Title: Relay (Changing Lanes: Book One)
Author: Layla Reyne
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Length: 255 Pages
At a Glance: I love a good sports romance. Who doesn’t, right? And, Layla Reyne’s newest release, Relay, is incredibly good.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Captain is not a title Alejandro “Alex” Cantu takes lightly. Elected by his teammates to helm the US Men’s Swim Team, he proudly accepts the role, despite juggling endless training, team administrative work, and helping out on the family farm. And despite his ex-lover, Dane Ellis—swimming’s biggest star—also making the Olympic Team.
Dane has been a pawn in his celebrity parents’ empire from crib to pool, flashing his camera-ready smile on demand and staying deeply in the closet. Only once did he drop the act—the summer he fell in love with Alex. Ten years later, Dane longs to cut his parents’ strings, drop his too-bright smile, and beg Alex for another chance.
Alex, though, isn’t ready to forgive and forget, and Dane is a distraction he doesn’t need on his team, until an injury forces Alex to accept Dane as his medley relay anchor. Working together, their passion reignites. When Dane’s parents threaten reprisal and Alex is accused of doping, the two must risk everything to prove Alex’s innocence, to love one another, and to win back their spots on the team, together.
Review: I love a good sports romance. Who doesn’t, right? And, Layla Reyne’s newest release, Relay, is incredibly good. I loved so, so many things about it. I actually did have one main criticism about the book, though—and, aside from a couple of times that I wanted to shake the main characters, it’s really my only criticism—which is that it was lacking in actual sports. I wish there had been more swimming and competition stuff. In fact, when I got to the end, and the thing I was dying to see happen, the thing the whole book had been leading up to, didn’t happen, I was all, “Whut?!?” But, then I read the blurb for the next book, Medley, and I simmered down. 😀 And now that my criticism is out of the way, I can get to all the things I loved!
First and foremost, I loved, loved both Dane and Alex. I loved Dane’s drive and his perseverance in becoming dominant in his sport once again, after being sidelined by an injury and left out of the last Olympic games. I loved his friendship with Mo, and his respect for his other teammates. And, I loved that he never stopped loving Alex. He knows how badly he hurt Alex when they were kids, and that he needs to put in some OT in the sucking up and apologizing category. Tell me this quote doesn’t make you swoon pretty hard…
“Every day for ten years, Alejandro. Every day I looked at these pictures and remembered you. Remembered that this was the happiest I’d ever been.”
Dane does have pretty good game, but Alex makes him work for it. He doesn’t just fall back into Dane’s arms immediately, like Dane wishes he would. I was torn between loving that Alex didn’t let Dane off the hook too easily, and hating that he didn’t. They were kids when Dane allowed his parents to tear him away from Alex. He was sixteen and didn’t know how to stand up and be himself. He’s been a puppet, controlled by his parents his entire life, and it has taken him every bit of his twenty-six years to find the courage to finally go for what he wants, both personally and in his swimming career. Alex’s fear that Dane might still allow his parents to manipulate him, and could easily hurt him again, was completely valid, however. He needed Dane to prove himself in a big way.
Alex is amazing. His strength and love for his family were perhaps his two most standout characteristics. I loved how close he was to both his mother and his sister, and how he worried about how his being gone all summer would affect the family. He worried so much, in fact, that he was burning the candle at both ends, working for the USOC and spending all his other time at the pool, garnering both the worry and scrutiny of his coach. I also loved that he was out and proud, along with his best friend and teammate, Sebastian ‘Bas’ Stewart, and how natural that was for them both. I can’t wait for the time when an athlete’s sexual orientation being a non-issue is the norm, and they no longer have to live in fear of their fellow athletes and fans not accepting them.
Another thing that worked quite well, I think, despite there not being much competition in the book, was the pacing and flow of the story. Reyne managed to keep the intrigue and excitement up with the sheer charisma of the characters, and their individual and collective dramas, and with the doping plotline. The allegations against Alejandro caused everything to come to a head, and I loved how it all played out. I was worried it might be a bit predictable, but it really wasn’t, and I loved everyone’s role in the storyline. I honestly couldn’t put this book down, especially through the last thirty percent.
A few final thoughts…Dane’s parents are awful people, but, thankfully, most of the other characters are pretty rad. I adored Mo. The coach was (mostly) cool. Even Dane’s agent, Roger, ended up surprising me. But, I especially adored Bas and Jacob. I can’t wait for their story in Medley. And, I’m majorly stoked that we’ll get the Olympics in the next book! But, let me leave you with this one final bit of swoon from Alex and Dane’s story.
“Te amo, Alejandro,” Dane whispered, speaking the words that had been trapped in his chest for a decade. He’d loved Alex from across the pool and across a dorm room, then from across the country and across the years. Across everything that had stood between them…Always, even apart, that love hadn’t wavered.
*siiiiiigh* Go check this one out, guys.
You can buy Relay here: