Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 293 Pages
At a Glance: With Level Hands, Amy Jo Cousins shows us once again how well she can write young guys.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: 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.
Review: Rafael Castro definitely feels like he’s in over his head when he arrives at Carlisle to join the rowing team, and take advantage of the opportunity he’s been given to attend such a prestigious college. He feels he has to constantly show his gratitude, and to prove his worth, which ends up almost being his downfall. No matter how much he kills himself for the team, or works at his studies, he never allows himself to simply appreciate the gift he’s been given.
Denny Winslow desperately wants to help Rafi. Wants to share some of his burdens and help him reduce his stresses at school. Denny has wanted Rafi since he was seventeen, and Rafi was the first boy he ever kissed – but not until he turned eighteen, at Rafael’s insistence. Unfortunately, things don’t start out like he hoped they would when he found out Rafi was coming to Carlisle.
These guys drove me bonkers. Ok…Rafi drove me bonkers. Ha! But, you know what?? I liked them. I like how authentic they feel. How imperfect they are. How much their indecisiveness and refusal to pull their heads out of their asses at times made me want to throw my Kindle. Because that’s real life. Sometimes it takes a while to figure shit out. Sometimes the road is bumpy, and you can’t see the forest for the trees. But, our stubborn Rafaelito got there, man. He got there.
With Level Hands, Amy Jo Cousins shows us once again how well she can write young guys. The dialogue is sharp, and the crew scenes, as well as the scenes of Rafi and his roommates just hanging out, felt very natural. I really dug all of the rowing stuff, actually, more than I thought I would. Cash, who we initially met in Off Campus, the first book in the series, is completely awesome and hilarious, of course, and stole every scene he was in. And the chemistry between Rafi and Denny is fantastic. Sexy bachata dancing scene? Check. Hot as hell hiking scene? Check and check. When these guys are not needing to be smacked upside the head, and are clicking romantically, it’s ON.
There were a few little inconsistencies that threw me, the big one being Rafi all of a sudden referring to himself as ‘a black guy’ about halfway through the book. It was definitely mentioned that he was mixed race, but he had clearly been identifying as Dominican for the ENTIRE book up until that point, so it just seemed very strange to all of a sudden change that up.
It takes him a while – and thank God Denny is basically a massive sweetheart with an extremely long rope and high tolerance for taking Rafi’s shit – but Rafi finally starts to figure things out. In spite of his stubbornness and the ridiculous notion that he needed to push Denny away, I found myself rooting for Rafi throughout the book, and I’m sure you will be, too! And, don’t forget to click the link at the end of the book to subscribe to Amy Jo’s newsletter to get a bonus chapter!
You can buy Level Hands here: