Everything for You – book five in Chloe Liese’s Bergman Brothers series – is the first entry in that series to feature a same sex couple and is also the author’s first m/m romance. As I haven’t read anything by Ms. Liese before, I decided to rectify that by picking it up for review. It’s an antagonists-to-lovers romance set in the world of professional football – or soccer as it’s termed on The Other Side of The Pond - between a newly established star of the game and a veteran player facing the prospect of retirement, but while age-gap and grumpy/sunshine are among my favourite tropes - and I appreciated the way certain aspects of the storyline are handled, especially with respect to Gavin’s fears over his future - the book as a whole is too problematic for me to be able to offer a recommendation.
At twenty-four, Oliver Bergman is a new star on the soccer scene. He was over the moon when he learned that his idol and teenage crush, Gavin Hayes, had signed with his team - the L.A. Galaxy - and looked forward to playing alongside him, but his hopes of friendship and camaraderie were dashed when the guy proved to be a total dick. Ever since they met, Gavin has been cold, dictatorial and downright unpleasant, but Ollie refuses to be cowed or daunted, meeting every scowl with a smile, every curt word with a friendly retort – just because he knows it winds Gavin up no end.
At thirty-four, Gavin is facing the end of an illustrious career, and the prospect of retirement is terrifying. Living with chronic pain from various injuries sustained over the years, he is struggling to work out how to be – or even who he will be – without the sport that has defined and sustained him for so many years. Although he knows he can’t continue to hide the truth of his situation from those around him – let alone that he’s still hiding it from himself – he’s in serious denial, and the last thing he needs is his hugely inconvenient attraction to Mr. Sweetness-and-Light himself, the guy who never gets flustered or riled-up, and who, in a massive knee-to-the-balls administered by fate, happens to live in the house right next door.
Neighbours they may be, but friends they most certainly are not, which is exactly how Gavin wants things to stay; the less he has to do with Oliver Bergman the better he can continue to pretend he’s fine and that Ollie is no more to him than an annoying pain in the arse. Until a very large spanner is thrown into those works by their team coach, who has had enough of the obvious enmity between them and decides to solve the problem by making them joint captains, the implication being that either they bury the hatchet and learn to work together or one of them is canned. It’s Ollie’s first captaincy and likely Gavin’s last; neither of them is going to risk rocking the boat.
I love enemies-to-lovers stories, and this one promised to be a good one – but it didn’t deliver. A big part of the problem is that by the time we meet Gavin and Ollie as teammates, their animosity is two years old, so it feels like a big part of their relationship is missing. We know nothing about their (supposed) mutual dislike other than what the author tells us and we see nothing of how it started or how it progressed. The romance is similarly under-developed; Gavin and Ollie go from ‘I hate you’ to ‘hooking up would be a very bad idea’ to ‘I love you madly’ without any real progression from one state to the next, something made all the more frustrating because the author has set up the perfect way to grow their romance organically by making them joint team captains. But instead of a gradual building of reluctant admiration for each other’s skill that turns into a reluctant but deep emotional connection, we get a sudden burst of insta-lust and late-book declarations of undying love.
Unfortunately, that’s only one of many issues I had with the story. While Everything for You can be read as a standalone, there’s no ignoring it’s book five of a series when all the other Bergman siblings and SOs pop up to update us on how they’re doing and/or to deliver expositional conversations that read like the author is using them as a mouthpiece to directly express her own opinions about certain issues. Here’s an example. One of the Bergman brothers is a romance fan (yay!), which leads to several very ‘meta’ discussions:
I mean, romance novels, while focused on romantic relationships, also spend a lot of time excavating the main characters’ interiority—their past wounds, how those drive their present behavior and motivations, what fuels their dynamic with their love interest and the rest of the characters. I was simply going to use a certain trope to illustrate my point, but speaking plainly will do.
But honestly - does anyone actually talk like this in real life?
One of my biggest pet-peeves in romance novels is The One Where One Character Has To Be Told How The Other Character Feels About Them - sadly, there’s a lot of that going on here. Almost every emotional realisation made by one protagonist comes in the form of a conversation with someone who is not the other protagonist – and who seems to be on hand at just the right moment to explain the character’s feelings to them.
Then there’s the fact that, despite being professional athletes, Ollie and Gavin seem to have a lot of spare time compared with, say, Shane and Ilya from Rachel Reid’s Game Changers series, whose crazy schedules make finding time for each other almost impossible. And for a sports romance, it’s very light on the soccer side of things; I don’t recall there being any mention of which positions Ollie and Gavin play in, for instance. There are a couple of games and practice sessions, and we meet a couple of team members, but there’s no real team dynamic and no team interactions, which means the sports element in the book is little more than window-dressing.
And don’t get me started on the precocious three-year-old who imitates her parents’ sex noises and speaks like no three-year-old I’ve ever met.
Amid all this, it’s hardly surprising that we get to know the two leads so very little. Perhaps, because I haven’t read the previous books, I missed out on getting to know Ollie, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that Gavin is pretty much a one-note character; he sees (and so we see) everything through the lens of his injuries and fears over his impending retirement, and although there are questions raised over what his life was like before he moved to LA, those are never really answered.
Ultimately, the author has tried to do way too much here and in doing so, has lost sight of the fact that she needed to develop an emotional connection between her two lead characters and then convey that connection to the reader. There are lots of four and five star reviews on Goodreads that disagree with my assessment, but the romance in Everything for You doesn't work, and I can't recommend it.
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