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Relay by Layla Reyne

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 25th December 2017
Relay by Layla ReyneRelay by Layla Reyne
Series: Changing Lanes #1
Published by Riptide Publishing on January 8th 2018
Pages: 237
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four-stars

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.

The simmering intensity of testosterone-laden competitive athletes and that crazy energy that they bring to it are what I particularly love about sports romances. Never having read M/M for olympic swimmers, ‘Relay’ quite literally had my eyes popping at the blurb that was followed by furious clicking on Netgalley and earnest prayer that I’d be given an ARC.

From the way Layla Reyne amped it up straight from the start as hostile sparks flew between Alex and Dane, I sat back, licked my chops and knew immediately this was going to be a good one. There were so many things I liked about this: the pairing, the unique pressures that the modern sports celebrity faces, the multiethnic representation of the swim team, the petty politics that goes on behind the performance and practice and the ever-present, pounding anticipation of the upcoming meet that pours off the pages.

And just as I liked the context and the build-up to the Olympics, I was fond of Alex from the start—the overworked athlete struggling to make ends meet and while keeping his swim team in sync and in good spirits, while keeping his heart and head away from Dane Ellis. Alex and Dane as we learn, had a history and one that ended in a nasty way a decade ago, no thanks to Dane.

Consequently, I had a bit of a harder time with Dane, wishing that his own courage wasn’t just limited to pushing his limits in the water. But Reyne peels back the layers to reveal more than a spoilt boy with his hypocritical parents (though I do wonder why religious characters always tend to be the biggest hypocrites in romantic fiction) who had done nothing but control his life.

My only complaint is that some bits felt far-fetched, which made the ending somewhat anti-climatic as everything started and ended during the run up to the heart-pounding Olympics itself: Dane’s ultimate stepping in, the quick resolution, the unrealised but hopeful dream, the rushed HEA.

Or maybe I’m nitpicking about what left me a little dissatisfied, only because ‘Relay’ felt unfinished, like the fall of the curtain before the climax of a play. Still, ‘Relay’ is probably one of the most unusual M/M books I’ve come across and I’m already hopping impatiently for the next one to come.

four-stars
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