Never Have I Evan (Games We Play #1), D.J. Jamison
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Publisher: D.J. Jamison
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Contemporary, Friends-to-Lovers, Jock/Nerd, Opposites Attract, OFY/GFY (?), Pan-Awakening/First Time, Romance, Series, Small Town, Virgin
Length: 359 Pages
Purchase At: Amazon
Never Have I Ev… Wait, what was the question again?!
What happens when an ill-advised party game makes it obvious I’ve still got my V-card?
Embarrassment. A lot of embarrassment.
Especially when the sexy, older guy at the party who witnessed the whole thing turns out to be someone I have to see every week. Not to mention my best friend’s cousin.
He’s not only straight, but way out of my league.
It’s going to be so awkward for both us.
Or awesome…if his protective nature and flirty attempts to teach me how to date lead to the kind of tutoring that lives in my fantasies. But how likely is that to happen? I’m not known as the sweet, naive one among for my friends for nothing.
I’m probably imagining those looks he throws my way. Probably projecting my own want onto his expression.
But…what if I’m not?
Never Have I Evan features an inexperienced, shy tech geek, an assistant football coach who oozes confidence, a town full of quirky, nosy residents, and sexual awakening and discovery themes!
Evan was introduced in Two Truths and a Lyle, a freebie from Prolific Works/MM Romance Book Boyfriends Romance Group giveaway that I read a few weeks ago. In that story I got a feel for the characters and the small town of Granville, Nebraska. I was also really looking forward to Evan’s story, though I wasn’t overly thrilled with how his story was introduced at the end of that one.
I wasn’t thrilled with it in Never Have I Evan either, but it set things up for the rest of the book.
It (like with Lyle and Tru in the other book) starts with a drinking game with friends. There’s Calista, Darren, Kevin, Evan, and of course, Lyle and Truman. Somehow Evan gets roped into a game of Never Have I Ever. And, what happens during that game? Calista embarrasses Evan by throwing out – in the middle of a party with a lot of people in the room – that Evan’s still a virgin at 19. Bad enough, right? What was really bad, and quite mortifying for the poor guy, was that a hot stranger he’d tried to flirt with before is standing right there when it’s said.
She turned her gaze on me. There was a gleam in her eye that made me nervous. “Never Have I Ever been a virgin at nineteen.”
That stranger, of course, being Dawson. It turns out that Dawson is Calista’s cousin who came back to Granville to accept a job and hopefully get his life back on track after making some pretty bad decisions in the past.
Granville wasn’t just a Plan B, or even C.
It was my Hail Mary.
One last shot to get my life on track.
I’m going to just go ahead and throw this out there – I had a hard time with Dawson throughout the entire book. Considering it was quite long at 359 pages, that was a lot of time for me to have issues with one of the main characters.
I’ll start with Dawson.
Dawson was the starting quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide college football team, one of the top teams in the country. That’s not me just saying that because I’m a fan. The record speaks for itself. Those who know anything about me know I’m a huge Alabama football fan. Such a fan that I understand it all – the coaching, the actual game and rules, the recruiting process, and what happens when a player gets injured or is let go from the team for other reasons. The point of me saying that is that I understand how it all works, especially with Alabama football because it’s the team I’ve been a fan of for decades. If one of our starting quarterbacks did what Dawson did, it would’ve been all over the news everywhere. The reason for that being that the media gets off on bashing us.
The Alabama Crimson Tide hate is real.
With that being said…
Dawson had it made. He had the most sought-after position on the team. He had a beautiful girlfriend, Kelsey. He was on top of the world until one day he wasn’t. One bad decision cost him everything. All he’d ever worked for was gone in an instant. Now he’s in Granville basically with his tail between his legs as he tries to start a new life off the football field. He’s offered a position as the assistant football coach at the high school. He won’t be playing, but he’ll still be part of the game he loves. He shows up at Calista’s (his cousin) and asks if he can sleep on the couch until he can get his first paycheck and can rent a room somewhere. Of course, she says it’s fine.
I need to stress that Dawson has always considered himself to be very straight and has never been interested in men at all.
Evan, after the Never Have I Ever game, is mortified, especially when he learns that the hot guy from the party is his best friend’s cousin. Even so, he’s convinced he’ll be able to avoid Dawson. He’s a tech guy, is working on coding and specific apps, and he’s also helping his grandfather run his hardware store. There’s so much going on in his life. Unfortunately, with Granville being a small town they bump into each other a lot, even at the high school where Evan volunteers once a week in Tech Club.
After a few jerk moments by Dawson, they eventually become friends and start hanging out. It’s just friendship and Evan’s okay with that. Oh, he’d love it to be more, but Dawson’s made it clear he’s straight. Well, he’s maybe not as straight as he always thought he was. This clicks in his brain when he sees a guy (Linc, a MC in the next book) getting a little too touchy and being a little too flirty with Evan one night. After going all caveman, he and Evan kiss and begin an exploration of sorts relationship.
And this is when everything went off-kilter for me. Dawson knew Evan cared about him more than as just a friend. Calista made a point in making sure he knew. Even so, he was willing to have a sexual relationship with Evan while constantly reminding him that it could never be more than what it is – friendship with sexual benefits. It wasn’t fair to Evan, who did everything he could for Dawson. He was willing to be a sexual experiment for Dawson as long as he got to spend time with him. He knew he’d end up getting hurt later, but he’d take what he could get while it lasted.
That made me sad for Evan throughout most of the book. Even when their relationship went public – at Dawson’s insistence – it was still, “We’re not in THAT kind of relationship.” I honestly felt sorry for Evan because he was willing to settle for whatever scraps Dawson threw his way. Don’t get me wrong, when Dawson made good, he REALLY made good. It just went on for way too long.
That’s another issue I had with the book. At 359 pages, it was too long. There was too much back and forth, too much of Dawson feeling sorry for himself for the life he left behind, and too much time of him stringing Evan along. Even when Dawson knew he was in love with Evan, I don’t feel he handled things right until he was forced to. I did like how that played out, even if what led to it wasn’t handled correctly.
I’ll just say this, and hopefully not throw out a spoiler, but if they were in a public relationship – even if Dawson didn’t call it that yet – and they were together almost every single day, you’d think Dawson would’ve shared that he’d actually spoken to somebody from his past before Evan got slapped in the face with it. They’d already shared everything else, so why not that? It was quite important.
Now back to the friends…
Calista. I could not stand her in Two Truths and a Lyle, and I couldn’t stand her in Never Have I Evan. So-called best friends don’t publicly embarrass/humiliate you. They also don’t share secrets and betray confidences.
Then there’s Darren. Another one I couldn’t like, though he has his book next, Truth or Darren. He’s another of the, “I am STRAIGHT! Here me roar!” kind of characters. I’m not looking forward to his book, though I will read it because I’m invested in the series.
Kevin, another friend, I adored. His book is coming up after Darren and Linc’s, 7 Minutes in Kevin. Honestly, I wish Kevin’s was next. I really don’t like Darren.
I do still love Lyle and Truman. Bonergate! That’s all I’ll say about that. 😉
I like the book titles.
Overall, I enjoyed it. But like I said, I felt sorry for Evan because he was willing to take what he could get from Dawson. One thing I did like about Dawson was that he wasn’t shy or embarrassed when others learned about their relationship. There was no pushing Evan away around others, or acting like they weren’t secretly having sex. He was actually the one who took it public. And, again, he did make good later. In my opinion, it just took too long to get there.