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So, a kind of quirky feature of the romance genre is that typically each set of protagonists only gets one book. (There is an exception known as the ‘slow burn’ where it takes several books for the leads to finally get together, but even then, they aren’t actively in a relationship during all those books). More likely, if you are reading a series, you can hold out the hope that you get to revisit a favorite couple in a later book, but the whole time you know that nothing truly terrible has happened to them or in their relationships. They have had their happily ever after, and they are safe. This is one of the reasons I love romance. I need the happy ending. There is so much crappy stuff to read about in the world (I can’t read the news each day without getting depressed, though I keep slogging through it to be a good global citizen), and especially since having my kids, I just want to read about GOOD things happening to people. Romance gets a bad rap, but I like the security it provides. And I swear to god if another True Crime reading friend rolls their eyes at my love of Romance, they are going to end up the subject of the books they love so much. Grrrrr……
Him was one of my absolute favorite reads of 2015. It had everything I love about romance – a beautiful (believable) friends to lovers story line, goofiness and banter, super steamy sex scenes, a strong focus on the main characters with just a few side points and no unnecessary subplots, surprising turns in the story that kept it from ever being cliche, and two protagonists that I want to be friends with. *Sigh* I love that book so much. And then I heard that the authors were writing a follow-up. My heart lept because I was not ready to let those boys go at the end of Him, but I was exceptionally nervous too. We left them in a good place, what if the authors did something awful to them? What if they hurt my beloved characters?
Well, I risked it – and it was worth it. I should have trusted them from the start. Let me say before I write the rest of this review that you *absolutely must* read Him first. Him was the story of Ryan (Wes) Wesley and Jamie Canning finding love with each other. I won’t go in to the plot, but it was just a lot of fun, and it left the characters in a good place and you felt really hopeful for their relationship. Us starts up about 8 months later. Wes is a professional hockey player and always on the road. Jamie is a coach for a juniors league and stays at home. At the end of the previous book they decided to keep their relationship a secret through Wes’ rookie year to avoid the media storm that would follow him being the first openly gay player in the NHL.
I cannot objectively write about this book. There was a plot. It was ok – nothing earth shattering. But that was good, because I didn’t want the earth shattered for these characters. This was just a way to revisit characters that I loved from another story and see them mature and develop. As I said before, this is a rare occurrence in Romance, and I am just so pleased that this turned out well.
The characters are only 22, and they had a lot of growing up to do in a short time. Neither of them had been in a really serious relationship or lived with a partner before. Combining those issues with the team travel schedule and hiding their sexuality was a lot of hurdles to jump. There was a lot about their relationship that could have been handled more smoothly with a heart to hear talk early on. One of my least favorite plot contrivances is the failure of characters to talk to each other. This is why Bollywood Bride ended up in my DNF pile. I can only take so much nonsense. But, I thought that in Us the lack of communication actually made sense. The characters acknowledge it to themselves that it’s a problem, and they still don’t change their behavior until forced to by circumstances. I felt like I watched them grow up and learn a lot about themselves and their relationship. But, reminder: the only reason I cared was because of my goodwill from the first book – I really can’t say how this would read without that background, but I suspect it would be highly annoying if you didn’t care about the characters in advance.
While I felt like we left Wes and Jamie in a good place with their Happy For Now at the end of the first book, seeing their journey through the second book really hit home that only NOW can they get their Happily Ever After.