Review: The Quarterback by Mackenzie Blair


Note: This ARC was provided by Riptide Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sex was fucking awesome (well, what he'd done so far), but it was also confusing as hell. He was pretty sure he was having feelings. Romantic, mushy, slightly painful feelings of want and need and like. Fuck, fuck. He needed to play it cool. Not let things get out of control with Trevor. 
This was just for fun. Two guys getting their rocks off. That was all. He could do this. It was no big deal.

Aaaaand I've just been impressed yet again by a debut author for Riptide Publishing. I swear, are they hoarding all these first-time authors who happen to write like a dream? Mackenzie Blair is someone to keep my bookahlic eye on, especially since The Quarterback was a unicorn of sorts. This book had a kickass cast of characters, starting with the main couple, Matt Lancaster and Trevor Kim, as well as a story that didn't sugarcoat nor did it skim over the far harsher realities of being in a relationship with someone who's in the closet and what it's like to have people around you who think you aren't worth much simply because of your sexuality. It would be so easy to categorize this book as new adult (NA) or sports romance, but it felt like far more than either of those, almost as if slapping a label on it would limit it somehow. This was a story about falling in love for the first time, finding and accepting yourself, and realizing there people may surprise you if you give them half a chance to prove you wrong.

Matt Lancaster is a senior and the star quarterback of his football team. His love for the sport has become more of a hefty responsibility he needs to see through until the bitter end--or at least until he graduates and makes sure his sisters are no longer with their father. He's determined to win the national championship for his sisters and his team, and if that means keeping sexuality a secret even longer, then so be it. But then his closest friends and teammates drag him to a massage parlor that's known for "happy endings", and his masseur turns out to be none other than Trevor Kim, a fellow senior at the conservative college they attend and the guy he's crushed on before. While the promised "happy ending" is abruptly nixed, their encounter opens the door for both young men. Matt has nearly no experience with guys, and Trevor is more than willing to teach him a thing or two, but when the friendly and flirty explorations begin to feel like more, can either of them walk away without breaking their hearts?

This novel had me grinning like a lovesick fool one chapter and then frowning in frustration the next. There is nothing easy about what Matt and Trevor have chosen to indulge in, not with Matt so deep in the closet that there wasn't a light bright enough or an explicitly detailed map to help him. Well, maybe we can think of Trevor as a light of sorts, but see, the thing is, the decision to come out isn't exactly up to Trevor. Even with Matt falling for Trevor, staying in the closet is a fail-safe for him, especially given the situation his twin sisters are in. I absolutely get why he hesitated for as long as he did, and I also empathized with Trevor and his own feelings of hurt. Theirs is not a story book M/M romance. They struggle and they fumble, and they don't always get it right even the second time around. But throughout it all, their story felt real and honest. It had its ups and downs and it was a journey to that guaranteed happily-ever-after. The best kinds of love stories, after all, make the characters work for their own HEA.

Remember that cast of characters I was swooning about earlier? Well, when Trevor and Matt eff things up--and they do...A LOT--it's their circle of close and trusted family and friends that are their to knock some sense into them and not always in sweet, let's-hug-it-out-till-you-clue-in kind of way. Nope, Matt's family and teammates slash friends and Trevor's own best friends tell it like it is. From Connor, Ryan, and Damian doing Matt a favor of sorts at the massage parlor to the three of them along with Connor's girlfriend Danielle insisting Trevor join them at their poker game, and then Drew and Emily having Trevor's back while Matt's aunt and uncle and his twin sisters were nearly shipping him with his boyfriend, these two had a firm and loving support system. Of course, there were others who were also supportive, while there were also homophobic villains around, but this novel probably has the best assembled cast of characters I've come across in the past couple of years. With that and a fantastic story with nips and bites of humor along with the requisite angst I crave plus Mackenzie Blair's fabulous writing (and I seriously hope we see more of it in the very near future), The Quarterback easily gets five-plus stars. Read it NOW. ♥

Date Read: 12 September 2017

Learn more about Mackenzie Blair.

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