Review: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Amy Jo Cousins

Review: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Amy Jo CousinsBetween a Rock and a Hard Place by Amy Jo Cousins
on March 22, 2016
Genres: M/M Romance, New Adult
Published by Samhain
Source: NetGalley

Copy for review provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


four-half-stars

When friends lose the benefits, can the friendship be saved?

Love Me Like A Rock

With the right art tools, there’s almost nothing Austin can’t make real. Except an official relationship with his best friend, rowing teammate and occasional hookup, Vinnie.

Emotional and sexual frustration fuel a spark between Austin and Sean, the nude model in drawing class. After a quick and very dirty encounter, all the reasons Austin has been waiting for Vinnie go fuzzy in his mind.

But if Austin can’t get his head and his heart on the same page, he could lose both his friend, and his lover.

Hard Candy

Vincent always assumed he and Austin would eventually end up together. But now that Austin’s in love with another man, Vinnie is at a loss.

After the world’s most awkward one-night stand with Bryan, a dance major, Vinnie is drawn to his vibrant spirit and calm center.

Physically, the rowing jock and the glittery dancer can match each other stroke for booty pop. But for the lovers to meet on common ground, they’ll have to find a way to get moving in the same direction.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place is a duology consisting of two complete standalone stories, Love Me Like A Rock and Hard Candy. All can be purchased digitally, but only the duology is available in paperback.

Love Me Like A Rock (Bend or Break #6)

This standalone romance focuses on Austin, a secondary character in the previous Bend or Break series books, and a member of the rowing team. He’s got a friends with benefits relationship with Vincent going on, but it’s getting pretty stale, as while Austin has had stronger feelings for Vincent, he seems to have been waiting forever for Vincent to return those feelings. While in limbo on that front, he meets Sean, a model in one of his art classes. Sean is the opposite of any guy Austin’s ever been attracted to before, the kind of guy who thinks a weekend roughing it away from the city is heavenly. They’ve got very different backgrounds, with Austin having grown up in a wealthy but cold family unlike Sean’s poorer affectionate one. Will Austin give a relationship with Sean a chance to flourish or keep holding out for Vincent to consider him as a more than just a friend?

I really enjoyed this story! If you’re worried about cheating or a three way triangle, you don’t need to be, as from the start of the story Austin and Vincent are already in limbo with their friendship (and sometime sexual relationship). While Austin’s had stronger feelings for Vincent, he’s been waiting forever for Vincent to return them, and is finally realizing that maybe it’s never going to happen. It’s in this mode that he meets Sean, posing nude for an art class, and experiences a first for him – being turned on by the model (how embarrassing!). But when Sean indicates that he returns that attraction, they share some smoking hot sex. Austin is withholding himself though, not willing to commit fully to a relationship, unlike Sean who is all in from the start. I loved that Sean was comfortable expressing his feelings for Austin and made it clear that he was interested in something more than just a fling. And I liked that he forces Austin out of his comfort zone, bringing him on his outdoor camping trips and sharing his love of nature (this makes for some very funny scenes, by the way). They are definitely opposites, but both have wonderful qualities to bring to the table. While Austin sometimes comes across as having an entitlement chip on his shoulder, Sean is quick to bring him back to earth. As expected the scenes with the rowing team and the camaraderie of the guys make for lots of laughs even amidst the emotional drama of Austin having to decide whether he will give up waiting for Vincent for the man who wants him in the here and now. 4.5 stars for this sexy and entertaining story.

Hard Candy (Bend or Break #7)

On the heels of book 6 of the Bend or Break series (all of which can be read as standalones), in which Austin finally found someone willing to commit to him 100%, Vincent finds himself in his own kind of limbo. He’d always pictured himself eventually ending up with Austin, though he never made an effort to change the status quo. But that ship has sailed, and while he and Austin are still good friends (they’ve been friends too long to lose that, even though it’s not the same closeness that they used to have), he’s got no one on the horizon with whom he’d consider having a relationship – and certainly not dance major Bryan, the kind of effeminate, vocal, gay man who is everything Vincent is definitely NOT looking for in a relationship. So he had a failed one night stand hookup with him when he was drunk – clearly he hadn’t been in his right mind to begin with. Only, when he sees Bryan again, he’s struck by the same attraction he had for him the first time, and this time with no drink in sight. Proposing a little fling with Bryan on the side sounds good, but Bryan’s got his pride and he’s not going to take kindly to a secret affair. Will Vincent man up and admit that he wants more than a few nights in the sack or will his ingrained conditioning to keep his homosexuality on the down low cause him to lose out on a man who wants more?

I loved this story for its characters contrasts. Bryan is the stereotypical gay man – flamboyant, great dancer, outspoken. He’s not afraid of being gay, of telling people he’s gay, of acting gay. It’s resulted in some challenges for him, bullying from different avenues but that just makes him more determined to be out and proud. Vincent is the complete opposite – he’s a quiet, conservative man, from a family that views his ‘condition’ as acceptable only as long as it’s not made public. For Vincent to openly date Bryan flies in the face of everything he’s done up to then and everything that is expected from him, from both his family and his friends. Not that his rowing team doesn’t know that he’s gay (because most of them are too), but he’s the one that camouflages himself well with his straight friends. So the first hurdle for him is acknowledging that he has feelings for Bryan, and accepting that if he wants a real relationship with him (and not just some backroom antics) he’s going to have to accept Bryan for who he is, flamboyant dance queen. There is a lot of emotion in this story, as Bryan will only take being hidden for so long, and Vincent knows that he’s making decisions that are going to affect his future happiness. They have definite chemistry, and their love scenes are super sexy. The story plays out so well that I kept wanting to turn the pages faster and faster even as I wanted to slow down and savor Vincent’s gradual acceptance and understanding of his and Bryan’s needs and feelings. It was a wonderful, heartwarming romance about breaking down stereotypes while building a relationship. 4.5 stars.

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four-half-stars

About Amy Jo Cousins

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 again. Amy Jo is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.