Note: This ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
When we stop to catch our breath, Dex stares into my eyes. "Show me, Finn. Show me how good it can be."
I nearly choke from his words.
With pleasure, baby. With fucking pleasure.
Have you ever watched a beach volleyball match, either live or on television? Regular volleyball matches played in an arena are exciting, but those played on a beach with just two players on either team makes for some scintillating viewing. Now, take the sport, two of the hottest and most talented players in the professional tour who have been each other's rival since college and then find themselves on the same team and you've got yourself a story that's as far from boring as you can get. Oh, and did I forget to mention that one of them is gay but has yet to come out and the other is straight but attracted to his frenemy? Match Point was one of those reads that I went into hoping for entertainment and ended up with what I consider one of the best series starters I've had the immense pleasure of reading and reviewing so far this year. Written by Leigh Carman, a pen name used by established and popular author Heather C. Leigh, and the first in her Sports of the Season series published under Dreamspinner Press, Match Point was the kind of book that served up an enticing story as told by two endearing main characters and left you with a perfectly sated smile on your face. This author's "debut" is, by far, the most outstanding for 2016.
Dexter Savage and Finn Callahan have known each other since their freshman year in USC and have hated one another for nearly as long. Now in their mid-twenties, their rivalry is not secret, and their respective team partners keep them in check, making sure their immense dislike doesn't distract them from the goal of winning each and every game, set, and match, resulting in tournament wins, one round at a time. When fate take a cruel, life-altering, and heartbreaking turn for both men, they end up in the unlikeliest of circumstances: playing on the same team. But how do Dex and Finn, who have viewed each other with such disdain for seven years, form a cohesive and functioning unit, one that can match, if not surpass, the success they met as competitors in the past? What adds to the complexities hounding them is the continuing loss Finn carries with him and his attraction toward his new partner and the confusion Dex feels when he begins to take note of just how attractive his former enemy, now teammate is. Even if Finn could see himself falling for someone like Dex, there's no forgetting the fact that Dex is and always has been straight...hasn't he? Or maybe, just maybe, they really are on the same team in more ways than one.
I loved how adversarial Dex and Finn were and it wasn't out of some sort of unrequited love they had been harboring for years. They really and truly can't stand one another. Dex is the the popular one, the player that others--whether in college or on the pro tour--can't help but like. On the other hand, Finn doesn't go out of his way to befriend anyone else, more than satisfied with his longtime teammate by his side. There are deeper reasons why these two men are the way they are, and it's just part and parcel of the complicated make-up they bear. My heart broke for Finn when he had to endure the loss that struck him out of nowhere and there was simply no way for him to truly mourn in the way that would have allowed him to not wallow in the depression for as long as he did. My gut clenched when Dex looked back on the turning point that made him change who he is because no one should ever, at any age, be forced to think less of themselves. There wasn't this automatic or quick fix to Dex and Finn either, because that would have simply made the story feel too unrealistic. Nope, all their issues required far longer term acknowledgement and more permanent solutions. Theirs was a partnership that had to evolve over time.
I chose to not really mention every single detail about what makes this story different because that would be spoiling the read for everyone else who hasn't gotten to meet Dex Savage and Finn Callahan and hasn't experienced their squee-worthy love story. Suffice it to say that they're put through the wringer and their relationship is tested more than once. This book is a series starter and while one of the main characters of the next book in the series is briefly introduced here, I'm guessing that all the books are standalones--though I'm saying that without having any clue if Dex and Finn show up in book two so I could be totally wrong here--and only very loosely connected. I'm so glad that Heather C. Leigh decided to venture into the M/M romance world via Leigh Carman and I hope that she stays because if the books to follow are as good as this debut, she's guaranteed to become a go-to author for me. I make no secret of my M/M romance fangirl status, and I can safely say that this book captured my heart, all thanks to fantastic writing and a story that had me in laughs and tears. I fell for Dex and Finn as the couple that they were bound to become and I can't wait to see who and what the author has up next for readers. Five-plus stars go to Match Point. ♥
Date Read: 23 July 2016
Learn more about Leigh Carman.