Zack’s Awakening by Jaclyn Osborn

Title : Zack’s Awakening       Word Count : 213 pgs
Genre : Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb : Fear. Zack Greyson had never known the true meaning of the word until he suspected he might be gay—which wasn’t an option for the personal trainer and ex-football star. He’s tried to convince himself that his attraction to men is nothing more than just a mere curiosity, but when Jackson Parker walks into his life, that façade comes shattering down.

Jackson Parker is used to rejection because secrets never stay hidden forever. Left slightly broken and with no sense of belonging after his family’s rejection, he’s sought love in all the wrong places before. But meeting Zack, the hazel-eyed jock with killer dimples, Jackson steps out of his comfort zone and fights one last time for the happiness he knows he deserves.

Falling for a supposed straight guy was crazy, but for once, Jackson feels like his luck has changed, and he’s finally found someone who won’t throw him away. However, Zack struggles to discover who he is and who he wants to be. When his fear of coming out drives a wedge between him and Jackson, only one question remains: Which is stronger: love or fear?

My Review : Fear is an emotion that can often cause us to act irrationally. Zack understands this all too well. Zack has always been this all American popular jock that everyone loves and want to be around. Coming to terms with the fact that he is gay is very hard for him to do. He keeps on worrying about the perceptions of others. I found this very strange , since his own brother Gabriel is fabulously flamboyant in his gayness. Zack is very protective of his brother, and their father loves both of his sons unconditionally.
When we are first introduced to Jackson, I immediately feel the hurt that he feels from being rebuffed by Zack someone who he has become close to, but constantly pulls away when things get heavy. I guess what they say is true that no two ‘coming out’ experiences are alike. There were times when I felt like strangling Zack for being so concerned about others’ perceptions and hurting the people who mean the most to him. Jackson showed a lot of strength and patience and tried his best to give Zack the time that he needed to come to terms with being gay.
However, it took losing Jax and hurting his sweet brother Gabriel to finally get Zack’s head out of the sand. I really liked Zack in book 1, but I just found it hard to warm up to him as a main character in book 2. It was hard for me to reconcile the sweet caring brother to the very stubborn man who refused to step out of the closet proudly. Eventually , Zack and Jax got where they needed to be to forge a strong relationship. In my opinion, it took way too long for Zack to ‘man up’ and stop hurting sweet Jackson.
The main event for me was seeing the previous beloved characters Gabriel and Michael and watching how in love they still are. Gabriel is still as fabulous as ever and Michael is very much in love and pampering his princess. Their wedding was beautiful and caused me to get all weepy. I give this my ratings of 4 – lose the underwear.

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Going the Distance by John Goode

Title :  Going the Distance                 Word Count : 81,982

Genre : Contemporary Gay Romance / Young Adult

Blurb : Looking like the perfect all-American boy—tall, handsome, and athletic—makes it easy for Danny Monroe to blend in with the in-crowd of a new high school. It’s a trick he picked up moving with his father from one Marine base to the next. When you aren’t going to be around long, it’s better to give people what they want. And what they want are his quick hands and fast feet on the basketball court.

On court, he can be himself and ignore certain strange developing urges. Everyone knows you can’t like boys and be a jock, but for Danny his growing attraction is becoming overwhelming. At the thought of losing the only thing that matters, Danny starts to panic and realizes he has a choice to make: happiness or basketball.

My Review :  It must be extremely  hard to try to outrun yourself,  it’s virtually impossible. Army brat  Danny  has first hand experience of this, since the first time he was caught fooling around with his friend at a sleepover and the friend hung him out to dry. His father was exceptionally dissapointed  in him and threatened to send him away. Danny promised his dad that it would  never happen again and suppressed any desires or questions  he ever had about his sexuality.  This holds true until he meets Cody Franks, one of the guys on his basketball team,  an all around  good  guy. Cody and Danny forms a bond where they become the best of friends,  but there is a doorway that is opened in their relationship  that could lead to some thought provoking questions. After a team member sees them kissing on the court one night, Danny pushes Cody away, shuts him out and stops being friends with him. Danny didn’t even get to say goodbye or apologize  when he heard that Cody was moving away.

 Danny is devastated but he does nothing more than push his true self further away.The more you deny your true self is the more you lose the most important  part of yourself. Danny decides the best way to lose himself is to do it through something that he loves and is good at, basketball. This works for all of two minutes, until he starts changing into an unrecognizable  bitter team captain who has isolated and backed himself into a very  far corner. 

After getting dressed down by his coach after a lost game due to his inflated ego, Danny gets into a horrible  car accident. After having an out of body near death experience,  Danny sees himself for what he truly is. It takes his accident for him to finally face up to the truth, that he just might be gay. He has to come to realize  that  he is lucky to be alive and he  needs to stop using other people as a way to hide and deny his sexuality. He faces a constant  battle with his sexuality. His friend  Nate helps him to cope after his accident. Nate accepts that his friend is possibly gay, but Danny refuses to acknowledge  the truth of his desires.

This novel truly resonates with me because it touches on the many facets of life. This is a true coming of age story that talks about love, heartbreak, disappointments, faith, perseverance and throughout  it all fear. Danny gets a lot of things wrong along the way, but that just makes him a teenager and human. It takes a lot of soul searching  and Cody reappearing for Danny to gain forgiveness for his harsh treatment . He has to learn to love himself first and foremost  before he can find love. In my estimation  this novel was definitely a journey. It shows the struggles that many gay or questioning athletes feel that they need to go through to prove themselves to the world. Danny’s journey leaves us on a cliffhanger  with many unanswered questions. I give this my ratings of 3- it was ok, give it a try.  I was left unfulfilled and yearning to  see where Danny would end up.  

Favorite Quotes : 1. “If we are servants of God, and I mean true servants and not just in name, then we have an obligation to love everyone in the name of the Lord. Not just the people we agree with and not just the things we can understand, but everything. Saint Augustine said it best when he wrote ‘Cum dilectione huminum et odio vitiorum.’ It translates as ‘With love for mankind and hatred of sins,’ but nowadays we just say love the sinner, but hate the sin. And though it is true we must love the sinner, I think Augustine got it right the first time. With love for mankind. That is the point, for all of mankind. Not the white folks or the straight ones or the nice ones, for all mankind. ( If we all lived our life by these dictates, the world  would be a  far better place.)

2. You think the answer is hating them? You’re wrong, dead wrong. And I assure you, if you think the fact you are here, dressed up on a Sunday, is a golden ticket to heaven, it isn’t. You want to quote Corinthians and tell me that the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, or men who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God, then be sure to finish the quote with thieves, greedy people, drunks, revilers, and swindlers too. You think having money and wanting more is good? Not according to that quote. You want to think getting the best out of a deal is good, you’re better off finding another passage to defend it.” (People are always quick to throw stones in a glass house, rather than see the sins and wrongs that they  have committed. )

Exception to the Rule 3: Straight From the Heart by Kimberly Gardner

Title : Straight From the Heart            Word Count :60,555

Genre : Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb : College student Kyle diStefano is having trouble paying his tuition. So when he hears about a job as team mascot with the accompanying full scholarship it seems like the perfect solution. Except he knows nothing about football. But why should that stop him?

Known as the Big Cock on Campus, Dave Masterson never lets his antics with the ladies interfere with his true love, playing NCAA football. But when his coach suggests the team do some off-season conditioning at the ballet barre, most of the guys scoff. Only Dave takes him seriously.

With Dave’s knowledge of football and Kyle’s knowledge of ballet, it seems each has exactly what the other needs, except they play for different teams. Or do they?

Kyle knows one sure path to heartbreak is falling for the straight jock who’s teaching him the rules of the game. Dave falling for another man is going to mean nothing but trouble. But neither man can seem to help himself.

When a public display of affection casts doubt on Dave’s NFL dream, he is forced to make a choice. Stay with the game plan or call an audible straight from the heart.

My Review : I am totally obsessed with the Gay for You trope. I really like the idea of being attracted to that special someone irrespective of their gender. Dave is the star quarterback of the team and he is a shoo in for playing in the NFL.  He is big, brawny and a sexy ass jock who is known to get any cheerleader he wants. He is juxtaposed to  ballet dancer Kyle who is the very definition of a twink. Kyle is graceful , delicate, very pretty and knows absolutely nothing about football. Kyle has to turn to Dave when he finds out that the mascot position comes with a full ride scholarship which he desperately needs to stay in school.     

When they meet each other for the first time, they rub each other the wrong way because they see their stereotypes rather than getting to know the real person. It seems Dave needs Kyle as well , when his coach suggests that ballet will improve his skills on the field.  They both start hanging out more , especially  since both their roommates Mark and Josie are in a committed relationship. 

When Kyle sees Dave passed out on the floor at a party after having too much to drink, he gives him a hand to his room. Dave is afraid to ruin his straight boy image so he has been  suppressing his bicuriosity. By the time he gets to his room, he is a little more sober than when he left the party. He takes advantage of his ‘drunkenness’ to ask Kyle for an experimental blowjob. Kyle can’t seem to resist his ‘straight crush’ despite his reservations that he is probably walking into heartbreak territory. Once he is done, Dave promptly rolls over and pretends to fall asleep. Even though he is flabbergasted and wants to try gay sex again, Dave is extremely scared of what people will think. 

It’s a few weeks before they see each other again at Mark’s and Josie’s 4th of July weekend getaway. Kyle feels weird about seeing Dave again ,but Dave is not fazed. After a night of carousing and drinking,  Kyle and Dave wakes up in the same bed. One thing leads to another and before they know it , they are going at it hot and heavy and it’s exceeds both their expectations. Kyle and Dave gets more comfortable with each other and Kyle starts falling in love with Dave. He sees a more vulnerable side of Dave that nobody else sees.

Things finally come to a head, after a kiss shared by Kyle and Dave is captured on film and put on Facebook for all to see. Dave’s father and coach does damage control by spinning some elaborate drunken tale for the public, rather than admitting that Dave is gay. Kyle is left heartbroken and picking up the pieces of his heart.

Dave is troubled by his decision and he is devastated that he will lose Kyle when he notices another teammate making a play for him. Dave realizes that he can’t live his dream of playing in the NFL,  if he can’t have his dream guy by his side. He comes out by publicly claiming Kyle with a scorching-hot liplock for all to see at the final game of the season. They definitely don’t have it easy but they have each other.  This was a sweet romance without too much drama. I give this my ratings of 4 – lose the underwear.