Monday, August 24, 2015

ARC Review:Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins

When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as smooth sailing.

Rafael Castro is so far out of his element he can’t even see it anymore. Carlisle College in Massachusetts is a long way from his Chicago home, even farther from his Dominican Republic roots.

The only thing keeping him attached to his last nerve is the prospect of seeing Denny Winslow again. The first time they met, Denny taught Rafi to fly across the water, rowing hard in a knife-like boat. Now, two years later, on the wings of a rowing scholarship, Rafi is attending Denny’s elite college.

Even before the excitement wears off, Rafi is struggling with classes and fending off rumors that Denny’s family, not Rafi’s talent, won him his spot. To quash the gossip, Rafi tries to steer clear of the man he wants. A plan that evaporates in the fire of renewed attraction.

But Carlisle’s academic pressure cooker has Rafi barely treading water. And when a family crisis hits, both Rafi and Denny must pull hard to keep their relationship from capsizing in rough waters.

Warning: Contains a surly Dominican-American guy determined to show no weakness, a golden boy who knows his soft spots, some seriously dirty bachata dancing, and an excellent excuse for voyeurism in the locker room.

Releases August 25, 2015  

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What I thought about Level Hands

With the help of Denny Winslow and Cash Carmichael, Rafael Castro moves from inner city Chicago to Carlisle College in Massachusetts on a rowing scholarship. His excitement to see his old friend Denny is dampened by a whole slew of feelings about his new environment. He's a fish out of water and I felt that intensely throughout this book. 
When Rafi first arrives in Massachusetts, he's confused about how he's going to fit it, with his brown skin in a sea of white, his academics not quite up to par, and everyone thinking that he and Denny are a couple. It's been two years since they'd shared a single kiss, and Rafi's rather gruff with Denny when they finally meet. It's clear that his behavior toward Denny is a product of Rafi's own discomfort, so in the beginning, my heart swelled for both these guys.

As events progress, Rafi's anger and discomfort doesn't subside and Denny takes the brunt of a lot of it. It's tough to write a main character that isn't all that likable, and if there ever was one, Rafi is it.  He's not very nice to Denny and somewhere in the middle of the book, I wondered why Denny didn't walk away or why Rafi didn't return to Chicago.

But Denny knows that love isn't always easy, and he's very patient with Rafi, although not a pushover. There's a crisis or two that Rafi and Denny have to negotiate, and by the end of the book, Rafi has some things figured out, but not everything. Even though I didn't always like Rafi's actions, I understood them. I could feel his pain.  He's got a long way on his journey and nothing is perfect in Level Hands, and I liked it that way.

I really love this series.  The characters are unique and interesting, and the circumstances of their lives are not always wrapped up in a neat little bow in the final pages. Level Hands and it's predecessor in the series, The Girl Next Door really hit all the right emotion notes with me, and I've just loved these stories because they haven't shied away from an honesty that I really appreciate in a love story.  Love is messy -- and Amy Jo Cousins captures it's beautiful imperfections perfectly in this series.


ARC Provided for review.

About the Author

EBK Photography

Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series.

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