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Caught Running - Abigail Roux Grade: A-Dear Jake and Brandon: You can coach my team ANYTIME. Love, Kelly.The soft words made Brandon’s insides clench, and the sentiment spurred him to clasp Jake’s face between both hands and kiss him with a hint of desperation, a tinge of hopefulness, and more than a little agreement. When he pulled back, he murmured, “Would have been more than kisses.”The set-up....Jake is the jock, a former two-sport college standout now coaching at his high school alma mater after injuries put him permanently on the DL. He’s also permanently in the closet about his bisexuality — until his new assistant coach makes him re-think his lonely life.Brandon is the nerd, with two master’s degrees and an acceptance to med school. He returned to his hometown when his parents were killed, and he’s learned to love his unexpected career as a science teacher — and his unexpected acceptance into a jock’s world.Oh, as the authors say in their dedication:“Caught Running” is for everyone who didn’t become what they thought they would, but still found happiness.The hits:Oh, lordy, where should I start? I believe this requires a list:(1) Two – count ‘em, TWO (2) – beta heroesThey’re both flawed and conflicted and cautiously optimistic and really quite yummy.(2) The relationship-buildingPacing is perfect, By the time the first kiss happens, it’s a huge rush of “oh, thank GOD.” And then it just gets better.(3) The sexy timesThe racing-through-the-front-door, shoving-up-against-the-wall sexy times.And the post-practice locker-room workout…He yanked at Brandon’s jersey, hearing a seam rip somewhere and not caring as he continued to pull at it and kiss the man messily. It still wasn’t enough, and he pushed Brandon toward the nearest hard surface, slamming him brutally against the empty bulletin board.And the hood of the car….There was no way Brandon was going to summon the strength to resist this. It was everything he wanted to be reassured. Wanted. Craved. Oh God.Excuse me for a sec, I’ll be right back.We now interrupt this blog post for a brief pictorial interlude:Detail of baseball painting by Henry Sandham (1842-1910)*ahem*All righty then, where were we?(4) The extremely effective use of alternating POVsSometimes the head-hopping changed with every paragraph, and yet I never had any doubt whose head I was in.The BRAIN kind of head, sheesh. Pervs.(5) The funny bitsLike the very unwanted late-night run-in with the on-the-prowl cheerleading coach in the grocery store.Also, the Flip-Flop Scene:How could he have said something like that, anyway? Wanting to know what was happening next when they’d only kissed for the first time about ten hours ago?Jake watched him go down the walk with a frown, but smiled slightly as he had an idea. He reached down, took off his flip-flop, and chucked it at Brandon as he walked away, hitting him right on the back of the head.Brandon’s eyes bugged out, and he whipped around to look at Jake in amazement. “Did you just do what I think you did?” he exclaimed.“Depends on what you think I did,” Jake shot back with a signature grin as he thumped down the front steps and strolled forward to retrieve his flip-flop. “That’s what we do. You think and I throw things,” he explained. “So I’ll make you a deal. You stop thinking,” he drawled, bending to pick up the shoe and wave it around threateningly, “and I’ll stop throwing things.”(6) Completely believable teacher/coach world-buildingTrust me on this. I know from which I speak.(7) Great scene-setting and secondary charactersJake and Brandon live and work in a small Southern town, but they aren’t surrounded by clichéd empty props. I know exactly what their school and houses look like, and their friends, co-workers and stalkers (well, just on, the horny cheerleading coach) are unpredictable and yet integral to the story. This is contemporary world-building done really, really well.That’s probably enough squee for now.The misses:Only two items on this list:(a) The too-convenient absence of family interference or anxietyCaught Running was one of the first M/M romances I read, so I didn’t really notice it while I was reading it the first time(s).But on second and third (and maybe fourth and fifth) reads — after inhaling Heidi Cullinan and L.A. Witt and K.A. Mitchell and Marie Sexton and others (a LOT of others) — it felt like an important source of external conflict was missing. But I wouldn’t want Roux/Urban to change anything, so, you know, there you go.This is why I am terrible at writing squeeful reviews. I sound like a freaking idiot.(b) The kinda sorta anti-climactic* HEAI wasn’t expecting a Grand Gesture or anything schmaltzy, but it left me wanting more. As in, you know, like, maybe…A SEQUEL???Pretty please, Ms. Roux and Ms. Urban? Ty and Zane have about 17 books each now. I think Jake and Brandon need some attention again. Or maybe I need attention from them. Either way, I’m asking nicely.There’s that slobbering idiot thing again. I know you’re all grateful I don’t write romance novels.* I almost typed that without giggling.