Title: In the Ring (Boxer: Book One)
Author: Rie Warren
Length: 268 Pages
At a Glance: This is an emotional and, at times, evocative novel. It is filled with a good portion of erotica, and MCs plagued with a lot of angst.
Reviewed By: Carrie
Blurb: 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.
Review: This book is about authenticity—being your true self even if the world you live in is macho-driven with strong homophobic tendencies. It’s about letting your true self shine, both with those closest to you as well as your professional points of contact.
Liam Shaughnessy, or the “Bonny Bruiser”, is a man formed by his less than stellar home life and the rough neighborhood of West Side Cincinnati he grew up in. Early on, he honed the skill of fighting back, better than the other guy, even if that opponent was his own father. The older he became, the better the fighting skills and the thicker his skin, creating an impenetrable shield around himself so that no one knows the real Liam. Inside he’s a nerd, a bookworm who wears glasses and would do anything for those he cares for—aka his other siblings. But keeping that tough guy persona is paramount for him. No one can know the “real” Liam, the gay one who would rather binge watch the food network than go to a bar. So, most of this book is about Liam keeping that persona intact. He has one goal, to be the Heavyweight Champion of the World. This book is his journey to that title bout. It chronicles each of his pivotal fights with ringside commentary, so if you’re not a boxing fan, be warned. Liam’s flaws are front and center in this book; he’s a great MC and I rooted for his HEA, was almost desperate for the poor man by the end of the book. Liam has had a crush on his trainer, Michael, for two years. It is a testament to the size of the walls Liam has built that no one knows the depth of his feelings for Michael—especially not Michael himself.
Michael Fairweather secretly fell for the sexy boxer almost a year before he went to work for him. He targeted his education and life plan so that he could be the best personal trainer/nutritionist/masseuse that Liam would ever need. He has a boyfriend through a good portion of the book, even after discovering that Liam may have feelings for him. Michael is a tricky character; I didn’t like him as much as Liam. Michael came across as very selfish at times, and just one more thing that Liam had to worry about. Since the story is told exclusively from Liam’s POV, maybe if we could have seen inside Michael’s mind to why he makes some of the decisions he makes, it would have made him more relatable. The story begins with a push/pull dynamic between Michael and Liam that is delicious in its tension. We definitely know that they are attracted to each other and in heavy, unrequited lust. It is actually after they decide to become a couple that things fall apart.
“When you blush, you, this perfect man made up of two hundred plus pounds of pure muscle, because of me? Fuck, Liam, you make me crazy.”
The attraction is there, the sex is raw, gritty and off-the-charts hot. This is a slow burn story; the outside influences on these two are numerous and take up a lot of page time. Unfortunately, this cuts down on space which needed to be used to convince us, as readers, of the plausibility of a HEA with these two men. Since this is supposedly the first in a series, maybe we will get more from Liam and Michael in book two, and they can establish themselves as a forever couple.
There were other antagonist in the story, mainly the fake girlfriend, Liam’s manager and his coach. The coach was the only character I enjoyed. The fake girlfriend was trite and clichéd and frankly, I wanted to stab the manager through the pages of the book. The fake girlfriend could have been more of a support for Liam; instead, she is a ring bunny, hardly speaks English, and later comes out as lesbian?! Uhm, no.
I wish that we could have gotten more from Liam’s siblings and his coach. What we did get was lighthearted and a source of happiness for Liam. His siblings and his coach were the only ones who supported Liam just as he was. I’m going to be honest with you; I liked this book; I didn’t love it I think mostly because I recently read another “fighter/boxer” novel and the two books mimicked each other in storyline, and, frankly, what annoyed me in the first story repeated itself in this one. Overall, it’s a good solid story and well worth reading, if just for the massage scenes between the two MCs. Yes, it has some problems, but Liam is worth the effort of working past them.
This is an emotional and, at times, evocative novel. It is filled with a good portion of erotica, and MCs plagued with a lot of angst.
You can buy In the Ring here: