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Bend or Break, Book 3
Charles “Cash” Carmichael traded his high-rise condo and family-firm career for a job coaching soccer for Chicago’s inner-city kids. He’s adjusting to living on minimum wage when his young cousin, newly out and running away from home, shows up on his less-than-luxurious doorstep.
Angsty teens definitely aren’t Cash’s thing. He needs local backup, and there’s only one name he can think of: Stephany Tyler. Back in the day, the bisexual Steph was the perfect friend with benefits until she fell in love with a woman.
To his relief, his former friend steps up to the plate. Soon, though, Cash finds himself feeling the familiar need to keep her in his bed, and in his life. But Steph, burned by the ex-girlfriend and by the absentee dad she’s been trying to connect with, won’t risk her heart again.
Good thing Cash believes in leaving it all on the field. If he can just convince Steph to get in the game, there’s a chance they can both win.
Warning: This book contains ex-friends with benefits crossing boundaries a second time, several steamy encounters on staircases, copious discussions about gay sex from a “straight” guy, a shout-out to magic buttons, and an especially memorable going away threesome.
The Girl Next Door is the third book in the Bend or Break series. Ever since I read Off Campus and was introduced to two of the most awesome secondary characters I’ve encountered in books (Cash and Steph, of course) I’ve been waiting for this book.
So, this is Cash’s book. It’s told from Cash’s POV, and we spend lots of time in his head. We get to see how he thinks, and how he truly feels. It was refreshing to see a guy so free, yet insecure. A guy who knows his virtues and flaws and double checks himselfl, cosntantly, because he knows where he can fall. All of this, is purely awesome, and highly appreciated… Why? Well, because this is an interesting change in the M/F narrative. We rarely get the hero’s POV in an M/F romance. So, honest? All the kudos to Amy, for taking this risk and being brave enough to do this.
When the book starts we learn that Cash and Steph hadn’t seen each other in some time. This book becomes a sort of lovers reunite thing, except that here, you have the lovers trying to figure out what they couldn’t when it all started with them a couple of years ago. So far so good. The thing for me was that I didn’t feel like our two MC’s spent enough time together on page. There was a some interaction between them- Phone calls, emails, texting, but the time they actually spent with each other on page wasn’t enough. It left me wanting more. Steph is a constant in Cash’s mind, but like I say, I wish I’d seen more of them. Sadly, what happened to me here was that, because I didn’t see much of her I actually struggled to connect with her as fast and deep as I connected with Cash. For me, this is a bummer, because Steph is one of my girl book crushes, and I just couldn’t completely understand her. I felt like people kept coming into the picture and stole her thunder. She didn’t shine as much as I would’ve wanted to. But, again, this is me.
So, what happened?
You see, Cash is now living in Chicago, and while he’s there, his cousin, Denny, shows up. Denny is a 17 year old kid who just came out to his parents and isn’t being taken seriously. In an effort to put some distance and figure out his new life out of the closet, he finds Cash and crashes with the guy in his apartament. This is where I get awfully torn. Why, you say? Well, as much as I really, truly ADORE Denny and can’t wait to read more about him, I felt like he took too much time of the book. For me this was both good, and not so good. It was good, hell, it was awesome because it set a mean fantastic mood/plot for the next book. So much that like I said, I can’t wait to get my hands on that book. Not so good because I felt like Steph-robbed! Ha!
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I understand 100% that couples have a life outside of their love bubble, so it is normal, understandable, and appreciated that they interact with other people – friends, family, etc. However, when reading a romance I want to be able to read the build up. Not being told that there was one. This is how it felt for me.
However. I think that once the couple started to spend actual time together on page things got lots better. There is also the fact that Denny’s subplot is great, and that seeing Cash struggle with a teenager while trying to be a friend, yet act as some sort of parent is absolutely endearing. Tom and Reese pop up consantly, and that brought a smile to my face more than once. It was just so sweet to read them again.
One thing I have to say that keeps bothering me, and it is personal (I really can’t stress this enough) is that I see that Amy brings diverse characters to her books – which I absolutely love- but she throws in words (Spanish words, in this case) and they are sometimes mispelled, or in other cases the expression used for that particular latin character doesn’t really fit much with their culture. I first noticed this in Nothing Like Paris, and I thought it had just been typos, or something of the sort, but here I confirmed that they were not. There is also the issue of pointing out how to pronounce a name, and yet giving the wrong pronunciation. As a Mexican woman, I do pay attention to those tiny details. I know most people wouldn’t notice, but I do. Like I say, I appreciate authors who take the risk of writing diverse characters, and who take the time to research the most they can about their culture – I can tell that she does, but when using language as an extra descriptor it can become tricky.
That being said – I guess that the main thing to say about this book is that this is an M/F book that was, in my opinion, intended for an M/M crowd. So, yes, you have the hot M/F couple, but you have a blooming M/M subplot, and a fucking damn HOT M/M/F threesome… Like, dude, hot! So. Very. Hot.