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The Strength of a Man

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Kurt Dennings learned one life lesson the hard way: love, even between a parent and child, is not always unconditional. After coming out and experiencing a painful rejection from his parents and friends, Kurt feels as if he's lost everything that mattered.

James Theard comes into Kurt's life when he needs someone the most. A friend first and boyfriend second, James becomes his shoulder to lean on, a voice of reason and helps Kurt learn he is stronger and more capable than he imagined.

116 pages, ebook

First published June 14, 2012

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About the author

Sara Winters

19 books243 followers
I read. I write. I talk too much and don't blog nearly as much as I should. And my muse consists of several voices in my head with a moody ringleader. Don't be scared of the voices. They mean well (most of the time).

I write romance, erotic romance, fantasy, mainstream fiction and the rare spiritual fiction.

You can find me at my website, facebook (profile)/ page, and twitter.


How I rate books:

5 stars - Loved. With a passion. These are books I probably stayed up all night to finish. They made me cry, laugh, stop breathing or a combination of the three.

4 stars - Liked a great deal, but something (maybe something small) kept me from giving it another star. Still amazing books.

3 stars - Some of these I like well enough, but don't love. Some I have mixed feelings about, but don't want to give 2 stars.

2 stars - I tried to like it. I may have forced myself to finish it. Major issues with plot, characters, editing or all of the above kept me from rating higher.

1 star - I'm trying to stay away from giving these out, but these are for books I felt wasted my time and/or money. There may be a few I didn't finish, but those are rare. Mostly these are books that not only didn't resonate with me, but I hated them after a certain point for multiple reasons.

Unrated - I wrote it.

Or, the book was unusual in some way (characters or plot). I don't want to give it a low star rating because the writing wasn't bad, it just didn't appeal to my particular tastes.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 36 reviews
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews760 followers
September 22, 2017
Cross-posted at Outlaw Reviews and at Shelf Inflicted

Kurt Dennings is a college freshman and a good swimmer with a lot of potential. James Theard is the swim team captain who volunteers to help Kurt refine his technique and get him in shape for the team’s first match. What holds Kurt back is a lack of confidence in his abilities, and the feeling that Coach Davis’ decision to take him on the team was influenced by his friendship with Kurt’s father. As if that’s not enough, Kurt recently came out to his parents and close friends and is hurting deeply from their bitter rejection.

James is very attentive and really wants Kurt to succeed. He is also very perceptive and knows that something more is going on that is keeping Kurt from staying focused. There is an attraction that James struggles to keep under wraps until he is more certain about Kurt’s feelings. I love the gentle flirtation, blushes, and the instructive touching to show Kurt just which muscles he needs to use more effectively.

As the two young men get to know each other, Kurt reveals the anguish caused by his family’s rejection and Kurt offers support and friendship. I liked the slow progression of their relationship and James’ desire to be a friend first. When Kurt’s mother finally starts to come around, their interaction is heartbreaking. His mom was very well developed and showed a wide range of reactions from shock, denial, anger, hurt, rejection, and gradual acceptance.

James is a really good guy and doesn’t take advantage of Kurt’s youth and inexperience. At times, he felt a little too perfect, but Kurt has had such a bad time between his family’s rejection and the problems in his past that keep James and Kurt from achieving total sexual intimacy that I was glad for his supreme patience and understanding. Still, I would have liked to feel more of James’ frustration.

I loved the swimming details and would have liked to see more focus on Kurt’s progress. Kurt’s other problem, while handled very sensitively, was a little much for a story of this short length and made me feel overwhelmed.
Profile Image for Ami.
5,752 reviews501 followers
June 18, 2012
3.5 stars
This is an extended version of last year's Starting Over and I must thank Arthur for bringing this to my attention. Truthfully, I don't remember much about the short story that becomes the basis on this one, so in a sense this feels like reading a new one.

There are two important issues here, regarding Kurt and his journey of falling in love with his swimming team captain, James. First is how Kurt handles the fact of him being disowned by his family, after he came out to them by writing a letter. This is the main plot of the short story. Second is Kurt's past relationship -- Kurt had practically been abused by an older man whom he fell in love with. This second issue makes Kurt skittish and messed up when approaching physical sex with James.

Maybe because this starts as a short story, I feel the transition between the first and second plots to be a bit rough. At first, it's only Kurt dealing with being disowned by his family, then suddenly he also has a troubled past in regards to sex? It's just a bit too much for me, to be crammed into this novella.

Just like Arthur, I like the family plot. Even with rough start -- Kurt being so hurt with his family's treatment and his mother not being able to grasp the idea that Kurt is gay -- it shows how Kurt and his mother finally decide to meet halfway. I like this one better than the second plot (which pushes the extra half star for the story).

The second plot is okay, but it puts emphasis too much on James being super patient, super kind, and super understanding. Sometimes, I just want to read how the significant other being as frustrated as the victim ...

There are times that I'm a bit confused with the timeline -- and I feel slightly disappointed that the swimming activity (which becomes the means of introduction for Kurt and James) is pushed to the background ... But in overall, it's a nice read.
Profile Image for Arthur.
783 reviews89 followers
June 17, 2012
4.5 stars

This book is an extension of last year's Don't Read in the Closet short story Starting Over. It's about Kurt, a freshman swimmer who got a private training by James, the school's team star. In the short story, we get a glimpse of Kurt's mother coming to the swimming event. Considering his parents had all but disowned him when he came out couple months before, it was a surprise for Kurt. In this book, that visit is developed into one of the two plots. The other plot is about Kurt's problematic past that affected his and James' relationship.

I really like this story, especially the mother plot. Sometimes we forget that people cannot change their values over night. Some people have hard time to accept homosexuality, and the discovery that their son/daughter is gay might come as a shock to them and lead them to do something that they may regret later. It means both sides need to meet half way, at least at the beginning. Shutting down communication wouldn't help anyone.

