Sunday Shorts – “Double Up,” by Vanessa North

CoverWhen I go on vacation, I try to read things that suit if I can. So when I saw this novella by Vanessa North was about wakeboarding, and I was heading to Hawai’i, I figured beachside reading about a beachside sport would be just about perfect.

And I was right.

Knowing he’s loved can make any man fly.

Fifteen years ago, Ben Warren was a wakeboarding champion: king of big air, ballsy tricks, and boned grabs. Until a career-ending injury left him broken in ways he still has no hope of fixing. Now he takes his thrills where he can get them, and tries not to let life hurt too much.

Then Davis Fox arrives in Ben’s sporting goods store with a plan to get in touch with his estranged brother by competing in the annual wakeboarding double-up contest. The catch? He’s never ridden before. It’s crazy, but Ben’s a sucker for the guy’s sob story—and for his dimples, too—so he agrees to coach Davis.

Davis is everything Ben isn’t: successful, confident, and in love with life. And he wants Ben to love life—and him—too. But before Ben can embrace a future with Davis, he needs to remember how to hope.

Okay, there is a lot to love in this novella. First off, Ben’s character was well written: he’s a former athlete, he suffered a major injury, and his recovery was by no means an easy journey, and he’s living with chronic pain. Ben comes across as someone who has—in many ways—given up on “better” and is enjoying moments of happiness as he can snatch them (which includes fun sex with hot guys when he can grab it). Ben’s living very much on the sometimes tough-love and kindness of Eddie, his friend, former once-tumbled-into-bed, and super-swish gay buddy who is wealthy and owns the business where Ben works (and adds cachet).

Davis Fox is a gay man rejected by his homophobic family who wants a shot at reconnecting with his stepbrother. Davis is an architect, a gosh-sweet-blushing sort of guy, and he hires Ben to teach him to wakeboard—because his younger step-brother is a bit of a wakeboarding prodigy, and there’s a contest coming up where they could both enter and have a chance to reconnect and talk out of the reach of their people.

They connect, miscommunicate, take terrible risks, screw up, and eventually come clean with each other about how they feel, what they’re afraid of, and of course delivers a happy ending for the reader. My only quibble—and it’s a minor one—is something I see pop up quite a bit in m/m romance, and that’s the whole “I don’t bottom, but I’ll bottom for you” thing. I know it’s a reader favourite, but it always makes me cringe just a wee bit. That said, Double Up is a solid journey, has some very sexy moments, and was a great read for my holiday.

Author of over a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories, Vanessa North delights in giving happy-ever-afters to characters who don’t think they deserve them. Relentless curiosity led her to take up knitting and run a few marathons “just to see if she could.” She started writing for the same reason. Her very patient husband pretends not to notice when her hobbies take over the house. Living and writing in Northwest Georgia, she finds her attempts to keep a quiet home are frequently thwarted by twin boy-children and a very, very large dog.

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