Author ~ Sloan Johnson
Published ~ 28th January 2017
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
There’ve been two great loves in Zach Kendricks’ life. He lost one because of his commitment to the other.
After Griffin walked away because he refused to live his life in the closet, Zach put everything he had into achieving his football dreams. When he was drafted, he began to understand that Griffin had done the best thing for both of them by leaving. But that doesn’t mean he’s ever forgiven his first love.
Now in his second season with the Wilmington Breakers, Zach’s committed to keeping his head down so he can prove his rookie stats weren’t a fluke. He knows his resolve will be tested when he’s selected to participate in Outside the Pocket, a reality show which follows players through training camp. He’s almost convinced himself it won’t be a distraction when Griffin walks into the room. Distraction becomes an understatement when he’s informed he will be spending nearly every waking minute for the next six weeks with the only man he’s allowed to hurt him.
Will Zach’s love of the game be enough to keep him from being downed by contact again?
I jumped at this story as I love second chance stories and the reality television aspect has also been a winner for me in the past (even though I rarely watch reality TV). This is a start to a new series, but it is spin off of Line Drive, book 6 in the Homeruns series, and although it works as a standalone, I think I might have enjoyed this story more if I had read that book as Zach apparently played a significant role there and there are a lot of references to what happened with his brother Nate.
Zach is a closeted football player coming off of a good rookie year and about to start training camp. When he finds out that his team has been selected to be followed and filmed for the league’s reality series Outside the Pocket, he realizes that he will have to come out to his coach. Griffin is a cameraman and is surprised to be selected for the film crew of Out of the Pocket and even more surprised when he is assigned to follow Zach Kendricks, his first love and the man he walked away from during college. Griffin has regretted how he ended their relationship and is determined to apologize and do what he can to protect Zach’s secret during filming, as he has the feeling that the producers of the show are up to no good. As Griffin and Zach try to overcome their past and see if they have a future, the pressures of their jobs and Zach’s family only add to a difficult situation. While the two recognize the mistakes they made in the past, it’s not so easy to change and as much as they still love each other, there’s no guarantees that they can work things out.
Although the story is about a football player, don’t worry if football is not your thing. There is no on field action as the majority of the story takes place during pre-season training so it’s more of a behind the scenes story. There is some interaction with teammates and the coaching staff, but it doesn’t have an intense sports aspect.
The story started off strong for me. The set up worked very well and happily, Zach and Griffin did clear the air about the past pretty early. It’s told in alternating POV which helped as the two fight their feelings and wonder if risking careers and their hearts is a good course of action. There are also a number of secondary characters that are introduced, some obviously helpful and others with questionable motives and interests. Most of these are either Zach’s family or teammates and some of them are obviously going to have their stories told during the series. Ultimately, I was more intrigued by two of these secondary characters, Nixon and Lincoln, who will be the subject of the next book, than I was by Zach and Griffin.
With the nature of their jobs and the need to keep their past and current relationship secret, Zach and Griffin don’t spend much time together. I think the real problem for me was that there was more telling than showing, with a number of time jumps of weeks at a time and then months, where we are told in a sentence what happened. For two men who were each other’s first, and who have never found anyone else who lived up to the other, I didn’t feel the passion of reuniting and rekindling that romance. When the two were on page together, they spent a lot of time at odds or wondering if what they are doing is a good idea. Some big events that were a concern throughout the story, such as Zach’s sexuality becoming public, were dealt with in a sentence referring back to what happened and what the reaction was, instead of actually seeing the men deal with it.
This was my first book by Sloan Johnson and while I didn’t dislike the story, I found myself less interested in the romance between the main characters and more interested in the interactions between Zach and his family and teammates. I did like Nixon and Lincoln enough that I would read their story, which will be next and I think that maybe, those who have read and liked Line Drive, might get more from the Zach and Griffin’s relationship than I did.