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New Adult

REVIEW:  Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen

REVIEW: Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen

The Understatement of the Year: (Ivy Years #3) by Sarina Bowen

Dear Ms. Bowen:

I’m not a big m/m reader but after devouring The Year We Hid Away and the The Year We Fell Down, I had to read the third book in the series. This is the story of John Rikker, the only “out” Division 1 hockey player, and the first love of his life, Michael Graham. 

Rikker gets outed at his private Catholic college and is kicked off his team. Harkness College offers him a scholarship and Rikker accepts. He’s completely unprepared for the rush of feelings he has when he sees Graham. 

Graham is also taken aback. Just the sound of Rikker’s voice affects Graham.

The sound of him was like being scraped raw. The rough quality of his voice turned me inside out with memories. Both good and bad.

Graham and Rikker are both intriguing characters but Graham carries the emotional notes of the book. His agony with his sexual identity is keen. He sleeps around, a lot, but particularly with his friend Becca. He wants to not be attracted to men but he is. I said on a podcast that he’s so far in the closet he’s in Narnia. (Then John, our former blogger who was on the podcast, said that it was a good name for a gay club but it would be called The Wardrobe instead).

Graham is miserable. He’s ashamed of his desires. He’s eaten up with guilt over how he ran away from an injured Rikker when they were attacked as teens. His self loathing is part of what makes it easier to forgive him for the sometimes shitty behavior he exhibits toward Rikker.

It’s not like Rikker’s life is all roses. His parents have shunned him so he went to live with his grandmother who is now ailing. He’s at a new college and a new team and not everyone there is okay with his sexual identity. He deals with his unwanted celebrity status, locker room pettiness, but is often surprised at the level of support he encounters. His complete acceptance of his own sexuality is in direct contrast with that of Graham’s. I particularly enjoyed seeing Rikker return home, meet up with his ex-boyfriend and basically enjoy being a college student without the added pressure of being a symbol for others.

Everything I love about New Adult is in this book. The college experience, the parties, the furtive dorm room sex, and the discovery of self. Rikker understands and accepts himself whereas Graham does not. Because of that Graham’s in near constant emotional turmoil. For Rikker, his emotional angst comes from being near Graham and not being able to have him.

They were friends as teens and then lovers, discovering sex for the first time together. While Rikker has had at least one other boyfriend, Graham really does it for him and Graham’s hot and cold behavior is confusing, arousing, and maddening.

There’s enough hockey to please the sports fan but not so much that it will turn off those who don’t have the first clue about hockey. It’s just a heartfelt, emotional romance that happens to center around two young men that, as a reader, I found it impossible not to care about.

Characters from previous books appear but are not intrusive. There’s a solid cast of secondary characters including one of my favorite– Bella. She plays the beard but doesn’t even know it. She has her own problems and worse, she’s half in love with Graham who sleeps with her but is in love with a man. She needs her own book stat. B+

Best regards,



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REVIEW:  Losing Streak (The Lane #2) by Kristine Wyllys

REVIEW: Losing Streak (The Lane #2) by Kristine Wyllys

Losing Streak (The Lane #2) by Kristine Wyllys

Dear Ms. Wyllys:

This is the second in The Lane series and really enjoyed the first one, Wild Ones. The second features Rosemary Young, the sister of the bartender who appears in Wild Ones. If you’ve read the first book, you know that Rosemary gets caught up with mob boss Joshua King, doing things for him even though she doesn’t want to.

Losing Streak opens chronologically some period of time before the Wild Ones. Rosemary’s mother is very sick and Rosemary is trying to find the money for medical bills. Brandon Williams comes into her life in a battered leather jacket and not much money in his wallet but in a short time becomes vital to her. He makes a living gambling and like many gamblers, he wins just enough times to make himself believe it’s a legit path forward. Unfortunately for both of them, his debts become onerous. He’s given a choice by his debtor, Joshua King, (although we aren’t completely privy to all the terms) and he’s shipped to Canada for nearly three years.

In the meantime, Rosemary is approached by Joshua King. Do things for him and he’ll take of her mother, he won’t prosecute her brother for stealing liquor from King’s bar, and Brandon gets to stay alive.  She acquiesces. At about the 40% mark, the story fast forwards thirty-three months.

One of my biggest problems in the book wasn’t just as Mandi noted in her review–the lack of interaction between Brandon and Rosemary–but the vagueness. Why did Joshua want Rosemary? He wants an “assistant” and coerces her into that position. And it’s not a secretarial position for Rose. Instead, she essentially becomes Joshua’s standard bearer in the lane but for all that she verbally blusters, we never see much follow through.

Rose describes what she began to do for Joshua “I was just an assistant, possibly the best-paid assistant in existence. I dropped off and picked up dry cleaning, scheduled deliveries to the bars, picked up the deposits in the mornings…Things started to bleed over…Minor stuff that really didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Have someone pick up the guest list for the next fight from the Tap Room. Drop off a package to Fury. Pick one up for Jeff. Take this call but don’t talk about it later.”

So why is she scary? Why does Joshua use Rose instead of something else? Why doesn’t Rose leave as time goes on? Why do Rose and Brandon maintain their love when it consists of a few furtive sexual meetings when he returns from Canada a few times a year?

There was a lot about Joshua–how he did both good and bad. He got rid of an abusive boyfriend, but demanded protection payments from all the businesses.  One woman said this “Joshua saved everyone I love in some way…But I would not lose even a little sleep if he dropped dead tomorrow.”

We knew more–and felt more–about the evil King than we did about anyone else in the story…except the justification behind his actions. That seemed un-organic. The ending seemed un-organic. The things that happened–I kept thinking, why not earlier? Why wait so long to free yourself?

I guess the explanation would be that it took time for Rose to come to the breaking point and that it wasn’t until all was threatened or that she tired of being under King’s thumb that she found the courage to fight for herself. But I needed on the page justification because most of the time I was speculating about character motivations but didn’t see any text to support my suppositions. In the end I was just disappointed. C-

Best regards,


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