Title: False Start (Wilmington Breakers: Book Two)
Author: Sloan Johnson
At a Glance: The second half was very emotional, but even though I wasn’t prepared for something like that when I started reading it, I still couldn’t put the book down until I was done with it.
Reviewed By: Ky
Blurb: Nixon Cross isn’t wired to share his life with anyone. He’d considered a relationship once, but after the one man patient enough to put up with all his quirks shut him down, he committed all of his energy to football and helping his players. Now, one of his players need more help than Nixon can provide and his former flame is the one man who will know what to do.
Retired NAFL player Lincoln Sims had no choice but to stay in the closet; he was a professional athlete at a time when it was impossible to be honest about his sexuality. After retiring, he confessed his secret to his wife and son because he was tired of living a lie. Now, he’s ready to live his life. Nixon Cross is the man he left behind but could never forget.
Can these men find a way to recover from their false start years earlier?
Review: When I started reading this book, I wasn’t prepared for such an emotional story. I’m not talking about romantic stuff here. I’m talking about the harsh reality that some retired players have to face as a result of all the brutal hits they took while on the field—the possibility that some of the injuries they suffered years ago can come back and haunt them long after they occurred and were perceived as healed.
Even though it wasn’t one of the MCs that suffered from his time on the field, it was still a very big part of the story, and it set the mood for the book. The romance between Nixon and Lincoln took a back seat, and the second half of the story focused on how a retired player and the people closest to him coped with the effects that multiple and poorly treated concussions had on him.
The MCs spent a lot of page time away from each other, as the story takes place in two different states, but that didn’t make their connection feel less real. The opposite actually happened; them being apart from each other (it was only for a few days at a time, but those where the days we mainly got to see) and still supporting each other as best they could, even from two states away, strengthened their relationship and showed how committed they were in building a future together. They had their issues that they needed to work through, but being friends first, even if they had grown apart in recent years, meant that they knew each other very well, and they already had feelings for each other. They were grown men who knew what they wanted and worked together to get it. At first they found themselves in a bit of a stalemate because, even though they wanted to be together, each wanted different things from their relationship, but eventually they managed to work through that.
Nixon was a very private person, to the point that he didn’t have a private life because he didn’t want anyone to find out anything personal about him. Lincoln, on the other hand, wanted a relationship where he would be able to be open about who he was with. This was their biggest issue in getting together, but eventually, they found some middle ground and got past that.
I was glad that there was no relationship drama. These men are in their forties, and they are capable of communicating their needs and fears. From the moment they decided they wanted to be together, they put everything they had in their relationship and in trying to make it work. They compromised, they talked, they changed. They helped each other smooth the faults of their characters, and together they became better and happier.
I won’t say much about the difficult issue that this book is dealing with because I don’t want to spoil anything. The player that we see dealing with past injuries is Linc’s best friend, Patrick, and it’s heartbreaking to see how he’s being affected by the hits he took in his playing days.
The second half was very emotional, but even though I wasn’t prepared for something like that when I started reading it, I still couldn’t put the book down until I was done with it. The way Sloan Johnson wrote about such a hard situation made me feel as if I was there watching those guys suffer along with a loved one. We saw the ways Patrick had changed since his diagnosis, the things his wife and son were going through daily, the most hidden fears and thoughts everyone involved had, the way Patrick tried to take care of his family and lessen their burden as best he could, and everything was setting a somber tone in a story that was supposed to be a romance but managed to be so much more.
False Start is the second book in the Wilmington Breakers series, but it can be read as a standalone. One of the characters from the first book does appear here, and the situation he’s in kind of steals the spotlight in the first few chapters, but it was still easy to follow what was happening even without having read the first book.
You can buy False Start here: