The GearShark Series by Cambria Hebert is a series of romances (mostly male/male) set around the world of indie car racing. It is a follow-up to her #Hashtag series. There is some character overlap (especially in the first two books), but it is not necessary to read one to enjoy the other. I definitely want to read the #Hashtag Series now. That said, you will want to read this series in order (#Junkie, #Rev, #Swag, #Blur, #Finishline). There are storylines which continue throughout. Also, #Junkie and #Rev, as well as #Blur and #Finishline, are basically single romance novels in two volumes.
As I said, this series follows three couples who are all involved in car racing. There are tense racing scenes, humour, love and plenty of smut. However, the real strength of this series is the characters. Every single one of the main characters and the supporting cast feels like a real person. The couples actually seem compatible, the friendships and rivalries seem genuine.
These books contain one of the best friends-to-lovers romances I have ever read.
I really like how this series is centred around magazine articles for the fictitious “GearShark” magazine.
To end the non-spoiler section — I recommend these books (particularly the first two) for people who are fond of character-driven romances. There are graphic sex scenes (both male/male and male/female). Also, our characters find themselves in and remember some hard situations, including assault and rape (instances which could be termed hate crimes), as well as child abuse and talk of depression, hazing, and attempted suicide. If these are triggering to you, please proceed with caution.
Now on to more specific thoughts. I’m going to still try not to spoil things too much, but for those vehemently against any kind of spoiler — stop now.
#Junkie & #Rev
In these books, we are introduced to Drew and Trent. I love these two, both as individuals and the dynamic between them. We also meet all the other main characters.
I like how no character in this series appears out of nowhere.
Drew Forrester is a computer programmer by day and a street racer by night. He loves french fries. He lives with “The Fam” which includes former #Hashtag series favourites, Romeo, Rimmel, Braedan and Ivy. Drew is Ivy’s older brother. Throughout the series Drew becomes the face of a new division of racing.
Trent Mask is a football star and business major a month away from graduation. He is also president of his fraternity and under pressure to choose a successor. As the story opens, Trent is questioning a lot of things. What he wants to do after college? Why doesn’t he seem as attracted to women as others around him? How does he feel about his best friend, Drew? What’s he going to do about it?
#Junkie does slow burn so well. For the first 70% of this book, we follow these best friends as another layer is slowly added to their friendship. More and more romantic tension builds until the reader is chanting “kiss, Kiss, KISS”. Then they do and *fans self*. When an event happens, which brings everything to a head … the book ends.
#Rev picks up moments after #Junkie ends. In this book, Trent and Drew attempt to make their relationship work in the real world. Love is everything, but what about careers and friends and family.
I really loved watching these boys define their relationship. How much do you share with other people? Who do you tell? What terms do you use?
Trent and Drew are constantly communicating. Some readers may find this annoying, but I found it really refreshing — something we don’t see nearly enough of in romance novels.
That is one thing for this whole series, none of the couples faces obstacles which can be solved with a simple conversation.
Both these first two books feature a great found family.
In this book, we follow Drew’s driving coach/friend Joey (short for Josephine) and a fellow driver and rival, Lorhaven.
Jace Lorhaven comes across as a playboy devil-may-care street racer with dreams of going pro. He is always one second behind Drew and it pisses him off. He’s also very protective of his younger brother, Arrow, acting almost like a father to him.
Joey Gamble is one of the few female professional drivers. She is also the only child of Ron Gamble, one of the biggest financiers in the sport. She is the victim of prejudice both for being her father’s daughter, but also for being a woman in a man’s sport. I really liked Joey. She is a tomboy but still feminine. She is no shrinking violet or damsel in distress.
These two get together in what looks like a fling but turns into something more.
Best scene in this book, hands down, when Trent is giving Joey romantic advice. So adorable!
#Blur & #Finishline
In these books, we follow Arrow Ambrose AKA Dylan Lorhaven and Hopper AKA Jayson Hamilton. This book is all about the continuing effect of past trauma and how fighting your demons is sometimes the only way to achieve the life you want, but that doesn’t make it easy.
The first part of #Blur was very hard to read. We follow Arrow as his sexuality is discovered by his mother and then his abusive father. His father then sets out on a plan to straighten his son out. He is under the impression that if Arrow has sex with enough women, he will see the “error” of his ways. When the elder Lorhaven pays a stripper to have sex with Arrow on camera, Arrow runs away. While looking for his brother he is attacked and raped.
Fast forward a number of years later and Arrow meets Joey’s manager, Hopper.
Hopper also has a tragic past. He used to be Jayson Hamilton, a motocross sensation, whose career was cut short after an illegal off-the-record race. His lover was killed racing in his place. While other men were convicted of the murder for running “Jayson” off the road, Hopper feels intense guilt which spirals into depression until Ron Gamble offers him a job and a fresh start.
I like how past trauma is not overlooked or only brought out at convenient moments. Both these characters are dealing with PTSD in some form.
Hebert does not take the easy way out. Both characters are more than their pasts and their relationship is complex. There is no instant cure, and even at the end of #Finishline, lingering traces still exist.
#Finishline also includes sections with each of the other couples. For Lorhaven and Joey there are a couple of chapters, following the next stages in their life. For Drew and Trent with have an absolutely hilarious interview (it had me laughing out loud).
Overall, I found this to be a fun romance series, with compelling characters. While my favourites are the first two, the rest are definitely worth the read. I rated the first two 5 out of 5 stars, the second two 4 out of 5 stars and the fifth book 3.5 out of 5 stars.