Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review: Last Man Standing (Southern Scrimmage Book 5) by Mercy Celeste

lastmanstandingTitle ~ Last Man Standing (Southern Scrimmage Book 5)

Author ~ Mercy Celeste

Publisher ~ MJC Press

Published ~ 22 August 2016

Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance

Rating

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Synopsis

There’s no dating in football.
After living his entire football career in Levi Brody’s shadow, Damien Sullivan is set to take the NFL by storm. Angry at the world he lands in New Orleans with a chip on his shoulder and a need for some action. He wants nothing more than to experience life to the hilt, but a controlling parent and a set of rigid fraternization rules seek to slow his roll. A chance hook-up before camp leads to a showdown with the very young, very attractive starting quarterback.
Starting quarterback for the disgraced New Orleans team, Raphael Acosta has his work cut out for him. His team doesn’t respect him, his coaches barely know his name and now there’s this hot-shot kid lauded as the second coming of the great Levi Brody. The last thing Raf needs is an insufferable rival for his position. The problem is he can’t seem to keep his hands off the man in private.
When new rules and old prejudices converge, only one could be the Last Man Standing.
Sexual Kink Advisory
59,000 words

 Debra’s Review

Last Man Standing focuses on Raphael “Angel” Acosta, the backup QB who stepped in after Levi was injured and incoming hot-shot rookie Damien “Demon” Sullivan, who’s been compared to Levi Brody since he stepped onto the field at the same college. Angel is the only man standing in Sully’s way to the quarterback job. When Angel unexpectedly shows up at rookie camp, Sully is even more determined to take the QB job away from him when he turns out to be the hot blond Sully hooked up with a few days before. What started as a quick and dirty hook up at the mall turns into a complication neither man wanted nor expected and one that can tank both their careers.

The timeline of the story picks up after the last chapter of Bootleg Diva and leads up to what will be the next and final book of the series, Blindsided. With only a brief mention of Angel in Offside Chance, both MCs are new to the series and are outsiders to the group of teammates readers have come to know. Both are coming up in the shadow of Levi Brody there’s a lot of pressure both on the field and in the locker room.

The sexual attraction between Angel and Sully is intense. Their first anonymous hookup left them both reeling. Now that they are thrown together, they can’t keep their minds and hands off each other and that’s a huge problem. After the reveal of Bo and Levi’s relationship there is a new no-fraternization policy in the league and there is still some clear and open hostility in the locker room towards the team’s gay players. Angel and Sully are in for a rough time. If that’s not complicated enough, Angel’s personal life is a big mess that needs to be resolved before he can move forward with Sully and Sully is ready to get away from his overprotective mother and the agent she’s hired to keep tabs on him. When Angel offers him a week away at his island house he jumps at the chance for this “quarterback retreat” and is hoping for a repeat performance of their prior hook ups. Things there get even more complicated when both teammates and feelings also show up.

There’s not a lot of plot I can get into other than those basics, but there is plenty more going on including daddy issues like so many of the characters in the other books seem to have as well. I predict you will dislike Angel’s father from the start. I will say Mercy Celeste managed to have my jaw drop more than once in this story, one of those was also followed by me cursing loudly and smacking myself in the forehead (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you get to it).

Although Sully came off as quite prickly to begin with, he soon wormed his way into my heart along with Angel. Angel, on the other hand is one of the more big-hearted and straightforward characters in the series. The two clicked so well together, even early on when it seemed they would be at each other’s throats they were still protective of each other and formed a quick bond. As the lust and “just sex” quickly morph into love, along comes a little bit of jealousy and hurt feelings, but neither outweigh the desire to protect each other, even if it’s at the cost of their position. Outside of the raunchy, hot sex, they can be very sweet.

Speaking of the sex, there is a lot of sex and a little kink, as you will see from the author’s warning. The kink is one that might not appeal to all. It's not one I'm generally a fan of but I didn't mind it here. It was spontaneous and brief and shouldn’t deter anyone from reading the story. It’s easy enough to just skip that scene and keep reading.

While the story is all about Sully and Angel, there are appearances from other series characters as the two men start working their way through pre-season activities, including Dylan Sunday, Slayer, Jude, Tracy and Coach Shannon. I absolutely loved Dylan here. He is stealth and surprising in his support of Angel and Sully and it felt like he's getting back to being comfortable with himself. Coach Shannon tries to use his once proven method of keeping players in line, but Dylan has some different words of wisdom for Angel and is not afraid to step in when things reach their breaking point.

The relationship progresses very quickly and has its ups and downs, but both very young men do seem to handle their situations and grow stronger by the end of the story. It was hot and emotional and not without a few laughs. I enjoyed getting the point of view of a rookie coming into the middle of what Levi left behind in the prior books. I wouldn’t read this story out of order as it definitely links to events in the past and what will be coming in the series finale. Angel and Sully make a great addition to the team and the series and I can’t wait to see what Mercy Celeste has in store for the final book.  

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