By The Rules by Elisabeth Staab Review
What I Thought
I’ve not really read many male/male orientated novels. So whenever I stumble upon one, I have to admit, I do start reading with slight trepidation, not really knowing what to expect. By The Rules though….. There was no need. I actually found AJ and Hayden’s story to be completely adorable. Not sure this is how Elisabeth wanted the story to be portrayed, but I can’t help it. I fell in love with these guys as a couple.
Hayden is trudging through life, day to day, living in New York with a fiancee he isn’t really in love with, working for his father, who doesn’t give him an easy ride. When he receives a call to say his mum is ill and in hospital, he doesn’t hesitate to hop a plane to Evergreen Grove to be by her side. A place he hasn’t been back to in years. It’s so strange for Hayden to be back. The last thing he expects is to bump into a stranger, whilst leaving his mums bakery, that he ends up feeling dislike but also attraction towards, another man, and that it could end up turning into more.
AJ has had it tough growing up. Being thrown out of the family because of his “ways”, I suppose being caught by his father, with his business partner in a compromising position doesn’t help. Being homeless, young and alone, AJ is easily persuaded to become an escort. This escalates, next thing he has a pimp. A near death encounter with a client takes AJ away from this life. His saviour, his surrogate Aunt, Mrs Choi. She gets AJ away, buys a motel in Evergreen Grove and they have been there since.
AJ is determined to live a life without love, feeling he doesn’t deserve it, but also, after what happened to him, being seriously hurt by a client, he is scared and follows rules he has set himself to avoid anything bad happening to himself in the future. One of the rules, steer clear of guys in suits. Imagine his dismay when he feels an attraction to all business man in a suit, Hayden. Hidden behind the dislike for each other is something else. But how does that work? How can attraction work right longside dislike, and how do you not realise when it disappears?
I don’t want to spoil the plot of the story by going into too much of a review as it flows and develops as you go along. There is so much to this story though that you don’t want to miss. Some serious character development, colour, unicorns, life changing decisions and suprises, pimps, venturing into new territory, twists…..the list is endless. (The list will also make sense WHEN you read this story)
If you haven’t experienced a romance that is male/male focused, By The Rules is totally the one to pop your cherry. The chemistry between the characers is palpable, but the scenes where Hayden and AJ are “together” are soft. Still great to read though. You still experience the same feelings and emotions that you would from any other romance. The anticipation, the flirtation, the build up, the hope for the characters.
Reading from both AJ and Hayden’s point of view, we hear conflicting emotions, the nerves and fears, the moments monumental decisions and feelings arise, from both sides. You totally feel the warm and fuzzies reading this story, you feel the chemistry between the characters. Some male/male novels I have read before have lacked the chemistry between the two characters. I can appreciate it must be a hard thing to write about. Elisabeth though, has written this story so well, capturing the connection, but also keeping it light and fun.
I found this story to be funny in places, with a ‘can’t help but make you smile’ romance and so easy to read. It’s so smoothly done. I would go as far to say, that it is a beautiful story.