Reviewed by Nikyta
Title: Testing the Waters
Author: Skylar M. Cates
Series: Shelby Beach #2
Heroes: Zane & Jordan
Genre: M/M Contemporary
Length: 240 pages
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: February 12, 2020
Available at: Amazon
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
Blurb: What if the right person could change everything?
Random hookups, saying “yes” to whatever, Zane thinks adulting should be easy. His childhood was a hard enough mess. After a health scare, however, Zane reevaluates his life and starts anew. When Zane meets Jordan, everything he secretly desires is finally in front of him. But Jordan Shelby’s family practically owns the town of Shelby Beach. Why would Jordan take a guy like Zane seriously?
Jordan only wants swimming lessons, so hiring Zane might have been a huge mistake. Even if Jordan resists Zane for now, the mere sight of the beautiful trainer fills him with yearning. Swimming isn’t Jordan’s only anxiety. Being nonbinary, Jordan’s dating life—hell, his life in general—isn’t always clear. Can he really trust Zane with his body? His heart?
Testing the Waters is a romance with a gender-fluid MC, a hurt/comfort trope, and a guaranteed happy ending.
Although it is in the Shelby Beach series, Testing the Waters can be read as a standalone. Note: Please look inside the copyright page for mentions of potential triggers.
I have mixed feelings about this one because I loved the premise and the fact that Jordan was trying to get over his phobia but I struggled with staying interested in the story, in general. I was a bit confused on why Jordan left RSID, though. Yes, I understand that he left school to care for his grandfather… but his grandfather wasn’t even where Jordan was. So, why did he leave school so early when he could have waited 2-3 months or finished out the school year and then come home? I did really love that Jordan wanted to get over his fear of water so that he could be with his grandfather in the places that his grandfather loved to go in, which meant swimming in the pool and ocean. It was interesting to see the development with that and how hard Jordan tried to work through his problems. I also loved that Zane helped him with that. I enjoyed their ‘training’ sessions and how Zane was there when Jordan wanted to push himself further but knew when to hold Jordan back just in case it would hinder his progress.
While I enjoyed the premise, this one was a bit hard for me to read. Not that it’s a difficult read in general, just that I struggled with staying interested in it. While I loved Jordan and Zane working towards a common goal, I found the characters aggravating at times and I especially found the whole ‘mother’ angle aggravating. For me, I didn’t really get Jordan sometimes. Yes, I understand that he’s non-binary but maybe I don’t fully understand that term because he was just contradicting himself. He would be fine with being called he or them but then scold Zane for calling Jordan his boyfriend… but then not even tell Zane what he could introduce Jordan as to others. So how does Zane introduce Jordan to his friends? Hi, this is Jordan… but then what is Jordan to Zane? His partner? But that seems too soon and Jordan never provided that answer to Zane even though Zane asked, he never gave him a straight answer, he only slapped Zane on the wrist for calling him his boyfriend. Add to that, it was hard for me to like Zane when Zane wanted to get closer to Jordan but then never allowed Jordan to get close to him. Yes, I get that he’s messed up (like 99% of the world) but you can’t expect someone to open up about themselves when you won’t even talk a little about yourself. Add to that, I honestly hated the mother angle and saw what was going to happen from a mile away. Zane should have known it was going to happen since it literally happened every single time when he was a kid. So that fact that he put Jordan in that position really pissed me off.
All in all, it was hard for me to rate this one because I did like the premise and dealing with Jordan’s phobia but felt the execution could have been a bit better. I wished the author had gone a different route with the mother conflict and wished Zane would have given back a little more because it’s hard for me to believe these two can make it when Jordan barely knows anything about Zane because he wouldn’t talk about anything. But I feel like readers should give this a go and determine for themselves. I’m sure I’m in the minority with this one so definitely make up your own mind with this one.
Overall Impression: It was good
*I received a copy of this book from the author in return for a fair and honest review.*