Series: Men of Summer #2
Published by Hot Men Books on 3rd August 2021
Buy on Amazon
Resisting the shortstop has never been my strong suit. I failed at it during my first spring training. It sure as hell looks like I'm about to fail at it again.
The sport I love playing with my very soul hangs in the balance. But everything my heart craves lies with the guy I've got to resist.
A guy who's asking me to make the toughest choice ever.
But how do I become the man I want to be...with him or without him?
Trouble is, I can't seem to get Declan out of my head, even if I stand to lose everything I've worked for my entire life...
I realised with dismay that ‘Winning with Him’ was a second-chance romance midway through the book and that nearly caused me to stop reading, mostly because those never work out too well for me. Unfortunately, this probably counted as one of them….more so because I wanted the HEA after the cliffhanger of the first part.
Dealing with my own downed expectations is probably the hardest part of writing this review, because it felt like Lauren Blakely had taken the story into a turn midway (in the middle of a grovel) that somehow left me…fuming after I was bobbing along happily, caught in Declan’s and Grant’s storm in a teacup.
The Grant-responsible-time-separation felt like a cop-out, because I thought better decisions could have been made by both characters instead of a serendipitous decision that did neither of them good—or at least, left one in a better place than the other. I can well understand that both sides had issues to work through and that change was obviously not instantaneous, but if their 5-year-long separation was meant to be a time-and-career-equaliser, it turned out to be a plot device that ended up driving me nuts with the decisions that Grant took.
The lack of compromise that sat at the heart of it all felt a bitter aftertaste that didn’t really fade, seeing as it was made with no intention at all of both sides ever getting back together again. That they did finally come back together simply felt like a matter of chance rather than intentioned action, which shook the foundation of my own romantic notions that both sides should after all, work for each other and for themselves…together.
If the five-year gap made Grant an older, more established, famous player, I thought it diminished Declan in contrast, making him more inclined towards realising that he needed to be ‘worthy’ of Grant. That Declan needed therapy to feel that way raised too many red flags for me, I really didn’t know what else he’d been learning about himself, other that love was made to feel a little more conditional than it was when they first got together.
The more I thought (and raged) about this, the more I felt there was an inequality of character growth during this separation—in fact, it felt detrimental to their HEA at the end—as Declan seemed to be the one who had to keep making up for crossing the distance to Grant, while the latter pretty much did…nothing. That Declan had to change and work through his own issues was clear, but shouldn’t Grant have had to as well, given how he’d used his own abandonment and commitment issues as a reason for choosing his career above everyone and everything else? Couldn’t both of them have instead, worked through their issues together instead of separately because Grant insisted on carving his own path to success?
Clearly ‘Winning with Him’ stomped repeatedly on too many of my sore points and my personal boundaries of what I thought should or should not be acceptable in a second-chance story. As much as I liked their journey in the first book, I can’t say that it worked out the way I wished it to happen for the both of them.