Book Review

Caught Running by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

B+

Title: Caught Running
Author: Abigail, Madeleine Roux, Urban
Publication Info: Dreamspinner Press December 2007
ISBN: 0980101883
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book CoverI received an email from a reader who said, “I am interested in you reviewing a personal favorite of mine…. I’m eager to hear your thoughts about a book that, in a very short time, I’ve come to love.” Such a simple endorsement caught my attention, and I read it in a marathon session that ended with me straddling a running treadmill, unable to accept that I’d clicked “next page” and there WAS NO NEXT PAGE. It was over! And I was left with no more of a wonderfully sweet (in a good way) romance, though I was consoled by a hefty dose of “Just finished a good romance euphoria.”

Caught Running is a gay romance (it’s also pretty and witty). In a nutshell (hur): science geek with big giant brain reconnects with laid back PE teacher who coaches high school baseball team. Science geek + sports jock + zesty attraction = WIN!

The longer version: Brandon teaches science at the Georgia high school he attended as a kid. Jake was in Brandon’s class, was an all-star athlete, and has also returned to that same high school as the PE teacher and coach of several of the school’s sports teams, including the championship winning baseball team. When a shortage of teachers creates a need for an additional coach, the principal maneuvers Brandon into “volunteering” for the job, despite Brandon’s inexperience with team sports and team camaraderie. All the other coaches are former players, and they take their coaching seriously. Jake remembers Brandon from back when, and welcomes him to the team, while both men fight an attraction that they both think they shouldn’t be feeling.

The process of the two of them unraveling their past and figuring out their present attraction is marvelous in the hands of Roux and Urban. Against the backdrop of the all-male enclave that is high school competitive varsity team sports, Jake and Brandon negotiate what is at essence a truly romantic story of two people falling in love, but because of the nuances of their characters and their backstory as well as the ancillary characters, it’s so much more than that.

There are myriad issues surrounding their relationship, from letting go of their high school impressions of one another, and of the “jock” and “nerd” roles they played at that time, to determining whether acting on their attraction is worth the risk should they be caught, not to mention the obvious “is this a passing fancy or is this permanent?” wondering on the part of both parties. It’s been a while, now that I think about it, since I’ve read a story that includes the “does s/he like me, or does s/he like me like me” uncertainty. In this case, it was quaint and effective.

The story is told with a lot of head hopping between Brandon and Jake, so the reader experiences the story through a rapidly shifting point of view. That switching can be distracting, as there were moments when I wanted more of Brandon’s impressions or more of Jake’s perspective. Overall, I thought more of the story was explored from Brandon’s point of view, but Jake was a slightly more fascinating character to me: a silly, casual guy who loves sports, loves his job, and misses the opportunities that might have been his had his health and his joints not been sacrificed too early in this lifetime. But that is no slight to Brandon, who is quiet, adorably dedicated in the same way that Jake is to his job and his life, observant, wickedly smart and adaptable in most situations.

Two things that I noticed, one a minor nitpick. I wonder if one of the writers isn’t Australian, because I caught a few instances of Aussie idioms (“What are you on about?” and “good on you,” for example) that I couldn’t quite imagine folks in Georgia using – though one of my friends who lives in Georgia is an Aussie ex-pat, so maybe she’s influenced the world of gay romance. But if I go down South and hear someone ask me if I want a cuppa, I’m more than happy to admit I’m wrong on this one.

The other thing was a potential scene that I kept waiting to materialize but never did. Brandon is a former med student with two Masters degrees in various sciences. When Jake’s shoulder is seizing up on him, causing him considerable pain, Brandon (in a scene of electric sexual tension like yowzer boy howdy) gives him a massage, and explains where the injury is, revealing both his own understanding of human anatomy, and his ability to translate that in to a practical understanding for himself and the reader of how much pain Jake tolerates on a daily basis to simply do his job. Because Jake had surgery on his shoulder, knee, and ankle, and was pushed to keep playing by coaches and his own need for continued scholarship, his body bears a good amount of painful damage, and with Brandon’s explanation, Jake’s dedication and commitment to his teaching job and his coaching responsibilities become more than his joking, laid back persona reveal.

