Title: Isolation Play (Out of Position #2)
Author: Kyell Gold
Publisher: Sofawolf Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: M/M Contemporary Anthropomorphic Romance, Sports
Length: Novel (420 pages)
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: A worthy sequel to a series that is growing to become one of my favorites.
**Warning: This Review (and Blurb) contain a spoiler for those that have not read the first installation, Out of Position.**
Out of Position
Devlin Miski thought coming out on national TV would be the hardest part about being a gay football player. But it’s when his press conference is over that the trouble really starts. The athletic tiger and his boyfriend Lee, a fox with a tongue as quick as his wit, still won’t get many breaks in their fight for understanding. They’ll need to deal with a stubborn reporter determined to get a story any way he can, furious parents, and hostile teammates–not to mention each other.
All’s fair in love and war–and this is both.
Isolation Play is the eagerly awaited sequel to the best-selling novel Out of Position and picks up Dev and Lee’s story about five minutes after the end of the first book. Well over a year and a half in the making, Isolation Play is the longest work Kyell Gold has released.
Cover and interior illustrations are by Blotch.
Isolation Play is the second novel in the chronicle of Dev and Lee, the tiger and the fox. We first read about them in Out of Position, the review of which can be seen here. This second installation in the series begins directly after the first ends — with Dev coming out in a press conference. Having been blackmailed by Brian, Lee’s former best friend, Dev felt cornered, and he and Lee both knew that the speculation in the press around his sexuality was only going to get worse. So, in somewhat of a surprise move to Lee, Dev announces to the world that he is indeed gay, all during a press conference set up to dispute the charges of public opinion and fight the demands that Brian had made on him to reveal his sexuality and pave the way for future gay athletes to come out of the closet. The only problem, is that Brian doesn’t understand the world of professional sports in the way that Lee and Dev do. Though they hope it will help others in time, Dev and Lee are extremely skeptical that Brian’s idealism can stand up to the pressures that gay athletes face. And that is only if Dev survives. Will he be traded? Will he be targeted by other athletes on the field, open to physical attack to injure him and force him out of the small window he has gotten as a starting player? Is his career over already?
These are some of the questions that Dev faces as he does everything he can to remain the same, humble person he was — only now he is both hated and loved by many as the world’s first openly gay professional football player. There are new groupies and gay groups offering sponsorship and endorsements. At the same time, there are those on the field, in the stands, and in his own locker room that will do what they can to isolate him from playing the sport he loves. If all of this gets to him and he loses the focus he needs to play well, then his chance as a starting player is gone. More than anytime before, he is starting to understand the sport as a mental game — one that he will have to conquer in order to keep what he has worked so hard for.
On the other hand, Lee has found himself in the last place he ever expected — the one that Dev used to be in. Lee is a scout for another professional team, and having been forced back into the closet for his new job because of his relationship with Dev, he now finds himself stuck there. If the League finds out that Dev was drafted for the Dragons at the same time that Lee was working for the Dragons as a scout, Lee could be fired and Dev could lose the merit he has gained working his way up through the ranks. So they both find themselves in a strange situation — the out activist is back in the closet, and the closeted jock has just been forced out of the door. But, more than anything, what will this do to Dev and Lee’s families? Dev has not told his parents that he is gay, and they are forced to find out on national television. This will lead to an enormous hometown showdown, pitting Dev’s father against his own boyfriend in the battle to win Dev’s affections. And it seems that Dev will have to choose one over the other.
I actually liked Isolation Play better than I did Out of Position. I felt that because the things that Dev and Lee have gone through, they have been given a chance to do one of two things: turn on one another, or come together. And though in many ways they remained loyal to the characters that we got to know previously, they have both undergone a change because of those things they went through. They have started to realize that what they have with each other is special and important and worth dealing with the hate and bigotry of thousands. Because of this, both Dev and Lee mature a great deal between the end of the first book and the end of the second, and in their maturity, they put to rest many of the immature games that they played at the behest of one another. The title of this novel displays this overall progression well. The iso play is employed by the offensive line of another team and is described by Dev thusly:
Their O-line is different from Millenport’s. For one thing, it’s smaller and quicker, designed to push people out of the way rather than stop them cold. So they have a pair of Dall sheep on the line, blockers who’ll go low and use their horns to force our tackles to go a particular direction. Pike and Brick can handle them, I’ve no doubt, but then they have a pretty good fullback, an elk who uses his antlers to clear out running lanes. So they run the iso—isolation play—a lot, sending the elk to block me or Gerrard while Bixon lowers his head and sends his compact, muscled form through the lane.
The isolation play is a metaphor for the new direction that their relationship is taking — hunkering down, waiting for the attack, and when it comes being driven apart, isolated from one another. This theme crops up over and over during the novel, with family and the media, and it forces Dev and Lee to look forward instead of always watching their backs. This brings me to the writing, which I also thought had matured. Because Dev and Lee are now able to look towards their future, they have a direction in which to go. This streamlined the plot and characterizations as well, which ultimately gave me hope that their relationship would continue to grow and nourish, because any more directionless floundering in their lives and their relationship would have turned in upon itself and imploded from the force of two such strong personalities.
Another theme with this book is family and the importance of having a network of supporters, whether they be blood relation or of your own choosing. Many a gay man has had difficulty coming out to their family. Some of their families embraced them — some did not. But like most of us, when we grow up and out of our youthful familial ties, we either develop new ones with our family, new roles, or we create whole new families for ourselves. The importance of having a family and working out what those new roles are can dominate and confuse many people’s lives, and Dev is no exception. He loves his family almost to a fault. He was raised the dutiful son, always second best to his older brother, and his father king of the castle, whose word is law. Shaking these bonds, trying to break himself of them and free the whole family is the most difficult thing Dev will be forced to do, and I thought that the situation was handled very well. I certainly enjoyed (though sometimes scared half to death of Dev’s father) the interplay between Dev’s family and Lee, who himself is a force to be reckoned with.
Kyell Gold has said that he has two more installments tentatively planned for Dev and Lee, though he is not sure when they’ll be written and published. I certainly won’t complain how long we’ll have to wait as long as we get more of their story. I can only imagine what was coming, and I’m hoping that we get to see more of Kinnel the reporter, who formed an unlikely friendship with Lee throughout this novel, and who was one of my favorite secondary characters. Those that read Out of Position will definitely love this installment, though depending on their preference in the differences in plot between the two, I’m sure there will be many that love one over the other. For me, they just seem to be getting better, and so does the artwork, which with the permission of Kyell and Blotch, I’ve been permitted to show you today. They are beautiful, aren’t they? I wholeheartedly recommend Isolation Play, both to sports fans, fans of the author, and fans of anthropomorphism.
Isolation Play is not available in e-format yet, only in paperback. Out of Position is available in Kindle and Nook formats from their respective suppliers, but without the illustrations. At this point, there is no e-format available with illustrations. If you’re interested and thinking of buying either of these books, this might be an opportune time to do so since they are on sale at the publisher’s site until Valentine’s Day.