Author ~ N.R. Walker
Publisher ~ BlueHeart Press
Published ~ 12th September 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
After being dumped by his long-term boyfriend for being overweight, Henry Beckett decides to make some drastic changes. In a vain attempt at getting his boyfriend back, Henry does the most absurdly frightening thing he can think of.
He joins a gym.
Reed Henske is a personal trainer who isn’t sure he’ll ever be ready to date again. He’s sick of guys who are only interested in the perfect body image, never seeing him for who he really is.
As Reed tortures Henry with things like diet and exercise, Henry enamours Reed with recipes and laughter. As the friendship lines start to blur, Henry is convinced there’s no way Thor-like Reed could ever be interested in a guy like him.
Reed just has to convince Henry that life isn’t about reaching your ideal bodyweight. It’s about finding your perfect counterweight.
I need to start by saying that I’m a huge N.R. Walker fan, having read everything she’s ever written. So I’m always super excited when I know a new book is releasing and get quite giddy with anticipation, dying to get my grabby mitts on it. I wasn’t disappointed. Yet again N.R.Walker has hit it out of the park. The writing flows, as do the one liners. This book is full of hilarity. It is a light hearted, easy read, but delivers a very important message about body image, judging others, self perception and self acceptance.
We are introduced to Henry Beckett just as he’s been dumped by Graham, his live in boyfriend of the previous 8 years. Graham dumped him out of the blue saying he didn’t want to waste his life with an overweight old man who didn’t look after himself anymore. Henry is understandably very shocked and hurt by this and takes it very personally. After crying with his best friend Anika into 2 bottles of wine, he resolves to change his life and signs up at the gym with the intention of getting his boyfriend back. Enter Reed Henske, Thor-like god, built like a fridge and brimming with gym junkie vitality. Reed is Henry’s personal trainer.
Over the course of Henry’s gym sessions he and Reed bond over their mutual love of food and exchange recipes as Henry tries to eat healthier. At one point they end up at a farmers market and afterwards Henry bakes a lemon citrus tart which he takes to work for ‘morning tea’. Henry is an actuary in a corporate firm and speaks to no one at work except his assistant Melinda. This offering for morning tea becomes an ice breaker for Henry and he ends up chatting with his co workers, something he hadn’t done before. His life changes are noticed by his work colleagues and friends and Henry shortly realises that he seems to be better off without Graham and that his life is no longer so lonely. He gradually ends up spending more and more time outside of the gym with Reed and they even end up posing as fake boyfriends on one shopping trip. Reed eventually invites Henry on a non-date, but this gets cancelled after Henry has a freak out about not being thin enough or hot enough for someone as perfect as Reed. It takes another gym trainer, Emily, to explain to Henry that Reed really likes him and that he has some issues of his own. Reed forces Henry to examine his own insecurities and perceptions of himself and the judgments he makes about others. They begin a tentative relationship as they work towards Henry and Reed entering the Bay Run, something Henry thought previously impossible but with Reed’s training, motivation and belief, something he eventually completes.
Henry is a very funny guy who has no brain to mouth filter. He unknowingly overshares his stream of consciousness nearly every time he opens his mouth. This ends up with some hilarious conversations, not least of which takes place in the supermarket with Reed, involving an eggplant and lots of lube! I found the descriptions of Henry’s gym sessions and how he thinks he’s dying of muscle soreness and how stiff his body is in the days after the exercise absolutely hysterical. His over the top whinging and complaining is exactly how I would be if someone made me go to the gym now. I fell in love with Henry because he is so real, he’s flawed and funny and fat. He struggles with many issues that each of us face daily, but he is trying to live a healthier, fitter life. I felt every one of his triumphs from his completed gym sessions and the Bay Run that Reed enters them in, to being a size 38 and buying not one but three suits whilst shopping because you haven’t been that size in ages.
Reed is just adorable throughout, but none more so than the time he says to Henry “If he doesn’t love you at your worst, then he doesn’t deserve to love you at your best”. I just melted into a puddle of goo. Henry really struggles with his body image and with issues of low self esteem but Reed, having suffered himself earlier in life, can identify and empathise. I love how he challenges Henry’s image of himself, both visually and his thought processes. He tries to show Henry that it’s not what you weigh but the acceptance of yourself and others and how well you get along that’s important.
The secondary characters in this story add more levity. Anika, Henry’s best friend is very supportive and always texting and phoning for all the dirty details, just as a best friend should. His mum waits at the Nespresso cafe each week, in the hopes that George Clooney will show up and he has a kick ass assistant at work, Melinda, who really gets him and can blink in code. (Always helpful, when that’s your only way to communicate because all of your muscles hurt too much to even be able to speak).
This story is a slow burn romance but when it gets going, boy does it get hot! The sex is sizzling and the relationship feels very genuine, having been played out so tentatively. The ending will leave you with such a happy heart and all of the warm and fuzzies that you usually get with an N.R.Walker HEA. I cannot recommend this highly enough.