TLC 101 by Janey Chapel
Sports psychologist Kip Rigsbee feels like an outsider, not part of the players’ circle and not accepted by the coaches of the college team he’s been hired to help. But that hasn’t kept him from feeling the gravitational pull of defensive coordinator Greg Browne, despite the fact that Greg dismisses Kip’s methods as “motivational bullshit.” An accident brings the unacknowledged attraction between the two men to the surface, but the common ground of their erotic connection may not be enough to help Kip overcome Greg’s determination to keep his personal life separate from his job.
This is a short, entertaining story with a couple of masculine men that should appeal to readers but it does have some significant problems. "TLC 101" reads very similar to Chapel’s other quick novella, "Maritime Men," with two masculine men who have rough, sweaty sex but talk very little. Here the set up is that one of the men breaks his ankle in the shower (cue soap jokes) and must rely on another coach to help take care of him in the short term. That leads to some hot and heavy sex despite a casted leg with a few conversations thrown in for variety. The plot is basic and the men may appeal to some readers more than others. Since this particular offering feels so reminiscent of the previous book, but nowhere near as good, I hope future novellas will have more variety.
The characters of Kip and Greg are classic opposites attract. Whereas Kip is outgoing, energetic, and attempts to bond with the team players, Greg is closeted, rigid, and tight lipped. Kip is a slob with clothes, books, and boxes strewn around his apartment where Greg is neat to the point of color coordinating. Greg lives and breathes football whereas Kip loves the sport but also has a life. The two have very little in common other than their love of football and gay sex but this seems to be enough of a basis for the short-term relationship. However there is an emotional connection, albeit brief, when Kip helps Greg open up slightly but the focus is on sex and hanging out for a few days. Unfortunately this connection felt forced and awkward instead of natural and easy.
While this is not a bad plot line and certainly gives a laid back, easy approach to two men who hook up with the possibility of more, the story seems to lack a depth that makes this an easy book to read and forget. There is also a lack of a strong happy ending, instead after three days giving a very vague possibility to a future relationship. This didn’t bother me but some readers are cautious when a happy ending is not very strong so readers that require such may be disappointed. Especially since the ending is abrupt and problematic.
Some problems inherent in the story in addition to Greg’s dislikable personality were Greg’s refusal to accept any sort of pain medication and the quick sex. While his reasoning is clear, it seems ridiculous for a man of his age to still subscribe to something he did almost twenty years ago and instead writhe in pain. This ties into the ridiculous and out of place argument in the emergency room about medicating players so they could play sooner. Greg is neither a player nor being medicated to play; they wanted to set his cast. Furthermore Greg’s willingness to have sex almost immediately after breaking his ankle is suspect as he was writhing in pain one minute and sex starved the next but these are minor problems and easily overlooked.
Other than these problems, the story really ends just as the most interesting aspects start. There are numerous questions left unanswered and dangling from Greg’s closeted sexuality to what this means for their future, their jobs working together, the football community, their families, if they are having a relationship or simply a few more days of sex together. Furthermore why would these two men be together since they have very few things in common and do nothing but mostly concentrate on the sex. All of these questions are left hanging without indications to a wrapped up ending. Whereas such things were more acceptable in "Maritime Men" given the nature of the military, here the questions are more glaring and disappointing. For all the problems listed, this story is mostly a quick novella with some classic characters in a familiar setting and may appeal to other readers who can overlook the problems.
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