REVIEW: “Two-Man Advantage” by Toni Aleo

“Two-Man Advantage” brings together Toni Aleo’s Assassins and Bellevue Bullies series with two Heroes who are on neither team.  The first Hero, Matty Haverbrooke is the brother-in-law of Jace Sinclair Hero of Bullies series book “Hooked By Love”.  The second Hero, Wells Lemiere, is the friend of a couple of Assassins players who appear in Two-Man Advantage”.  This is obviously a M/M Romance and hits the sexual aspect hard and fast, literally.  Matty and Wells break-up in the first chapter and have a spectacularly grand reunion so it’s justified.  However what makes “Two-Man Advantage” truly meaningful is it’s message.  It’s about being true to yourself.  About the desire and fear to be loved and accepted by your family despite your differences.  Matty’s father has always been a harsh judge and Matty’s always craved his approval.  He fears coming out to his family will push them all away leaving him alone.

Matty is a complex character who’s done terrible things in his past due to hiding who he is.  The main victim of his actions has been his twin sister.  They are estranged and her husband lets Matty know his feelings toward him show on the ice.  Jace Sinclair isn’t afraid to throw-down.  Matty’s father is the NHL commissioner so there’s a lot at stake if he ‘comes out’.  Wells is older than Matty by several years and has been out to his friends and family for quite awhile.  Matty feels as though he’s the least liked child in his family.  If he comes out he’s sure his family will turn away from him.  Therefore at the beginning of the novel when Wells issues his ultimatum to openly be his boyfriend now or never.  Matty pleads, “Not now.”  Wells can’t wait and assumes that means never.

Once Wells walks away from Matty both men are devastated.  Matty texts, calls, and emails pleading for Wells to understand his position.  Ultimately Wells moves on and quickly finds someone who is happy to hold hands and be affectionate with in public.  He doesn’t feel as intensely for him as he did for Matty but he’s sure the emotions will grow.  Matty sees pictures on Wells Facebook page and predicts the relationship won’t last.  A few months later the same Facebook page declares Wells is engaged with an accompanying photo.  Again Matty predicts it won’t hold.  Six months later and a few days before the wedding he receives a text from one of Wells’ friends.  He asks if Matty’s going to let Wells go through with the wedding.  Vaughn tells Matty the day and time of the wedding.

The next thing he knows is he’s a sweaty heap standing in front of a church.  He’s having a panic attack preparing to object to the marriage ceremony of the man he loves.  However the agony he lived through without Wells in his life is the incentive he needs.  Matty stand up before a couple hundred people and declares his love for Wells.  The couple reunite and Matty promises he will ‘come out’ however he wants to do it on his terms.  He wants to make amends with his sister and talk to her first.  Then his brothers.  Finally, his parents before addressing the public.  Wells is agreeable to those conditions however he wishes Matty would move quicker.

Matty goes to visit his sister and he tells her he’s gay.  She isn’t surprised because she suspected it for a while.  Matty has terrible to her when they hit puberty and his sexuality was at the root.  He took his anger out on her.  That talk went well.  Wells, his sister, her husband, their friends and Matty go on a vacation to a private island.  Matty hasn’t talked to his brother yet and Wells is impatient.  Add to that Wells’ sister and friends start putting doubts in his mind about Matty’s commitment to ‘coming out’.  They point out he wasn’t exactly the King of PDA on their vacation.  Matty decides to talk to his brothers without Wells as support.  But when he gets into New York City his agent wants to see him immediately.

It turns out the private island wasn’t that private.  There are intimate pictures of Wells and Matty.  The photographer wants money or else he’s going to release the photos nationally.  Matty decides to pay the blackmail money.  Unfortunately he doesn’t have that much money and needs to find a way to get it.  He breaks down and tells Wells he didn’t meet with his brothers.  Then explains what his agent told him about the blackmailer.  Wells isn’t happy with Matty’s decision to pay-off the blackmailer but gives him the money so Matty isn’t freaked-out.  Wren, Wells’ sister is even more unhappy that he did that.  She warns he’s giving Matty the power to take their relationship back ‘in the closet’.

Matty eventually meets with his brothers and tells them he’s gay.  One of his brothers is accepting but his oldest brother is not.  He wants Matty to change back, reminds him that they weren’t raised that way.  Adding the final nail in the coffin the fact that their father will be furious.  After that Matty definitely doesn’t want to talk to his parents.

However Matty doesn’t need to go to his father.  Matty’s father makes everyone’s nightmare-inducing appearance in his bedroom in a heart-thumping “meet-the-boyfriend” fiasco.  The couple is torn apart as Matty is emotionally eviscerated.  Wells is angry, hurt, and frustrated.  Between his sister saying Matty’s never going to ‘come out’, and Matty paying the blackmailer he’s ready to walk away.  Again.  Even though the idea scares the crap out of him.  The best advice comes to Wells through the person who was least accepting of his homosexuality.  The advice takes Wells to the place he hates most in the world.  New Jersey.  Full circle.  It’s the place where the book began.

“Two-Man Advantage” is a stand-alone m/m romantic novel with cameos from players in Toni Aleo’s Assassins and Bellevue Bullies series.  If you’re a fan of either of these series, this will be a treat.  Speaking of treats, Matty’s mother is an utter delight!  There’re so many things I love about her.  Especially that she gets “chatty” when she drinks.  As much as Matty procrastinates with ‘coming out’ he really does have legitimate reasons to fear.  I love “Two-Man Advantage” mainly for it’s emotional message.  I’m not gay but really identify with Matty.  Feeling like the least loved of your siblings.  Like you’re one confession or declaration away from being ostracized.  Feeling more comfortable with your ‘chosen family’ than the one to which you were born.  Wells and Matty are a fabulous couple who mesh wonderfully.  Wells is older, and more free with his feelings while Matty’s younger but more serious.

I’m giving “Two-Man Advantage” 5 Lightning Bolts and a Hurricane Warning.

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This novel was provided, voluntarily read, and honestly reviewed.

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