Review: Him by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy (Him #1)

Four years' worth of meaningless sexual encounters flash through my head as I break the kiss and slide down his body again. All those guys I hooked up with in the past...they're a blur. They're faceless. Sometimes they were faceless even when I was with them. I got off, they got off, but I wasn't fully present. I always held something back from them.

Not with Jamie. I can't hold back with him, and never could.

Holy book hangover. It's confirmed: there's something seriously wrong with me to have waited as long as I did to read this novel, though I'm counting getting it on sale as an absolute bonus. I get it now. I seriously and absolutely get why Him, the first book in the series by the same name from the writing tandem of Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, has received and continues to receive the stellar reviews and accolades it's gotten since its release in July of last year. I've read many an M/M romance novel and yes, I've read several M/M romance novels that have the main characters as hockey players and slash or best friends. But there's something about this book that made such a lasting impact on me. This wasn't just the story of two friends falling in love. It was about the rekindling of the most important relationship that either one of them has had--outside of family for one and any sort of kinship in or out of his family circle for the other--and how love isn't just about accepting someone for who they are, but accepting yourself--the real and true you that's always been there but may not have been ready to come out and be recognized--wholeheartedly as well. James Canning and Ryan Wesley are each other's "Him"; this story is about them.

Jamie and Wes met at hockey camp when they were both thirteen years old, and while they seemed to revel in pushing each other's buttons, that summer was the beginning of a friendship that may not have seen both boys spending more than a handful of weeks together and the rest of the year apart, but the distance never impeded their closeness. The abrupt and unexpected end to their friendship came in the form of a bet that Wes lost, but in losing that bet, he found the answer to the question as to who he really is. For nearly four years, Wes cut off all communication with Jamie, and while they both mourned the loss of their friendship--leaving Jamie wondering what could have gone wrong to cause Wes to just stop being his best friend--Wes was dealing with feelings of guilt and self-imposed isolation. Yes, he had people around him and yes, he was certainly hooking up with other guys, but he was still alone, never fully invested in anyone other than his college teammates. Then Jamie and Wes find themselves at the Frozen Four, with both their schools hoping to win the championship, but this could be the opportunity for both young men to win back each other's friendship, and may even end up with a far more meaningful reward.

Gah! Jamie and Wes's story had my heart doing flip-flops and somersaults all throughout. Being twenty-two has these two at the cusp of beginning the journey to being the men they dream of themselves becoming but still having that immaturity and using humor and sarcasm to play off more serious concerns. It doesn't mean, however, that they're irresponsible and selfish jerks. If anything, Jamie and Wes are truly good guys--kind-hearted and well-meaning, both recognizing the value of the love and friendship that they lost and are beginning to regain. They're different and yet somewhat the same, so choosing between the two as to who is my favorite would be an impossible feat. There's a depth to the two of them--both as precocious individuals and as the irresistibly adorable couple that they are--that belies the easygoing, laid-back hockey-playing college seniors the rest of the world sees. What they share together was a long time coming, and reading every step and misstep they made from their respective points of view was such a joy. Him is one of the best romance novels of any sub-genre I've ever had the privilege to read. Five-plus stars. ♥

Date Read: 03 March 2016

Learn more about Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy.

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