Reviewed by Jen B.
TITLE: in the Ring
SERIES: Boxer #1
AUTHOR: Rie Warren
PUBLISHER: Rie Warren
LENGTH: 280 Pages
RELEASE DATE: December 5, 2016
The biggest fight of his life isn’t . . . In the Ring.
The bright lights. The roaring crowd. The chance at a championship belt. The not-so-little secret Liam Shaughnessy—the Bonny Bruiser—is fighting to keep tucked far away.
Liam got the pussy pounded out of him on the mean streets of Cin-city—the other Sin City. The oldest in a Catholic clan where his da never pulled any punches, he went from geek boy to the golden boy of the boxing world care of his fists. Liam’s on the fast track to having it all . . . all except the one man he wants.
Michael Fairweather makes pretending to be hetero goddamn difficult for Liam. The man is blond and beautiful and just so happens to be Liam’s trainer. With a penchant for doing shirtless yoga, giving midnight massages to loosen Liam’s muscles, and sometimes even taking it out in the ring with him. To say Liam has porn-style fantasies about Michael is an understatement.
Michael’s out and proud. Liam’s only proud of what he can do in the ring. He can’t risk his career, least of all for someone unavailable. Michael has a lover. Liam has the lies he lives every day. And when his money-grubbing manager gets involved as the title win approaches, Liam doesn’t know what hit him.
Fight to win. Fight with honor. It won’t be easy, but that’s okay. Nothing worth fighting for ever is.
Gorgeous cover, promising steamy blurb, sexy MMA fighter, oh my! Sign me up! I am a sucker for these stories, and I always love when they stray from the typically expected storyline. Here, Liam is a guy from a crappy childhood who learned to fight on the streets and was able to make a living out of it. Unfortunately, that means hiding his sexuality.
Liam’s father was/is a drunk, his mother works two jobs and Liam was left to look after his 3 siblings. He left as soon as he could but still did his best to provide for his mom, brothers and sisters. When we meet him, he is as yet undefeated and working his way up to be eligible for a shot at a belt. He has a team of people who take care of him, from the sleezy manager to the sexy trainer, Michael, whom Liam is secretly crushing.
There were some typical themes here, but that is to be expected. Liam’s basically been told all along that he can’t be a gay fighter. From his loser homophobic alcoholic father, to his manager who goes out of his way to keep up appearances that Liam is straight and getting lots of female attention. Thankfully, Liam’s main beard is Anya, who understands and supports Liam. She also happens to be a closeted lesbian, which makes things easier for both of them as they make their appearances and put on a good show.
On the Michael front – he has a long-time boyfriend, his high-school sweetheart, but he is finding it increasingly impossible to fight his feelings for Liam, who he believes is straight. Michael’s position as Liam’s trainer puts them in frequent close contact, from the training sessions, to the aftercare massages, etc. He is also quite frustrated by all the female attention Liam is seemingly getting, and even after he knows the deal, this aspect causes a lot of frustration and problems on their relationship.
This is a slow burn story. It takes a long time for Michael and Liam to get together, though I really enjoyed the story up to that point. Once they are together, they don’t just jump in and have hot sweaty pent up but finally getting some muscly man sex. No siree, because Liam wants it to be more than sex, wants them to take their time, etc. Not quite what I expected, but quite a nice change if I do say so. There was quite a bit of miscommunication (of course) and the I’m not closeted and won’t go back v. the I’m closeted because I have to be but maybe some day trope definitely causes them problems. But, my heart truly broke for Liam. He was so conflicted with trying to do the right thing for his family, listening to his supposed advisors, and he when he finally takes control of it all, it is a beautiful thing.
I really enjoyed this well-written story. It had just enough fighting to not overload, and it had me turning pages at a steady pace. I believe Ms. Warren generally writes m/f stories, but I would not have known it from reading this one, which was wonderfully edgy and slightly gritty yet still had a tinge of romance and sweetness. I’m excited this is the first book of a series and interested in seeing where the story will go next. I hope it is another m/m, and whether it is a continuation (would love to see more Michael/Liam!) or new characters, I am definitely looking forward to it.