Level Hands, by Amy Jo Cousins
Series: Bend or Break, #4
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (Insatiable Press)
Book Release Date: November 12, 2015
Narrated by: Cooper North
Audio Release Date: December 8, 2016
Audio Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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.
When I first read Level Hands, I’ll admit it… I was not a huge fan. I liked it well enough, mostly because of the little moments with Cash, because the new characters introduced were really fun and interesting, and because of Denny. But I had a really hard time liking Rafi. To me, he was not the same guy I’d thought he was in Girl Next Door. No, in that book he did not get a lot of page time, but for some reason I felt like he was really different this time around. Listening to Level Hands was an entirely different experience.
This time, the difference was all Cooper North. Who is this guy? Seriously, he has a way of capturing the voice of Rafi I never thought possible. Mr. North adds his voice and feelings to a character I had issues with and somehow, miracle of miracles, made me like him more than ever. There were these feelings that would not let me go. A lot of feelings, actually. Feelings that had me understanding Rafi better. I still have a lot of issues with the way he treated Denny. The back and forth, hot and cold, it still had me cringing and getting mad. But the delivery of Rafi’s feelings of uncertainty, insecurities, fears, worries… to hear those through Cooper North’s voice made me more sympathetic to him. I was made to adore him.
There are moments in the story that I think I was able to pay more attention this time around. It’s an interesting thing, listening to a book. Hearing the passion and the words come to life. There is a moment when Rafi is with Bree, discussing career path options, when he voices just what it is that I was initially failing to understand. Rafi cares about everything, and what other people think about him matters a lot.
It was little moments like these that I’d not really felt the impact of when I read the book the first time around. Now that I’ve listened to it, I have a greater appreciation for Rafi, what he’s going through and his feelings. As a result, I kinda love this book now and the next time I do a reread of the series, I’ll be looking forward to 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 again. Amy Jo is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.
Find her online at http://amyjocousins.com/