Series: The Ivy Years #3
on October 15th 2014
Genres: MM Romance
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What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.
Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexuality from everyone. Including himself.
So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.
John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.
And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.
Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.
Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.
THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR
by Sarina Bowen
Sarina Bowen is reliable. When I start one of her books I know I’ll have a good time. I’ve also come to appreciate her sensitivity when she writes MM Romance. She always addresses issues you can easily relate to, even as a female because we all have experienced discrimination in one way or the other.
The Understatement of the Year is a perfect example of how susceptible teenagers are to negative influences. Graham and Rikker were childhood friends and lovers when a vicious homophobic assault left Rik with a couple broken ribs and bruises and Graham firmly in the closet. Graham never got over the way their attackers called them fagots and that he ran and left Rik to fend for himself. But really, what else could he have done? He was a 16 year old kid and they were outnumbered. So he buried everything about this essential part of himself and showed the hetero front everyone expected him to be.
Rik on the other hand was expelled from his bigot home and came to live with his grandmother who would become the rock in his life. When he is being kicked off the hockey team at college after being outed he comes to Harkness to continue playing for their Hockey team. Imagine his surprise when he comes face to face with the guy who was his first love, who never called after they were assaulted.
Crossing that crowded room, I’d only gotten a glimpse of him. But a glance was enough to make me understand just how hard this was going to be.
Graham puts up a front – on the outside he is this guy who has always a flippant and funny comment on his lips, gets drunk, and sleeps with women. On the inside it’s a Herculean effort for him to hide that he is gay.
I was the most homophobic person alive. Because ‘homophobic’ means ‘afraid of homosexuals.’ And I was pants-shitting terrified of myself.
Sex with women only works when he gets drunk. It is super sweet to see Graham change – his immense growth from the beginning of the book to the end is touching and all kinds of beautiful. I never got mad at him for being a coward because the author made me realize that the reason for him staying in the closet was for fear of embarrassment. He lost a lot when those homophobic douchewaffles hunted Rik and him. Most of all, he lost his love and best friend. I challenge everyone not to get choked up a bit when Graham takes the first step letting go of his bottled up emotions and letting himself be vulnerable.
Rik’s way of handling the new situation at Harkness is pretty admirable. He is the new guy, the one who has zero social life when he starts out again and sometimes his loneliness shines through, it’s a little heartbreaking. Rikker is such a laid-back, clear-headed and kindhearted, patient guy who would never do what was done to him – out Graham against his will. He is accepting and understanding, giving him space to work this out on his own terms. I loved their friendship and connection so much. Once they moved out of the friend zone it felt like wearing your most favorite pair of jeans. Comfortable.
He kissed me between the shoulder blades. “Getting along together was never the problem with you and me,” he said. “We’re both easy. It’s just the rest of the world that’s hard.
Next to the main characters there is always a cast of lovable side characters. I adored Graham’s mom and Rik’s gran. You could actually SEE why the two leads had become such good people. And then there is Bella whose book I can’t wait to read. She is a wonderfully colorful character with a big heart and she deserves a happily ever after.
Let me say a view words about the audiobook of The Understatement of the Year. I know Teddy Hamilton as a narrator from Him and Us by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. I knew I’d get an amazing audio experience with him. And then I heard Christian Fox and boy, the guy is good. I love how both of them put considerable voice acting skills into their performances.
Sarina Bowen always balances the anxiety with a tenderness and lightness that takes the edge off it and makes her stories supremely entertaining that will leave you with a smile on your face despite the serious topic. It’s the way her characters are wonderful human beings, people you accept and embrace with all their flaws. They make you feel good and when you close one all you want to do is start the next one. Her gentle hand creating these wonderful stories with amazing characters says a lot about her as a person.
If you love MM Romance, give Ms. Bowen a chance. She always brings something special to the table, be it MM or MF Romance.