Title: Block and Strike (This Time Forever #1)
Author: Kelly Jensen
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: January 6th 2017
Page Count: 266
Reviewed by: Ele
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.20 stars out of 5
Jacob Kendricks is three months out of prison, estranged from his daughter, and ready to get his life on track. Taking care of the bum curled up on his doorstep isn’t part of the plan. When he realizes the man has been assaulted, Jake takes him to the hospital, where he learns that Max is his downstairs neighbor… and that he could really use a friend. Keeping Max in the friend-zone would be easier if he wasn’t so damned cute.
Maxwell Wilson has been bullied for years, and the only person who ever cared lives too far away to come to his rescue. Now his upstairs neighbor is offering support. Max remains cautious, suspecting he is little more than a project for the handsome Jake. When he learns Jake has had boyfriends as well as girlfriends, Max has to reevaluate his priorities—and muster the courage to take a chance at love.
Just when a happy future is within their grasp, life knocks them back down. A devastating blow leaves Max lower than ever and Jake wrestling with regret. They both have to find the strength to stand on their own before they can stand together.
Block and Strike isn’t a light and fluffy story, but it’s real and insightful. I think it’s my favorite Kelly Jensen to date.
Above all else, I feel that this story is about self-acceptance, and the long and painful journey to get there. To fight that demon that keeps messing things up for you.
For Jake, that demon is his anger. It gets the best of him whenever he is wronged, and he paid for it the hard way. For Max, it’s his inability to defend and stand up for himself. He is resigned to that fate, and prefers to just sit and take the blows instead of fighting back.
But there are also so many qualities in these characters. I loved Jake’s protectiveness, not only towards his loved ones, but for everyone who is weaker than him. And Max has such a gentle nature, I just wanted to give him a big hug.
There is a LOT of slow burn here. The characters get to be friends first, and spend some quality time together before things heat up. The steam is sparse, but the couple on page sex scenes are very sweet, intense and integral to the plot.
Block and Strike is mostly a character driven story. But there are a couple of plot points that took things to a different direction than what I was expecting. I loved the secondary characters; not too evil or too amazing. Just real people who care, but make mistakes in showing it. Kate and Dominic, though…I’m not sure they are redeemed here. I don’t think so. Someone had to pay, and I didn’t see it happenning.
What I liked the most, though, was the writing. I really connected with it. The ending was so very beautiful and fitting.
Kudos for the amazing cover too! Recommended!