Brandon then offers Jake a massage, using equipment that he has at home from his med school days, and Jake grudgingly accepts – but no massage scene!? What what?! But, but! I was anticipating that scene for many reasons, and was so disappointed when it never arrived. One, hot hot! Two, electric tension, they has it. And three, the power dynamics in Brandon’s and Jake’s relationship are constantly shifting, but most of the time, Brandon is the fish out of water in Jake’s athletic world, and Jake is the individual with the most power, control, and authority. If Brandon gave Jake a therapeutic massage (or a non therapeutic one, nudge nudge, wink wink!) then the authors would have had the opportunity to show off even more of the depth of Brandon’s knowledge (which is holy shit considerable) and his dedication to his own medical school career. At the beginning of the novel Brandon mentions his doctorate, and when his overloaded schedule reaches a breaking point, he has to decide what to do with all his commitments, but I really missed this possible opportunity for these two characters.

However, I have to say, my goodness, I really liked this book. There wasn’t a tremendous amount of angst or “Oh, oh, the anti-gay lynch mob is after us!” fear, but both men acknowledged the reality of being gay within their community that seemed appropriate without being overwhelming. Caught Running grabbed me, and left me with a big fat smile on my face. Those who reject gay romance out of hand would do well to try this story, as it balances well the sexual, emotional, and social elements of contemporary romance between two very real and very captivating men.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Eva Lynn says:

    I wish to read this.

    Also, “What are you on about?” and “good on you” are, unless I misremember, reasonably common Britishisms as well, not just Australianisms.  So could be a British author.  Important, I know. >_>

  2. 2
    Shae says:

    Ooh, that sounds like a lot of fun. *puts on list of books to read*

    Also, I live in Florida (Central – near Orlando) and I actually hear “good on you” often. Maybe its just the people in the office (all around 40ish) that say it. Hrm…

  3. 3
    Kim says:

    My friend wrote this! I’m so glad to see that you liked it and I can’t wait to link her to this review. I’m sure she’ll (they’ll) be thrilled to have been featured here.

  4. 4
    Sarah Frantz says:

    This book was OMG amazing.  I could not put it (my computer—whatever) down.  I was up until 3:30 in the morning because it was just so damn amazing.  I don’t need “are they going to save the world?” suspense.  I need the “are they going to get together/admit their love” suspense, and these authors did that SO well!!!

    I then went out and bought Urban and Roux’s “Love Ahead” and I’m trying to savor that instead of gulping it down, but OMG, it’s just as amazing.

  5. 5
    Alpha Lyra says:

    Argh! I spent my book budget yesterday, and then you have to tempt me with this! The book budget is now blown, and I am eagerly awaiting my copy…

  6. 6
    Lynn says:

    Good morning all.  I initially recommended Caught Running to SB to review (wow, Sarah, that was fast!), and it’s true that it has become a personal favorite in a very short time: multiple reads, stayed with me days after, comparing other books in the genre to it, mentioning it to friends and co-workers.  Loved it, loved it, can’t get enough.  For more very positive reviews, including mine, see the Amazon page.  Thanks, Sarah.

  7. 7
    JenB says:

    This is one of my favoritest books evah.  So sweet, such a great backstory, and very well developed.  And…um…hawt.  This is on the list of books I recommend to m/m newbies. Converts ‘em every time. :)

  8. 8
    Dana says:

    This sounds like such a great book. But is there a place I can get a non-kindle ebook version? Amazon’s only offering the kindle and I’d rather not have to wait for the paper version to come in the mail. :P Thanks!

  9. 9
    JenB says:

    Dana, you can get it directly from the publisher at dreamspinnerpress.com, or from allromanceebooks.com.  I would imagine it’s also available at fictionwise.com.

  10. 10
    Dana says:

    Duh, nevermind. Ignore my previous post. I didn’t realize that Dreamspinner Press was an ebook publisher. They have it on their site. Here’s a link to it, just in case someone else has trouble finding it.

  11. 11
    Donna says:

    So I’m not the only one Kindling on the treadmill, eh?  Love the increased font size so I can see the damn thing, but hate having to page forward so often because of it :-)  This was a “read review – instant buy” for me.  Can’t wait to go home and fire this puppy up!

    Spamfilter “wrong69.”  Um, no way you could go wrong with that.  (Unless, as the old joke goes, you’re dyslexic and think it’s 96.)

  12. 12
    Dana says:

    Thanks JenB! I just figured it out after I posted my first comment.

    And now I’ll stop spamming this thread. :)

  13. 13
    A Kim two says:

    This has been on my TBB list for some time and now I am buying to put on my TBR list.  Great review Sarah!

