Book Review: Us (Him Book 2) by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Us is the second book in a series. A duology? It’s hard to explain. A gay romance novel about two hockey players, Us is the second book in the Him series by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, which started with, uh, Him, and then dovetails into a completely different series that follows some of the same characters that were introduced in Him and Us.

Still with me?

Five months in, NHL forward Ryan Wesley is having a record-breaking rookie season. He’s living his dream of playing pro hockey and coming home every night to the man he loves—Jamie Canning, his longtime best friend turned boyfriend. There’s just one problem: the most important relationship of his life is one he needs to keep hidden, or else face a media storm that will eclipse his success on the ice. 

Jamie loves Wes. He really, truly does. But hiding sucks. It’s not the life Jamie envisioned for himself, and the strain of keeping their secret is taking its toll. It doesn’t help that his new job isn’t going as smoothly as he’d hoped, but he knows he can power through it as long as he has Wes. At least apartment 10B is their retreat, where they can always be themselves. 

Or can they? 

When Wes’s nosiest teammate moves in upstairs, the threads of their carefully woven lie begin to unravel. With the outside world determined to take its best shot at them, can Wes and Jamie develop major-league relationship skills on the fly? 

Warning: contains sexual situations, a vibrating chair, long-distance sexytimes and proof that hockey players look hot in any shade of green.

So, since Us is the second book, let me catch you up in an only slightly spoilery way – the book is about Jamie Canning and Ryan Wesley, two hockey players who used to go to hockey camp together and were hockey camp counselors and probably fell in love as teenagers and hooked up once when they were IN hockey camp and then came back together while coaching at the same hockey camp.

In Us, they’re dating. Jamie is coaching a junior team, and Ryan – who is never, ever referred to as Ryan, but only as Wes or Wesley – is playing for Toronto. (The Leafs, he’s a Leaf. This series doesn’t ever name team names, which I assume is a trademark issue, but unlike other hockey romances, they don’t make up teams.)

Us is about navigating a relationship while not being out, but while also being under the scrutiny of the media. And having one of your teammates living in the same building as you and not having healthy boundaries.

If you like brain- cotton candy, and you’ve already read Him, go for it. Otherwise, the book has a few problems.

Namely, sometimes it seems like maybe Kennedy and Bowen don’t really know much about hockey other than a perfunctory search on the basics of what they needed to include.

One of the most irritating things for me was the names. Jamie Canning is always referred to as Jamie in the prose, which is fine. Occasionally he’s referred to by his last name by other characters speaking to him or about him. He doesn’t seem to have a hockey nickname? No one calls him Cansy or anything like that, and you know they would, because half of playing hockey is the stupid ass nicknames. But that’s not the irritating part.

Ryan Wesley is always referred to as Wes, or Wesley. He’s never called Ryan in the prose, even though that’s his given name. He’s always referred to by his last name, even by his partner. If you wanted to name your character Wesley, just name him Wesley and give him a different last name. It’s so weird and jarring and this seems like such a nitpicky thing? And then it’s like, okay, Wes is just his name and he doesn’t have a weird hockey nickname either.

Calling someone Wes doesn’t feel like a stupid enough name for a hockey nickname.

While we’re nitpicking from a hockey perspective, Toronto sports media is not harsh enough in this by any respect. They’re not making these kids near miserable enough. Toronto sports media is some of the most awful, miserable media in the world. Make them more fucking awful.

In a real critique – it’s not bad for a romance novel. Truly, it isn’t. But it seems so rushed – this is a couple who got together at the end of the first book, and who are [SPOILER] engaged by the end of the second book. The end of the first book is the end of the summer, just before Wes goes off to training camp for Toronto. The entirety of Us doesn’t cover the whole of Wes’s first season in the NHL.

This couple is engaged in less than a year? Like, sure, they’ve known each other a long time, but in the course of this book, they almost break up, they have their first real fight, and then they decide they want to spend the rest of their lives together?

I’m old, I’m cynical, and most importantly I’m exhausted.

So like I said, if you want brain cotton candy (with the knowledge that the cotton candy might be the strawberry one from Prudential Center in Newark that a friend said tasted like chemicals and burning) and a metric fuck ton of sex and some pretty funny dick jokes, yeah, it’s a fun book to read. But it’s not a GREAT book. It’s fine. Pick it up to read by the pool or on the beach. You don’t need brain cells for this one.

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