Title: Checking It Twice (The Carlisles, #3)
Author: Meg Harding
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: November 28, 2016
Page Count: 200
Reviewed by: Renée
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Closeted professional hockey player Eric Belanger is falling hard for an out-and-proud male model. He’s unable to resist Dorian’s charm and pushing personal boundaries he never thought he’d cross. But Dorian is the kind of guy who deserves someone who isn’t afraid to be himself. Eric’s fears about what coming out will do to his career clash with the future he hopes to build with Dorian. He knows he’ll eventually have to make a choice.
Dorian Carlisle knows better than to date a man who wants to keep him a secret, but there’s something about Eric he can’t ignore. So he’ll take the risk, and it’ll be all right, because this isn’t a forever romance. He’s happy to live in the moment. But somehow, at some point, feelings sneak up on him and he’s not okay anymore. At a breaking point, Dorian must also make a decision. Their time together will either be the start of something wonderful or nothing more than a happy memory.
This third installment of the Carlisles series was a really enjoyable experience for me. I’ve been thinking about what it is about Meg Harding’s writing that appeals to me, and it comes down to realism. And not in big ways – though there’s that. She manages to always have the day to day nuances of a relationship smoothly incorporated into her stories in a very pleasing and realistic manner, imo. Because the romance genre is so unrealistic at its core most times, it’s a big pleaser for me when realism is exacerbated as much as possible within a story.
Dorian and Eric meet at a hockey photo shoot. Dorian is a professional model, and Eric is a professional hockey player. There is awkward initial communication (is he even gay? would he think it’s weird if I call and ask him to hang out?), which I smiled a lot throughout. This is normal for everyday people. It’s how a large portion of people feel during that initial “meet” and “feel them out” part of dating. I ate that part up!
Eric and Dorian are very honest with each other about where they’re at for a relationship. Eric is in the closet, with both family and career. Only two people (friends) know that he’s gay. Dorian is out and has no interest in being anyone’s secret, so if they’re going to date, he will tell his “people” (family, friends, etc.), and he will not be a straight friend if any of Eric’s “people” ask. They both know that their relationship doesn’t have a long-term label on it because of their two very problematic places at war with each other. But they agree to enjoy it while it lasts because they genuinely enjoy each other’s company.
There were no misunderstandings. There were no miscommunications. And that’s so refreshing! This story was, to me, a realistic portrayal of what can happen when two people genuinely like each other and one is in the closet while the other very much isn’t. Each time the issue came up, they were open and honest with each other about it.
As it goes with any romance novel, there comes a tipping point. They both knew it wouldn’t last, and as they begin to feel very strongly for each other, it reaches a head. And everyone, especially Dorian and Eric, knew that it would.
There seems to be a pattern with Harding having her MC’s take a “break” in this series. That may bother some, but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest – as long as its done in a manner serving to the overall plot and flow of the story. It fit well here, and I appreciated the non-manufactured angst of it all. It could only happen that way for Dorian and Eric.
I enjoyed this one more than Book 2, but a little less than Book 1, which is still my favorite. Readers will get a great glimpse into the entire Carlisle bunch, which is always fun. James, Bastien, Aaron, Jackson, Denver, and Georgina all make cameos and I love their insight and camaraderie. Excellent addition to the series, and it looks like we get Denver’s story next!