniable chemistry proves to be irresistible.
Neal thought he knew heartbreak. Jamie thought he knew love.
They were both wrong.
Their romance is forbidden. Their love is a secret.
But if they trust each other, maybe their growing relationship won't end in tragedy. It might even be the beginning of football’s greatest love story.

Comment: I got interested in this book because of the sports romance trope, for certain. This is the second installment in a trilogy but I feel I don't really have to read the first book to understand things, so this is one of those series or trilogies where there are common elements but plots aren't dependent on previous knowledge.

In this book we meet Neal Fisher, an experiences football player, as he is about to do an important kick in the famous Super Bowl final and he miserably fails. The repercussions are awful on social media, and he isn't considered young anymore at 37 and the team lets him know he won't be playing anymore. Neal feels terrible and mostly that's psychological, for some team members don't blame him. 
Jamie Wright is a young player, just doing try outs for Neal's place along with other candidates. He knows if he can't take it, there are other options for him but he really feels this might be his chance. He is another fan who saw Neal's miss, but he feels the man shouldn't be blamed, and not just because he has a crush on him. One night, at a party, they meet and sparks fly. 
But will two people at different places in their lives have enough in common to make it work?

I see this is a prolific writer, with many titles released in the recent years. I feel this is likely possible because the style is very fluid and apparently simple, about situations which can resonate with many and that makes it easier to put things on the page, for certain. I wouldn't distinguish the style from writers with similar types of stories, true, but it's a very appealing "voice" and I would read more by this author when I can.

The story isn't too complicated and most of the conflict is emotional, related to personal issues. There is some work issues played as an external force that can be seen as an opposition problem but nothing too strong to distract from the characters. There's an age gap because Neal is close to 40 and Jamie is in his early 20s but this aspect wasn't too glaring because they clearly bonded over sports and the issue of Neal's situation in the team, especially since Jamie is trying to be part of that same team.

Neal is a very easy character to understand as well as his reasoning for why he feels like not being in the spotlight after his fail. I confess I have no idea whatsoever about American football rules and the whole thing felt very silly indeed, but thinking about the sports I do understand, I can see why a decisive moment/situation could impact someone so much. In fact, the author did insert a lot of issues about the sport and what it entails, to make it seem this was really important and not just something to give a setting to the story.

Jamie is a bit more complex in my POV. He is an adopted child from Indian origins and that is mentioned once or twice which means it's supposed to be important enough but not so much this story is seen as being about race. His youth also seems to matter for some reasons but it was nice to see the two protagonists had more in common and were - I think this is even more important - at the same level when it came to what they wanted out of a relationship and how much the other person seemed to be a good fit. I liked they seemed to be in the same page in terms of what they wanted for one another.

At first, they don't want others to know about their relationship because Neal is still trying to not be the center of attention but it was actually empowering how, by being with Jamie and wanting to have a future together, this accelerated his process of coming out of hiding, both physically and emotionally. I'm positive this is not an easy thing to do, and Neal's journey was understandable.

The romance was more along the cute and emotional level than just the sexual one. What I mean with this is that although there are sex scenes, they aren't lengthy nor so centered around every detail that would be distracting. I suppose for some readers they are a bit boring or forgettable but I feel the vibe wasn't much on the erotic aspect...I mean, perhaps a bit more sexual tension or anticipation moments would have helped make them seem to have even more chemistry, but this was not the goal, I think.

All in all, this was a good reading experience, better than what I thought actually, and I will read something else by the author, perhaps a different series to have a broader idea of her style.
Grade: 7/10

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