Into the Team, Rob Damon
Publisher: CoolDudes Publishing
Genre: New Adult Romance
Tags: Bisexual – with strong homoerotic overtones, Jocks – Soccer, Contemporary Setting
Length: 216 Pages
Reviewer: Kazza K
Purchase At: amazon.com
**TREAT THIS REVIEW AS SPOILERISH**
To honor his father, young footballer Todd Mackerson commits to his goal of playing for a professional team. When, at the age of 20, he is offered a place to train with one of England’s biggest clubs, he leaves home convinced his dream is within reach.
Being warned by his new team mates of the tough rules and hard training routines, Todd is undeterred. But when he discovers that the player’s way of bonding borders on the sexual, and that he must learn to accept the erotic affections that connect the team together, he wonders how far he can go for his dream.
But, after experiencing the care and attention men can give to each other, Todd feels awakened. Learning that each player has a special “partner” on the team, who they play and bond with as intimately as lovers, Todd becomes fascinated with the idea.
And when he develops feelings for one player in particular, he discovers how a stronger kind of romance – that between two men – can be pure and powerful enough to bring magic and success on the pitch.
I’ll start by saying that I really don’t like soccer and I would have passed this book by but for a friend who said to me. “Get it. read it.” Well… okay. Yes, sir. I shall. 🙂 I’m glad he was so damn bossy because I would have missed out on a very good read otherwise.
Twenty year old Todd Mackerson plays football with the Blackmoor Pits, named in reference to mining that the town was founded on. His home town is blue collar with little to no employment opportunities anymore. Todd practices football every chance he gets. While his “Pits” teammates like to lie around playing computer games when they’re not playing – few have jobs – Todd keeps honing his craft and upping his skill level. He has a girlfriend, Cherrie, and they’ve been dating for three years. She supports him but I felt she came across as wanting the trappings of the WAG lifestyle. His dad was his fiercest supporter and took him to soccer talent days before he died. His mum is apathetic, at best, about his abilities, but his dad’s support and belief lives on inside of Todd. Firing him on daily to a goal.
Seemingly out of the blue, talent scout Miles Dixon organises a trial for Todd, and he can’t believe it when he finds himself face to face with first team players from the Manford Reds, one of England’s best soccer clubs. Todd also can’t believe he’s having a trial with some of his idols of English football. Aiden Marshall is the best club manager in the game and Todd hopes to impress him enough to get a start on the ‘Reds’ reserve team. Which he does. The Reds rarely need to recruit as between the first and reserve team they have immense firepower on the pitch. They also have a team spirit, a bond, that keeps them at the top of the comp. year after year.
How does that spirit and bond work so well? Aiden Marshall firmly believes in a model, ‘the flow’ of a well bonded team. He first stumbled across two top-notch players in the 90’s who were…close, they were lovers, and had an incredible ability to read each other on the pitch at all times. That’s what he wants for both teams. Everything is for the team, that is spelled out very clearly from day one.
“The boss has strict rules when it comes to girlfriends,” he said. “As long as they don’t interfere with the training they’re fine.”
“Do any of you guys have girlfriends?” he asked. “We’ve got them,” Trent said, glancing at Gavin. “But the game is more important.”
Not much else is ever said in an overt manner, everything is implied, alluded to, and covertly suggested. Sometimes humour is used. The gist is pretty clear, though, you pair up with another man on the team and you also get involved with any other group ‘activities’ that will help Aiden Marshall’s teams continue to be winners and the club a billion dollar earner. There is a point when Todd isn’t sure he can do the things some of the guys are doing – massages with hand-job happy endings, showers together, constant tactile involvement – but he wants into the team. A talk with Aiden makes it succinctly known that the players have to play by his rules or not play at all. I have to admit that I thought this was harsh, but it’s a (pretty sexy) fantasy to have a book set around a totally homoerotic football club, so I was happy to go with the flow.
“But what if I can’t handle it?”
“You leave,” Aiden said without pause. “If it turns your stomach, and you can’t bear to think of men being affectionate, go someplace else.”
“And if you do decide to leave,” Aiden said sharply, making him look up again. “Don’t think you can go talking about our little conversation. On Tuesday you signed an official secrecy statement.”
