Title: Hard Feelings
Author: James Ryder
Release: 27th June 2016
Genre: M/M (contemporary)
Love can set you free.
Lukas Lockhart has everything. A famous football star, Lukas has wealth, charm, and an athletic body that graces billboards all over the country. But Lukas is a man beset by a private trauma that threatens to bring him down. Happiness has eluded Lukas...that is until he meets Dylan Barrett. A computer programming geek with a passion for making the world a better place, Dylan isn’t interested in getting to know the icon, but he is interested in loving the decent, sensual man trapped behind the cultivated image.
But not everyone is happy about the passionate romance between Lukas and Dylan. Derek Burke, Lukas’ manipulative manager, is unwilling to give up control of America’s star football player and the vast wealth that comes with managing his career. To him, Dylan is a threat. He wants him out of the picture and he’ll do just about anything to make sure that happens.
Lukas and Dylan must risk everything they have ever worked for and battle their own demons to overcome the lies and deceit that threaten to keep them apart.
Anyone looking for a nice, comfortable read with a low-level of angst will be at home with this book from James Ryder. First I liked the mix of the two MCs, Dylan is your typical tech geek with relatively low confidence but a kind and gentle heart. Lukas is your superstar football player, absolutely gorgeous, famous and with a huge fan following. OK, normally guys like these would never really get together as they are at two opposite ends of the spectrum but this is M/M romance and the author finds a great way to bring these two together. An unlikely situation combined with a bit of luck and then let the love grow.
The aspect I really loved in Lukas is despite all his fame and trappings, he only really wants to play football and be a normal guy without all the stardom that goes with it. This is getting him down and also affecting his game which the press is picking up on too. I mean, imagine living in a golden cage when all you want is just to lead a normal life. If he wants to do something “normal” then he has to slip out undercover so to say and hopes no one recognises him. In some ways I felt so sorry for him that his football playing talent has become a commercial commodity and stops him from being who he truly is.
Dylan is just so sweet. Your average tech geek, working in a games store and dreaming of the day he’ll develop an app that will revolutionise the world. After an accidental run in Lukas can’t get Dylan out of his mind and then turns up at the store “undercover” so to speak and asks him out on a date. You would normally ask yourself what would a superstar football player see in a geek? But to be fair geek doesn’t mean here that Dylan is unattractive, it’s only his confidence is a little low after a number of failed relationships and he’s obsessed with his app and all things technical. He has adorable friends, so not a complete loner. What Lukas sees in Dylan is the one thing he wants so badly. Dylan is not interested, impressed or even the slightest bit blinded by all Lukas’s stardom. Dylan just sees the man Lukas. Lukas can just be himself with Dylan and forget all his fame for the time he spends with him.
The first half of this book may feel a little slow as it just deals with Lukas’s and Dylan’s first meeting and how they go from there. So for me personally the book felt a little pedestrian in the first half but then in the second half of the book things take a turn which kept me utterly interested until the final outcome. Derek, Lukas’s manager turns out to be a complete snake in the grass, he only sees dollar signs and the lifestyle that Lukas provides them both with. A totally controlling asshole but Lukas just puts up with it.
At the beginning I kept asking myself this question, why does Lukas put up with this? Well, we learn there is a shared history and Lukas keeps Derek has his manager due to a traumatic past and also a huge sense of guilt as to what happened when they were both young boys. Eventually the shared history is revealed to Dylan by Lukas but this doesn’t stop Derek driving a wedge between Lukas and Dylan to keep them apart. This was really nasty and spiteful, Derek only worried about Lukas’s image being damaged if all his fans knew he is gay. I felt really sorry for Dylan at this point, he desperately tries to contact Lukas with no avail to try and make Lukas see that Derek is just spinning a web of lies around him. But alas Dylan is only a small fish in a big pond and after a number of failed attempts, one which also causes him to lose his job, he gives up broken hearted.
Now it’s up to Lukas who is now more miserable than ever. However, he does eventually see the light and becomes suspicious of Derek’s motives rather than trusting him blindly. He finds out for himself what a rat Derek has been and gives him the sack in a press spectacle. YES!!! Justice has been served, but what about Dylan? Well, as in any good romance a twist of fate and a bit of luck brings them together again and now there’s no separating them. Yes, Dylan and Lukas get their HEA.
One thing that did bother me a little was the constant use of hyphens when a comma or full stop would have done the job. The first page alone contained so many unnecessary hyphens I felt totally distracted by them. Hyphens for me are something to be used sparingly and only when necessary. They shouldn’t be used to indicate a clause in a sentence where a comma would do the job. It made the reading experience for me a little disjointed, especially when they started to annoy me a little, it was like being poked in the eye. Again just my own personal observation.
However, as I said at the beginning this book for me is what I would class for myself as a cosy read. Nothing ground breaking or taxing on the brain cells. A read that just wraps you up and gives you a nice happy sigh at the end. Something not too taxing on the grey cells but a book you could read on a cold, wintry, Sunday afternoon wrapped up in a blanket on the sofa.
Meet James Ryder
James Ryder lives in Ireland. Naturally that means he’s full of stories inspired by its romantic landscape and passionate history. The only problem is getting the time to write them down. He has one of those Northern Irish accents too, which are apparently very sexy. James is not convinced of this, but invites you persuade him otherwise.
He enjoys writing stories that see strong, intelligent men find love and passion against all the odds. Other than writing them, one of the things he enjoys most is hearing how his books have touched other people.