Captain is not a title Alejandro “Alex” Cantu takes lightly. Elected by his teammates to helm the US Men’s Swim Team, he proudly accepts the role, despite juggling endless training, team administrative work, and helping out on the family farm. And despite his ex-lover, Dane Ellis—swimming’s biggest star—also making the Olympic Team.
Dane has been a pawn in his celebrity parents’ empire from crib to pool, flashing his camera-ready smile on demand and staying deeply in the closet. Only once did he drop the act—the summer he fell in love with Alex. Ten years later, Dane longs to cut his parents’ strings, drop his too-bright smile, and beg Alex for another chance.
Alex, though, isn’t ready to forgive and forget, and Dane is a distraction he doesn’t need on his team, until an injury forces Alex to accept Dane as his medley relay anchor. Working together, their passion reignites. When Dane’s parents threaten reprisal and Alex is accused of doping, the two must risk everything to prove Alex’s innocence, to love one another, and to win back their spots on the team, together.
*I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley
This was the first book by Layla Reyne I’ve read, and I’m definitely a fan. I enjoyed the writing quite a bit; Reyne did a good job creating sharp prose that struck a perfect tone for the novel. I never felt like the author’s voice was interfering with the story, or as if the prose was pushed or overworked. I always enjoy that because it’s as if a filter is removed from between me and the story. That made this a great book to *ahem* dive into (I simply could not resist).
As a former swimmer, I loved the way that Reyne captured the sport in a way that made me feel both nostalgic and utterly glad I no longer swim (it’s exhausting, it’s cold, it’s hot, it’s wet, I mean…name it). There’s something about swimming that’s intensely calming (great therapy for anxiety for me) and there’s something about the inner determination and will that it takes to keep pushing when you’re in the water that really speaks to me. I love that I felt this coming across in each of the men in this story.
The chemistry between Dane and Alex sizzles. I’m not always an enemies to lovers kind of girl, but the back story Reyne gives us in snapshots carries that aspect of the story in a ways that worked perfectly for me. Alex is by turns a great captain and also kind of terrible at keeping his emotions in check where Dane is concerned, leading to some pretty big consequences for the team. I loved seeing him with his family, and I love how no-holds-barred he was once he’d forgiven Dane.
It’s no secret I’m a sucker for a redemption story, and this is where Relay shined for me. I loved the way that Reyne gave us Dane’s internal monologue to balance with his external behavior from Alex’s POV. I really fell for, and felt for Dane. Even when he was doing stupid things (that hate was never gonna disguise ya buddy) I was right there with him rooting for it all to work out.
Speaking of the hate, I’ll have to say that there were times when I kind of squinted my eyes and cocked my head at the character’s decisions or actions. The fight in the locker room and the club scene in particular, felt over the top.
Otherwise, this novel is excellent. It has a wonderful cast of characters I was immediately invested in (Bas! Come live with me! Be mine!), whose stories I cannot wait for. If you’re looking for something to escape into while dreaming of warmer climates, hop in (ahem. I can’t help it, too many puns to be had here). If you’re in a summery hemisphere, enjoy a refreshing account of men in tiny suits and large pools.
Genre: Contemporary Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Publisher: Riptide Publishing Review Tag: Enemies to Lovers Tag: Part of a series Tag: PoC Tag: Second Chances Tag: Sports Changing Lanes Layla Reyne Relay
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007.
Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary queer romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018. Shadows you Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.