Luckily for Todd he does find himself aroused by the idea of massages, the touching, the guy’s cocks, the intimacy of the team. He finds himself thinking about the men and what they’re doing. Even when he has sex with Cherrie, which is not often and not particularly descriptive, he finds himself thinking about the guys, and their cocks, which makes him wonder if he’s bisexual. He and Cherrie even have a discussion about who the sexiest player on the team is.
“I can’t believe Daryl Atkins looks just as hot in person,” she said as she took her drink. “I mean, his eyes are like blue neon.”
The dilemma for Todd is finding that one player he bonds with, and as his teammate Luke tells him, it can’t be forced. It’s important that he finds that paired player organically. There are uneven numbers between the reserve and first sides so some players are not paired up. There are two players Todd feels drawn to, Keiran and Daryl. Keiran is not backward in coming forward, but Daryl, while one of the stars of the team and the only one who models, is reserved and shy. Some of the guys on the team feel Daryl is too “sensitive,” but what he actually is is a thinker. He plays chess, doesn’t subscribe to the model Aiden Marshall believes in, and lives a less flashy, more grounded lifestyle than the rest. And he isn’t paired.
There is already a connection between Todd and Daryl, which Daryl remembers with fondness. There’s also a very touching moment between Daryl and Todd that totally made me cheer for the (potential) relationship between these two guys…. and feel a little emotional for Todd. When Todd and Daryl connect, Todd finds Daryl to be sensible, intelligent and caring. He’s also not a young man prone to violence or drama, which is something Todd is coming to realise he admires and wants to know more about. He also plays chess well and Todd hasn’t played for a while… since his dad.
This book is more of an ensemble cast with Todd being the pivotal character throughout. I would have loved more Daryl and Todd time because it does take most of the book to get them somewhere. I have to admit I hope there is a sequel with these two guys both being the main characters and finding their way together – in sport and off the pitch. But if you ask me am I happy with the ending? I’d say yes.
Into the Team is incredibly sensual. It has some good characters and it has some terrific descriptions of soccer which did not bore me in the slightest – and, once again, I do not like soccer. The charity match between the Manford Reds and Eastend United was as clear as being at any big sports match. Rod Damon did a great job describing the atmosphere, the play on the pitch, and the wonder of a twenty year old playing in his first big game.
I have no issues with any body parts in my books, but be warned… there are some “girl parts” in here. Todd has sex with Cherrie, not terribly often though. But I know it will put off a few hard core “MM” readers, which is a damn shame as it deserves a good readership. Some will also consider aspects of this book to be cheating, there are multiple experimentations, and that’s a valid point for some, but that is not an issue for me – but I’m putting it out there for readers. There is also no penetrative sex in this book. The sexual content consists of hand jobs, intercrural sex and frotting. Parts are left up to the imagination. But is it erotic or sexy? Hell yes!
This is a very good (debut) novel by Rob Damon. Is it perfect? No. The use of ‘ok’ instead of ‘okay’ bugged me. There could have been a bit more depth injected into Todd’s mum and sister for extra emotional pull. You also have to suspend belief with the whole team being sexually fluid. But I suspend belief every time I read a paranormal or UF book. Different world, same principal. I also read this book in one sitting and I can’t tell you how often I do that now. Oh wait. Yes, I can. Next to never nowadays.
So why 5 stars? Into the Team has interesting characters who made me laugh and connect. I felt for Todd losing his dad so young. I tapped into that young boy who lost his father so soon but who meant so much to him that he kept his son’s passion ignited as he grew into a young man. I was emotionally invested. I loved the use of English language and terms – the lads, bollocks…. I’m an Aussie so it’s nice to have a break from Americanisms. It is definitely homoerotic, but it isn’t erotica, rather it’s a team sport oriented New Adult read with romance and a HFN. It’s a little different and we certainly need that in LGBT romance. I’d best describe Into the Team as a wishful fantasy of being in a locker room/communal house with all these physically healthy specimens who will get you off and also support you as a friend should, complete with no petty jealousies. Who’ll help you make the dream of playing pro sport a reality. Yes, it is the Thebes of the contemporary soccer world. It’s incredibly easy to read and incredibly entertaining. ‘The flow’ is strong with this book. 5 Stars!