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REVIEW: “Level Hands” by Amy Jo Cousins


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.

25611509Title: Level Hands
Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Publisher: Samhain Publishing 
Pages: 293
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Purchase Links: Samhain


Let me get this out first… I had a lot of trouble reading this book. I’m pretty sure a lot of people won’t feel the same, but I didn’t breeze through this one, not like I did books one or three of this series. I’m sure a lot of people are going to love it, and I do love parts, but there was not enough for me to love all the way through. It also felt very long due to being in Rafi’s head. The guy is a challenge.

In Girl Next Door, Rafi  gets enough page time that it made me really excited to delve into his character more. He seemed so confident and kind. Very likable. Where did that Rafi go? The guy I met before is not the guy I got to know here. Rafi is riddled with issues and I could only relate to an extent. He’s got a lot of self doubt, angsty teen like issues, worries related to how he got into Carlisle, and troubles relating to the team and how they treat him as a person of color… and he also treated Denny horribly. Back and forth with his emotions, I felt the whiplash that Denny must have felt. By the time Rafi started to figure everything out an get a clue, I was almost too frustrated to find the good in here. But there is good and one of the main good things is Denny.

Denny… He’s the one thing that I love in this book. Denny is full of patience and kindness. How he stuck with Rafi for as long as he did is beyond me. Not having the gift of Denny’s POV, it was so hard to get a read on him. I often found myself wondering what he saw in Rafi and why he stuck around. I struggled to feel any connection between the two because being in Rafi’s head is exhausting, challenging, and actually very depressing. But Denny was there, lifting Rafi up and being so unbelievably patient and understanding with him that he shined bright in my eyes. Denny just wants to help Rafi in what ever way he can, and he does everything he’s able. Their conversations/arguments were great peeks into what Denny was thinking, I just wish I’d had more.

Other pluses for me were the side characters. Piece of Cash (LOVE HIM) and Steph were great. Rafi’s roommates were a fun group of guys that I’d love to know more about. I appreciated the way the author carves in a little bit of sex ed awareness without making if feel like a classroom. Discussions of PrEP, condoms, previous partners, all felt real and not forced or added in for the sake of adding them. I think it’s that realness that continues to bring me back to Cousins’ books.

All in all, it was an okay ready for me. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. I think it was just not for me. Maybe my frame of mind at the time. Maybe I was not meant to love this one and that’s okay. While this was not my favorite, it won’t be my last book by Amy Jo.


About Kristie

I like to read, cook, play video games, and generally ignore most people. I hate talking on the phone, but for a small handful of people. I do my best to make my life as simple as possible. I also enjoy hanging out with my husband who makes me laugh every day.

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This entry was posted on August 25, 2015 by in Contemporary, Reviewer: Kristie, Sports / Athletes, YA / NA and tagged , , .

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