A guest review by Tj
Summary Review: A very moving and realistic exploration of an ex professional football player’s struggle with coming out.
Titan Douglas has a brilliant NFL career of legendary statistics until he blows out his knee. For two years he mourns the loss of his career, status and lifestyle — until the day he wakes up with a strange man in his bed and realizes he needs to go home. Slowly, he rebuilds his life, keeping his sexuality safely secret.
After a painful breakup, Chandler Stowe leaves behind Los Angeles with all its memories and returns to his hometown to take care of his parents’ estate. Then Chandler meets Titan and his heart leaps back to life. But a relationship with a closeted gay man is risky. When the town folks turn against Chandler and want him to leave, Chandler’s not so sure his lover will get his back.
Titan must determine what his heart truly longs for — and if he willing to step out of bounds for a chance at true love.
Artist Chandler moved from LA to the small town of Cholla Arizona where he grew up, initially to take care of his parents’ estate. But Chandler decides to stay in town for a while and lick his wounds from the heartbreak of being dumped by his ex for a much younger model. Well that and he can’t face returning to LA and seeing all of their friends as half a couple or go to any of the places where they used to go. So here he was, hiding in the small town in which he grew up. Thanks to his friend Robyn’s prodding, he was at least filling some of his free time with teaching an art class at the high school. That’s where he meets the football coach/ex NFL player Ti. Although Chandler is certain that Ti is as straight as they come, he could swear there was some kind of spark between them.
When Chandler tells Ti that he needs to find some warehouse space to work on his art, Ti offers to sell him a piece of his land (he has a large family plot) for him to build a studio on, since there are no warehouses in Cholla. Therein lies the stage for them to be alone as Ti offers to take Chandler out to see the land. Alone in the fields, Ti makes a move on Chandler and they end up frotting. (Boy, I love a good frot! And it was pretty sexy to read about. Why isn’t there more frottage in m/m books?) Sorry, back to the review – I got distracted by the hot men rubbing off. 😉 As soon as the deed is done, Ti is suddenly very cold towards Chandler and tells him that he’s straight, making Chandler realize how deeply in the closet he is. To put him at ease, Chandler assures Ti that he has no intention of telling anyone about what happened and would actually just like to forget it. Chandler knows that sex with a closeted man is a one time, dead end road, and expecting more is just courting heartache.
But forgetting Ti is damn near impossible, especially with working in the same small town high school together. And for Ti, as much as he wants to just shove everything back in the closet, their little afternoon delight won’t let him go. Out of sheer need to help and maybe even be near him, Ti offers Chandler his grandfather’s studio (conveniently on Ti’s property) to work in. Now they will be in close proximity day and night and the inevitable happens.
I must say that as a gay man, I found Ti’s struggle to be very realistic. Coming out is a very scary proposition, with the uncertainty of how loved ones will react, and the very real possibility of rejection. Without the safety net of a partner, friends or a loving and accepting family, it can be damn near impossible to come out. So Ti’s decision to stay closeted makes perfect sense, especially in light of his fame as an ex NFL player and the underlying fear of losing his coaching job at the high school. Viki Lyn manages to convey all of these feelings very effectively and I felt complete sympathy for Ti’s predicament. There are many, many LGBT people in the world who are terrified of coming out, and for good reasons.
The characters of Ti and Chandler are very well drawn and act in such a natural manner that I could see them existing in real life. Actually the entire story is so well written that I could picture it as a movie. That’s when I know a book is good, when the story comes alive in my head. The secondary characters of Mary, Ti’s sister, Alan, Chandler’s ex and several more minor inhabitants of Cholla are all convincingly portrayed and engaging in their interactions with the protagonists. The townsfolk who turn against Chandler at one point in the story are a very real portrayal of how people sometimes act when scared of something that they don’t understand. You only need watch the nightly news to witness this in action.
I hope that this didn’t sound preachy, but I wanted to impress upon you all that what Viki Lyn accomplished here is very impressive and moved me deeply. I loved Ti and Chandler and their journey evoked many emotions in me from fear to that “stupid grin on my face” joy. And don’t fret, they do get their HEA and it is very satisfying. Please don’t miss the opportunity to experience this touching and very moving story.