Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Series: Bend or Break, Books 6 and 7
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: March 22, 2016
This duology comprises of Book 6, Love Me Like a Rock, and Book 7, Hard Candy. I recommend reading the rest of the series first, but these can be read as a stand-alone.
When Vinnie and Austin first appeared in Level Hands, I was immediately intrigued by whatever was going on between them. It was clear there was something, and the brief cameo we got in Real World just added fuel to the fire. So I was ridiculously excited to see that they were finally getting their own books.
And then A.J. said that they were getting their own separate books. As in, separate romances. Whaaaaat? But this is Amy Jo Cousins we’re talking about. Even though I wasn’t quite ready to put down my “Austin/Vinnie OTP” banner, I was willing to trust in her ability to write a gorgeous relationship for both of them.
And she did. Oh, boy, did she ever.
Love Me Like a Rock
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Bend or Break, Book 6
Having grown up with artistic implements always in hand, there’s almost nothing Austin can’t make real. Except for one thing—an official relationship with his best friend, rowing teammate and occasional hookup, Vinnie.
The combination of emotional and sexual frustration fuels a spark between Austin and the nude model in his drawing class. Austin isn’t used to having trouble focusing; models are merely challenging subjects to be rendered on paper. But the geology TA’s direct blue gaze is powerful enough to drag Austin’s focus away from his…physique.
After a quick and verydirty post-class encounter, all the reasons that Austin has been waiting for his best friend go fuzzy in his mind. Sean is nothing like Vinnie. Sean is persistent, pays attention, and makes it clear he wants to be together.
But if Austin can’t get his head and his heart on the same page, he could lose his friend, or his lover. Or both.
I loved every single word of Austin’s story. All of it. Austin and Sean just fit together.
Sean is all about the physical: the earth and trees and rocks. He’s down-to-earth, grounded (geology puns absolutely intended). And Austin has his head in the clouds more often than not, always looking for the beauty and art in things, which means he sometimes forgets about the real world around him.
“You really do make a mess, don’t you?” Sean asked, tucking the corner of his mouth back like he was trying not to smile.
“Pretty much always,” Austin admitted, shading his eyes with his free hand as he looked up. The sun shining through the edges of Sean’s beard lit it on golden fire.
“Good thing I’m not afraid of a little mess.”
And Austin’s relationship (and friendship) with Vinnie was handled beautifully. There was a lot of emotion to process for both of the friends, but also for Sean. A.J. didn’t just take the easy road and show Austin moving on, and that was what made this story exceptional.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Bend or Break, Book 7
Vincent Lim always assumed his best friend (and occasional hookup) Austin would be waiting for him—that eventually they’d 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 a dance major, Vinnie knows the drill. Minimize the embarrassment by pretending they’ve never met. Yet Bryan’s vibrant spirit and calm center lure Vinnie like a shelter from an emotional storm.
But Vinnie’s thrown off his game by the rest of Bryan’s total package. Vinnie’s a rowing jock with a single-minded focus on living up to his parents’ academic and social expectations. Bryan might as well be outfitted with glittery butterfly wings—with plenty of pride to match. Vinnie’s haphazard attention to a lover won’t cut it this time.
Physically, they 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.
Admittedly I liked this story a TINY BIT less than Love Me Like a Rock, but only because I struggled to connect with Vinnie. But I think that’s the point; Vinnie is emotionally detached. He focuses on school and his goals, and doesn’t deviate from the path he’s set for himself.
There’s so much that I want to talk about with this story, but can’t because spoilers. So I’ll give you the highlights: Bryan– out, proud, unashamed– and the way he complements Vinnie. Vinnie’s sexuality, and the unique relationship he and Bryan have. The way they connect, and Bryan’s demands for all-or-nothing.
“I would make time,” he said quietly. “For this. For you.”
But my favorite part of this story was watching Bryan convince Vinnie to focus on his own needs and wants… to remind Vinnie of the world outside his studying and end-goals.
Another gorgeous story from Amy Jo Cousins. She really knows how to write romance, there’s no doubt about it!
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.
Her books include the Bend or Break series (M/M, M/F), and you can check out my reviews of the series here. She’s also written some super steamy M/F romance, and as well as other LGBTQIA+ shorts and novellas.
PRE-ORDER THE DUOLOGY OR INDIVIDUAL BOOKS FROM THE PUBLISHER:
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Love Me Like a Rock
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.