Book: Love on the Rebound: A Basketball Romance, by Julia Bevan

Reviewer: Deana S.

Genre/Age Recommendations: Romance, adult

Reading Accessories: You might need a shot of rum to get through this one. Make sure to chase it with some Gatorade.

Triggers: Mature language, sex, rape jokes

A couple of months ago, I asked Bethany to review The Knocked Up Plan, by Lauren Blakely. The premise of that book was absolutely horrendous, so it was fun to get her two cents about it. She knows that romance is not my typical genre, so she wanted to tag me back and have me read Love on the Rebound: A Basketball Romance.

Love on the Rebound was a super quick read, only taking me an hour. I liked that about this book, because I wouldn’t have picked it up without Bethany’s challenge. I can imagine that this book would be really appealing if you are waiting for an oil change or sitting in a doctors office. It doesn’t have a ton of depth — I’ll elaborate on that in a second — so it was easy to pick it up and put it down. This little taste of Julia Bevan’s work had the potential to be a really great sample piece, and an incentive to buy more of her books.

Unfortunately, there was nothing about the plot or the characters that inspired me to pick up anything else by Bevan.

Love on the Rebound: A Basketball Romance revolves around Tj… and when I say it revolves around him, I mean it revolves around him in the way that the Earth orbits the sun. The author wants to make sure you understand that he is VERY IMPORTANT. He’s a single dad who is trying his best to be a good parent to his young daughter, Rose. He is also trying to juggle being a basketball star and all of the attention that comes with it. He bumps into April at a college, they start dating, and the story more or less takes off from there. The narrative switches between Tj’s perspective, April’s, and a series of text conversations between them. After Tj gets over his relationship anxiety, the story ends on a happy note and the pair get married.

I have a lot of qualms with this book. Let me start off by dissecting our main characters:

Tj Cunningham is essentially God. If a 4th grader wrote an essay about what he was going to be when he grew up, it would be Tj: “I’m going to be a handsome, successful basketball star with a mega-hot girlfriend and we’re going to make out all. The. Time.” Because he is a really shallow character, most of the dialogue in this book revolves around Tj and how incredible he is. Each time he is out in public, he’s recognized as a celebrity and everyone wants a selfie.

April Rose is Tj’s love interest and, to be honest … that’s about it. Bevan tried to pass off “attractive” and “sarcastic” as personality traits that could stand by themselves, so there really isn’t a ton to April. We find out she is a teacher, which seems to be added into the story to indicate she is good with kids. April is in the story primarily because all of the characters (including Tj) need someone to brag about Tj to.

Ben is Tj’s brother, and he is in the book to help Tj get over his relationship anxiety. He’s just an extension of Tj; his only purpose is to act as Tj’s moral compass. He’s such an irrelevant character that at one point Bevan accidentally calls him Brian (another character in the book). It was a big slip up, but really, Ben could have been named “ham sandwich” for how little personality he had.

Tj also has a daughter. In an attempt to create serendipity, she shares the name Rose with April. She’s a stereotypical endearing seven-year-old who is there to give Tj a tragic backstory; her mom abandoned the family, leaving Tj to be a hunky single dad with a ton of feelings to unpack. Most of the conversation revolving around Rose ranges from normal to creepy, with emphasis around how pretty she is and how much trouble she’s going to be in when she gets older because of her looks.

That being said, one thing I found funny about this book was how random a lot of the dialogue felt. There are a lot of get-to-know-you questions exchanged between April and Tj, and while these conversations aren’t unrealistic, they feel out of place because of how awkwardly they attempt to give the characters personality. For example:

On the way to their date, Tj decides to ask the most important (and the most random) question for a couple starting out: “Which room in Hogwarts would you most like to have sex in?” April spends the next couple of pages clumsily navigating the question, because she isn’t really familiar with Harry Potter at all. All I could think of was how the story read like two cyborgs trying to mimic human conversation… which could have made Love on the Rebound much more interesting.

The dialog between the two cyborgs always felt forced, with such gems as:

April: Here’s a question for you. What’s your favorite pick-up line?

Tj: Question: can I have directions?Answer: To what? Reply: your heart.

April: LOL You’re lucky you’re so tall, dark, and handsome. That was terrible.

Tj: You think you can do better?

April: I know I can.

Tj: Then lay it on me.

April: Does this rag smell like chloroform to you?

… Ew.

At one point during minigolf, April seems to show a glimmer of back story:

“Truthfully, I read a lot of books. My teenage years weren’t that great.”

Tj eyes me skeptically like he doesn’t entirely believe me.

“Well, I wouldn’t worry about it. You’ve definitely blossomed. Let’s play.”

This isn’t the last time that Bevan hints to April’s troubling past, but because it isn’t about Tj it is never elaborated upon. All dialogue needs to go back to Tj, to convince us he’s wildly desirable, so all other character development is decidedly benched.

Speaking of wildly desirable, the mini golf scene is where the book holds most of its passion. There is a lot of steamy banter that revolves around the loser sleeping with the winner, which had me rolling my eyes to the point that I saw my brain. Tj spends a chunk of the night bragging about how, when he was a teenager, he use to take girls behind one of the miniature castles to make out. Inevitably he leads April in that direction, where they end up dry humping. In what we’re supposed to find sexy but is actually pretty appalling, Tj says “If you don’t want this, let me know now. In a few seconds, I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to stop.” The lovers are discovered by Brian (not Ben!), who agrees not to tell the tabloids because he’s a huge fan of Tj’s (who isn’t?), and Tj bribes him with courtside seats to a game. The entire exchange made me cringe, and I couldn’t help but feel incredibly embarrassed by the idea of a grown man taking his date behind a miniature castle to get sexy.

I was hoping that Love on the Rebound would make up for its flaws with decent sex scenes, but it misses the mark there, too. Other than swapping spit, grinding during mini golf, and giving each other oral, there isn’t much to this book that would appeal to a reader who enjoys the sultry side of romance novels. Tj’s inner monologue spends most of the time talking about how good he is on and off the court, with gag-worthy lines such as, “Don’t worry April, I’ve got more game than you can handle.”

Throughout the book there are a lot of digs about how men “should” act that I found really archaic, which could explain a lot about Tj and why he felt as shallow as a puddle on a rainy day. Those comments by Bevan were exhausting to read, and I can imagine it held Tj to such a high standard that he couldn’t help but come off as a little extreme. Toward the end of the book, Tj has a heart-to-heart with Ben (not Brian!) about how he isn’t sure he can allow himself to get serious with April. He actually starts crying, which feels like a breakthrough, until Rose walks in and her presence ruins it: I immediately find myself going into dad mode, which means I can’t show weakness.

This felt like the climax of the book. Immediately afterward, we’re transported a year into the future, to April and Tj’s wedding. For all of its faults, Love on the Rebound ends with a good message: “Love isn’t always easy, and god knows it can be painful, but true love is always worth the risk of the potential heartache along the way.”  I could feel what the author was trying to convey, and anyone who has known the pain of love and loss can relate. This book didn’t inspire me to read more of Julia Bevan, but after completing it I did want to pass it on to a few of my friends — for some fun conversation, if nothing else. Let me know if you decide to give it a go!

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