Monday 8 February 2016

Review - Strong Side by Alison Hendricks

Title: Strong Side
Series: Eastshore Tigers #1
Author: Alison Hendricks
Release Date: January 20, 2016

Their chemistry on the field is undeniable. But can they ever be more than friends?

Jason Hawkins is about to throw the biggest Hail Mary pass of his career.

If he can't turn NFL recruiters' heads this year, he'll lose his shot at the one thing he's ever been good at. But every quarterback needs a man he can count on down-field. For Jason, that man just might be the Tigers' new receiver, Derek Griffin.

Four years ago, Derek nearly lost everything after being outed by his teammates.

Now he finally has a chance to get it all back as a walk-on for Eastshore College... if he can resist his immediate attraction to the gorgeous and very straight star quarterback.

An instant connection during practice leads to an easy friendship that only grows stronger off the field. Derek is convinced friendship is all it'll ever be, but a very confusing moment of impulse leaves both of them fumbling for answers about their relationship.

As curiosity gives way to passion and passion gives way to something deeper, Jason and Derek will have to tackle their own personal demons to bring home the win and earn their happy ending.

Um, guys? Get. This. Book.

That about covers it for a review, right? Or should I go into more detail about how I feel for Jason Hawkins and Derek Griffin? I probably should. Because I really, really want you to read this book. goes:

This book is beautiful. It's sexy, and it's hot, no doubt. But it's also this adorably swoony friends-to-lovers romance that just...felt completely right. Hawk and Griff felt right. I loved how not contrived this book was—there was tension and a mild helping of angst, but it didn't come across as forced. It was two young men, each dealing with their own issues, but doing it together.

This book is fun. Yes, it has its roller coaster moments. What good would a book be if nothing happened? But it was also just a good, enjoyable read. There was football—more, perhaps, than was necessary but given than both Hawk and Griff LOVED the game, it made sense to me. There were awkward hook-up attempts. There were tackles that...ahh, were exciting. And the ending? So. Much. Yes. Basically, Strong Side made me smile in a number of ways.

This book was real. The families of these two men, I loved...mostly. Their teammates—some good, some not so good—had reactions that I could see happening in real life. And the men themselves? They weren't always perfect, and sometimes had total asshole moments, but ultimately, they loved out loud and gave me all the good feels. And that...that's why you should get this book. 
~ Review by Beth

I am a huge fan of M/M books, football books and friends-to-lovers books. I got all three in Strong Side and loved EVERY minute I spent with Jason and Derek.

Jason Hawkins is known for his prowess on the football field. He’s the starting quarterback and has been singularly focused on being the best football player he can be. He’s sacrificed school time to in order to make sure he’s as prepared as possible on the field. He’s excited for this final season in his college career because it appears there’s finally a down-the-field man he can count on too, a Junior walk-on named Derek Griffin.

Derek hasn’t played football in four years. Once a promising high school player, he was injured on the field and is simply thrilled to be playing again, to have a chance to play again—and to be on the same field with the gorgeous Jason Hawkins.

Jason sees something in Derek—something about his intensity and desire to be a part of the team that calls to Jason. They become fast friends both on and off the field, and Derek just needs to keep his infatuation in check for the straight quarterback. But after an awkward and confusing moment, both Derek and Jason are left wondering just exactly what their relationship status really is—as their relationship moves from best friends to lovers, both Jason and Derek need to work through their pasts, present and hopes for the future to make sure this relationship has a happily every after.

Alison Hendricks is a new author for me as this is her debut novel. Sometimes I’m a bit hesitant to take a chance but again—M/M, football, friends-to-lovers made this an easy choice to take a chance on, and I am SO DAMN GLAD I did! Jason and Derek’s story developed smoothly and steadily. Both characters are extremely well developed and felt “real”—this alone makes me very happy as a reader. Add in the fact that there was no clich├ęd ending to their happily ever after, and Strong Side was satisfying, smart, super sexy and perfect for these characters. 
~ Review by Missy

When Derek Griffin gets a shot as a walk-on Wide Receiver for Eastshore College, it means more than he could have hoped for. After a terrible and abrupt ending to his high school football career, Derek is just thankful to be playing again, and determined to not waste this second chance. He’s still carrying some baggage from his high school days, however, and while his heart is absolutely back in the game, his mind can’t seem to let go of the past.

Jason Hawkins has devoted his life to football, and this will have to be the year he goes all the way. Gunning for an NFL contract, Jason knows he needs a man he can count on down-field and Derek Griffin might just be that man. When Jason offers to provide Derek with some extra coaching to help him past his mental roadblocks, the two quickly form a close, easy friendship.

As their friendship deepens, so do their feelings for each other. There’s an attraction there that neither one of them is prepared for. As Hawk and Griff fumble their way through the intense and confusing feelings they’re developing, both men must decide if the chances they take to be together are worth the complete devastation it could mean for their hearts, their careers, and the course of their lives.

This book started off a bit heavy on the football—which was fine because I love football, but if you’re not as maniacal about it as I am (and just read these stories for the sexy athletes having sexy times), you may be a little put off. However, stick with it. Because—while it may start a little slow—once things take off, the pace picks up quickly and I was completely glued to and wholly invested in this story. 

I fell so hard for Griff and Hawk’s story—it hit me directly in the feels on so many different levels. I loved how brave and mature they were—putting their love out in the world without apology or explanation. I loved how they communicated as friends first; frank, honest, and sometimes laugh out loud funny, and never drawing out unnecessary drama. I loved how sexy they were. Like, hoo boy and hot DAMN, maybe don’t read this book in public sexy. And I loved how tender they were—those quiet moments when it wasn’t about sexual curiosity or fulfillment, but about being close, taking and receiving comfort, and…falling in love.

I also had much secondary character love. Hawk’s dad—who made me cry. Griff’s mom and sister who made me giggle. Most of the football team who rallied and supported at a time when they could have turned their backs. Everyone and everything came together and made love win here. This story just felt good.

It’s always a little scary taking a chance on a new author, but oh my GOSH, you guys, I’m so glad I did! You should too! Especially if you’re looking for something sexy and sweet, flirty and tender, low on angst and heavy on heart happiness. If those things tick your boxes (like they ticked mine), pick this one up so fast! 
~ Review by Shelly


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