Today, I am hosting author Thom Collins’ latest release The Runner, a m/m contemporary romance. Be sure to read my review. And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
Book Title: The Runner
Author: Thom Collins
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance, Erotic Romance, Sports
Tropes: Enemies to lovers, sporting heroes
Themes: Reconnecting, rivalries, forgiveness
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Release Date: January 18, 2022
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 30 353 words/ 121 pages
An Olympic hero faces his longest run – to make up for the past.
Blurb: Alex Schaefer is a sports journalist and commentator at the top of his game. He hosts a successful weekly podcast has just written the biography of a world class football player. With his career on an upward trajectory, Alex has never been busier. There is no time in his life for love or romance.
Ethan Bower was used to success. As a British sprinter, he won a host of silver and gold medals at the Olympics, European and Commonwealth championships, and spent over a decade at the top. Persistent injuries brought Ethan’s career to an abrupt halt in his mid-thirties. Now he has to start over again. Trying to get his foot in the door of athletics commentary and presenting isn’t easy.
Ethan and Alex have history. Eight years ago, at the height of Ethan’s success, Alex was chosen to ghost write his autobiography. An experience they would both rather forget. Ethan hated what Alex wrote about him; a fact he’s made very public. When Ethan attends the launch of Alex’s latest book, they meet again for the first time in years and something becomes apparent to both of them – they have each improved with age. Now in their thirties, they are older and more mature.
Can they put the past behind them and their ambitions for the future to take a chance on each other now?
Note: It is a standalone story within a themed series and does not end on a cliffhanger.
Alex held back a moment, observing. Ethan was taller than he remembered, and with the increased bulk across his shoulders, he had a very statuesque physique. His clothes looked well made, and he wore them well. Something stirred within Alex, an excitement that caused his whole body to tingle and concentrate in his groin. Ethan Bower roused him in a way he would never have thought possible.
Alex knew that attraction would die in seconds if Ethan was the same bullish prick he used to know.
Only one way to find out.
“Hello, Ethan,” he said, stepping up beside him. “It’s been a long time.”
As Ethan turned to look at him, there was uncertainty on his face just for a second before his mouth spread into a wide grin. There were short dimples which cut into his cheeks when he smiled—Alex had forgotten about those—and he had a day’s worth of stubble on his chin, which suited him a lot. Any more would give away his natural ginger colouring, which the careful highlights in his hair tried to disguise.
“Alex,” he said, shoving out his hand. “Congratulations. I had no idea you were involved in the book until I arrived.”
He pumped Alex’s hand harder than necessary. Over-compensating? Nervous? Ethan had never struck him as a man who suffered from social anxiety, but the way he grabbed his drink off the bar and knocked off a third of it in one go suggested that maybe he was.
Or he’s pissed off to see me and too polite to say so.
“You’re looking good. I was sorry to hear about all the injuries. I thought you’d be good for one more round of medals.”
Ethan shrugged. “They come to all of us. You can’t push your body so hard for all those years and not expect consequences. It would be nice to have added another Olympics to the tally, but it is what is. I can’t do anything about it now.”
Alex’s gaze was drawn to Ethan’s stunning green eyes. Shit. How could he have forgotten about those? They were mesmerizing. There had definitely been a change in his face since they’d seen each other last. There were deep lines around his eyes and the corners of his mouth and there could even be a touch of grey in the hair around his ears. Alex realised he had known Ethan when he was still a boy. The person who stood in front of him now was all man.
“It’s nice to run into you after all this time,” Alex said. “I had no idea who was coming tonight.”
Those green eyes looked deep into his. “Are you kidding? I won’t miss it. This is going to the biggest sports book of the year. Everyone is interested in Fernando’s story. Not just here, but worldwide. You’re onto a real winner with this one.”
Alex shrugged. “It’s his story, not mine. I just helped to put it on the page for him.”
“Did Fernando seek you out personally? I kind of think he must have. None of those straight dude football writers could tell it with the authenticity of another gay man.”
“He did. For that very reason, I think. He felt more comfortable talking to a gay writer. The publishers were torn. They wanted either a much bigger name or an anonymous ghost writer who would do what they were told and wouldn’t ask for credit.”
Ethan gave a soft laugh. “You mean like my book?”
“Those were different times.”
“I guess so. And we were different people. I know I was.”
Could this be true? Was Ethan admitting he’d been an arsehole in his younger days? “Everyone is different in their twenties. I don’t think we really grow up until we’re around thirty. Look at Fernando. He was twenty-nine when he finally came out, despite knowing he was gay all of his life.”
Ethan nodded and took another sip of his drink. “Everything turns out all right in the end, I suppose.”
I love a good enemies to lovers trope, so when I read the blurb, I was in. Alex is a podcaster and writer, who is reaching his career goals. Not only is his podcast hitting number one, the non-fiction title memoir he co-wrote with an athlete is ready to explode. He’s as down to earth as they come, but can be a little bit judgemental. Being so busy, he hasn’t had time for relationships as he had in the past.
Then there’s Ethan who is an A type personality. He’s driven to succeed in whatever he does, and he stays focussed on what he needs to do to succeed, so of course love has never crossed his path, because he’s never allowed it to. He’s spent so many years focussed on himself that he had to take the time to step back and reassess how his behaviour has impacted others.
Although these two have history (and a very bad one at that), I liked how the author didn’t choose to use the enemies to lovers trope. Instead, being in their thirties, they are mature enough to feel each other out at their first meeting in eight years, which I really liked. There is major chemistry, there are some expectations, and Ethan being so new at the romance game, is the most nervous and anxious about what could happen.
The writing is solid, and so is the romance. The exchanges between the two characters shows a lot of chemistry happening. The only quibble I had was the plotting, since the author tends to jump ahead of what happened, and has the character rethink the events, instead of showing what happened. I found if the author had let the scenes unfold naturally, instead of having the character think about what happened, the novel would have felt fuller.
Still, with that quibble, the character arc of Alex is really wonderful as he discovers some quirks in his personality that he needs to change, thanks to his wonderful podcaster co-star.
The secondary characters are also enjoyable. I loved reading about Ethan and Alex’s colleagues.
This is a great novella and one I recommend. I do wish it was a wee bit longer, but it was such an enjoyable read that I read it in two nights. If the author decides to have a sequel for Ethan and Alex, I’m in. They were that likeable.
Thom Collins is the author of Closer by Morning, North Point and the Anthem Trilogy. His love of page turning thrillers began at an early age when his mother caught him reading the latest Jackie Collins book and confiscated it, sparking a life-long love of raunchy novels.
Thom has lived in the North East of England his whole life. He grew up in Northumberland and now lives in County Durham with his husband and two cats. He loves all kinds of genre fiction, especially bonk-busters, thrillers, romance and horror. He is also a cookery book addict with far too many titles cluttering his shelves. When not writing he can be found in the kitchen trying out new recipes. He’s a keen traveler but with a fear of flying that gets worse with age, but in 2013 he realized cruising is the best way to see the world.
Check out his website for news updates and a free ebook, The Night.
Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win The Success Series (3 ebooks) x 3.