Author: Lex Valentine
Length: 56,082 words
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Mild & Sexy
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Sports (Football/NFL), Coming Out, Friends to Lovers, HEA
Rating: Pretty Good
Reviewed by Sadonna
Evan McAdams has two constants in his life–football and his friendship with Reed Matthews. From the age of six, Evan’s played football alongside Reed. In his teens, he realized he was gay and loved Reed, but fear kept him from confiding his deepest emotions to his best friend. When he and Reed are drafted to the L.A. Stars, Evan decides to come out. His decision impacts Reed who’s been in the closet too. The two men struggle with secrets of unrequited love while facing the world as the first two openly gay NFL players. When injury forces Evan to retire, the love he bears Reed can no longer be hidden. But will Reed be able to reciprocate, or will Evan lose both football and the man he’s always loved?
Lex Valentine has written a book that is kind of a fantasy – at least it is today. Her story is about the first two players in the NFL to come out while playing. In this scenario, the players actually come out after they are drafted and before the first game of the season.
Evan and Reed have been best friends since they were six years old. Evan realizes he is gay when he is 16 and he comes out to his family. They are not surprised and completely supportive. However, he does not come out to his best friend based on some perhaps misguided advice. Evan can’t stand the thought of his best friend rejecting him, so he keeps his feelings to himself thinking that he will tell him when the time is right. Evan thinks the time is right when they go off to college. While Reed does not reject him and confesses that he too is gay, there are reasons why they cannot be together and Evan is devastated.
Though college they continue to play football (Evan is the center and Reed is the QB) and keep their sexuality a secret. However, this takes a toll on them and when they are drafted by the same new LA expansion team, Evan wants to come out of the closet and Reed finally agrees. They enlist the aid of the head Marketing person for the team and she determines the best way to help them spin the story and make it a positive PR coup for the team and for Evan and Reed.
While they are definitely out and become role models and PR shills for the team, both men feel like they are still not free to just live their lives. They must conduct themselves beyond reproach at all times. Their relationships are scrutinized and they feel at times that they are living in a glass bowl. Reed’s personal relationships suffer quite a bit as a result of his choice of career and lead to some pretty dire consequences.
There are a several twists and turns to the story that I don’t want to reveal here as I think they will spoil the story for readers, but suffice to say that these men have a very hard time communicating with each other. Neither is honest about his feeling for the other. It turns out that Reed has been in love with Evan for as long as Evan has been in love with Reed and he too has been driven by fear of rejection. But a crisis sends them into each other’s arms and bed one night that then leads to guilt and a declaration by Reed that once again causes Evan to back off and distance himself. They have spent a lifetime protecting themselves against the possible pain of losing the other’s friendship so they continue to act as if nothing has changed in their relationship.
Finally after years of separation and career ending injuries, Evan and Reed are at last in a place to begin to possibly start building a life together. But they continue to have difficulty being honest about their feelings unless there are heavy doses of pain medication involved. Evan’s family gets involved, but even with that intervention, they nearly ruin their chance at happiness.
I enjoyed this story overall, but I must say that I got very frustrated with both men at times. Neither was willing to take a chance for so long and I really became worried that they were going to miss the boat entirely. Their whole lives had been built around football and only when that career was over did they truly have the freedom to pursue their relationship and a real life. I hope we when a professional athlete in the big 4 (football, baseball, basketball and hockey) does come out while still an active player that things will be easier than they were for the men in this story. And I hope we don’t have to wait another 20 years.