  14. 14
    Cassie says:

    Me likey teh gay romance, and I’m always looking for new books and authors.  Thanks for the review!  :D

  15. 15
    AgTigress says:

    Sounds like a fine, and very moving, story.  I normally recoil from anything with a ‘sports’ element, especially one of those baffling American sports, but I would be willing to give this one a try, from the comments posted here.

    Apropos the idioms, ‘good on you’ is definitely of Australian origin, though it is now quite familiar in British English as well (Brits watch a lot of Aussie soap-operas).  ‘Going on about’ something is pure British, a phrase I have known since I started speaking English around the end of the 2nd World War…

    :-)

  16. 16
    amy lane says:

    I’ve heard very good things about this one…in a million years, when I can read again, I’m definitely picking it up!

  17. 17
    Cyllan says:

    I’m a native Georgian, and I’ve used the phrase “good on you.”  I believe (but couldn’t swear to it as I’m not a linguist) that it’s an expression that’s more common in the gay community of Atlanta than in the more mainstream South, but it wouldn’t throw me at all to read it.

    “What are you on about” would throw me.  However, I only have the smallest bit of my toes in the gay community around here, so it could be another expression that’s used more commonly there. Or the author could be from outside the States.

  18. 18
    LDH says:

    I’m definitely going to have to read this! I’m really interested in m/m fiction, but I have NO idea where to start.

    Any recommendations for some good gay (m/m) reads, romance or otherwise, that preferably won’t make me want to drown myself in a well of loneliness?

    (Not that I’m against angst, just that I sometimes like my soul NOT to be crushed when I finish a book. Also, it gets old when the “gayer” of the two dies some tragic death as a form of divine retribution for him being OK with his sexuality.)

  19. 19
    Sarah Frantz says:

    LDH:  Matthew Haldeman-Time’s Off the Record.  OMG amazing.  I pimp it wherever I go, whenever I can.  One of the most perfect, pure romances I’ve ever read.  And yes, HEA, but it totally won’t feel like it.  Dark moment seems completely insurmountable.  So I can tell you that it’s got an HEA and you’ll read it and be totally unconvinced when dark moment hits, so it’s not really a spoiler.

  20. 20
    Faellie says:

    Also so going to buy this one.  I’ve been reading m/m for maybe a year now, and it’s such a relief to read romances without the sexual politics of w/m.  I’m a trade union rep (loved the rat by the way, must get me one) and spend far too much time seeing the ugly end of the male/female divide.

    Off to click a few links now.

    feel93 – but only age, unfortunately.

  21. 21

    LDH, if you want some good m/m recs, I can ::cough:: recommend the review site I run. We cover new, old, free and pro stuff, from a wide range of reviewers. You’ll find something to your taste, I hope.

  22. 22
    LDH says:

    Sarah F.- Thanks, I’ll have to check it out.

    Anne- Hahaha, what a silly crazy happenstance! It sounds like EXACTLY what I need.

  23. 23
    Laurie says:

    I can’t wait to get my hands on this book. It sounds fantastic.

    I’ve been CRAVING m/m secondary romances lately. I’ve had some success, but I know that there must be a good list of recs somewhere on the internet.

    Maybe I would have found it already if I weren’t so busy rewatching Verbotene Liebe (beautiful boys, so in love) at Youtube….

  24. 24
    Sair says:

    LOVED this story!
    Fabulous voice(s) and heartwarming.
    It also reflected the fact that teaching is really hard work, and that the kids are kids no matter what their age (personal beef: I hate student/teacher stories ICK ICK ICK).  The school environment and culture of the staffroom gave great texture and was it’s own subplot.

    Since reading it I have been reflecting on it and have had trouble starting a new read as I don’t want to read something that uses artificial hype – this story really felt well balanced and easy to believe in the emotional content.  It’s hard to move away from it

    Sair

  25. 25
    Sarah says:

    Loved this book and have to say it has been one of my favorite reads this year. Loved the characters and it was such a great story, they write so well together. :)

  26. 26

    It is a gay romance novel? ok, ok. If I read it, you are have not authorization for telling my friends.

  27. 27
    Fairings says:

    It was totally entertaining, great book to get lost in for hours! Books like this make me want to dream of happy endings.

  28. 28
    Sarah says:

    For LDH – there are some awesome review sites out there for gay romance novels,

    Lisabea is excellent, at Nose in a Book.
    http://lisabea.blogspot.com/

    Jen has great ideas and thoughtful reviews
    http://jenthegingerkid.blogspot.com/

    And, me! Shameless I know!
    http://sharrow.wordpress.com/

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