The plot about Kurt's past is also nicely done, although James become superhero here.

It's a great extension. The first 25% or so is the short story with few changes and the rest of the book is the continuation. So, in a sense this is a sequel or the 'complete' story, not a same story which is 'fattened' with elaborated scenes--something that I see has been done a lot by authors who extend their short stories.
Profile Image for Cole Riann.
1,078 reviews253 followers
July 6, 2012
Review posted at The Armchair Reader.

I never read the original story that was then expanded into this book. It was part of last year's Goodreads M/M Romance Group's Hot Summer Days, and like many of those stories I missed this one. I'm glad now, because I really loved reading this novella and I can't imagine having read this story and not gotten all I did here, in this expanded edition. There's quite a bit of angst (well, for me -- not really for others probably), but it is very necessary to the relationship.

Kurt is a freshman at NYU and has made the swim team. In actuality, he's very good, with tons of potential, but he can't see it because of his terrible self-confidence and he's also been lagging in his times lately because he came out to his parents and friends only to have everyone reject him. Now, he's convinced they are kicking him off the team. James Theard, the team's captain is his saving grace. He's given the task of helping Kurt by the coach, and sure, he can help him get his times up with work on technique. It isn't long though, that he sees that isn't the real problem. Kurt is down on himself constantly, and combined with the blushes on his face in the locker room, he thinks he might know why that is. After all, he went through something similar and thinks that might be why the coach told him to work with Kurt.

The problem is that Kurt has dealt with some other issues, deeper issues. Those things are what first obliterated his confidence and self-worth and being abandoned by his parents and friends was just the final straw that told him he was really worthless. When James starts to fall for Kurt, and vice versa, it isn't just about swimming anymore, but James wanting Kurt to be the best man that he can be, and for them to have the possibility of a real relationship.

This is the first book that I've read in quite a while that I felt really hit the college mark. It isn't just about getting in college parties and classes and details right, but it is really about getting the characters right. College, for most people, is such a pivotal part of growing up that is all about emotional growth, especially for a freshman. Kurt was written really, really well, I thought, and I liked that as he progressed under James' tutelage that those details were covered as well, friends, roommates. It isn't easy going for these guys either. The author gives both characters' points of view in a way that works to show their different levels of maturity. Even though James is constantly in the shadow of Kurt's problems, it also shows that he's subtly facing problems himself. First off, how to control his raging libido and not hurt Kurt. How to deal with the real possibility that he could so easily manipulate him, and how hard it can be not the let the first overshadow the second.

It has got to be difficult to write a story like this and make James a supportive boyfriend without coming across as too perfect, and while I worried about that while I was reading, I never really felt like he was too perfect. He did just what he needed to do for Kurt while also looking out for himself, and I appreciated that. It helped keep the balance in a relationship that is often outlined by their imbalance in power and emotional maturity. I don't really want to go into the issues he faces, because the details themselves aren't really important, other than as an obstacle in their growing relationship. Still, no one should fear having any problems with them, they're off page.

Having spend so much time around NYU, I really would have loved more little details, even more of the little NYC details that I picked up in the story, but I did find some and I appreciated that. This story, while it isn't something that I would usually pick up was written very well with a lot of care for real issues. It walked a very fine edge for me. It could have spectacularly failed in several ways, but I think this author really pulled it off and I ended up really liking it. It definitely captured parts of the college experience that I haven't read in this genre with authenticity to a city school, and NYC is different than any city :)
Profile Image for Mandy*reads obsessively* .
2,203 reviews326 followers
January 11, 2013

This was a nice sequel or at least an extended version of the free HSD story Starting Over.
Kurt came out to his parents and it went very poorly, he also has past trauma to deal with.
James is on his swim team and takes him under his wing and helps him out, they develop a friendship that quickly turns into a relationship.
All in all it was a sweet story of young love and reconciliation with your past and your future.
I had a few niggles, like it wasn't always clear who was thinking things, at least to me, the swimming which was such a huge part of their lives just sort of dropped away never to be mentioned again, the timeframe of the ending was ambiguous.
Kurt's parents threw him but still payed for everything?
He ate out and didn't complain about not having money and there no talk of a job, so were they still supporting him financially?
Profile Image for Awilk -never sleeps- .
1,033 reviews6 followers
June 13, 2013
3.5 Stars

A short read that was realistic and touching. I liked the way that these two young men didn't just jump into a physical relationship, and that the healing that Kurt needed was undertaken, and that it wasn't just a case of love fixing everything.

I would definitely try more by this author.
Profile Image for Anna Goerlitz.
950 reviews41 followers
May 31, 2016
2,5-3 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Warning: The following review may contain minor spoilers

This is an extended version of an earlier free story, and I am glad that the author mentions this in the foreword, as I had a strong sense of dejavu when I read the first paragraph.

Kurt is a freshman in college and on the swim team. He came out to his parents before he left for school, and it did not go down well. The stresses in his personal life are affecting his performance on the team and the team captain James is asked to give him private technique lessons.

James is older, wiser and a lot more worldly than Kurt. He is also very attracted to the younger man. The two start a relationship, but Kurts past keeps throwing road blocks in their way, both mentally and physically.


I enjoyed the story and really liked the premise. Kurts hurt and anger towards his parents were very understandable, although he was a bit of a brat towards his mothers tentative reaching out at the beginning. His self doubts due to his sexual and emotional past did also ring true enough.

However, the storyline was a bit choppy and I kept feeling like I had missed some parts.

Then there was the sex. I was very disappointed to see the strong emphasis on penetrative sex being the only thing that mattered. It annoyed me no end, that James was supposedly "blue balled" and sexually frustrated when they decided to wait with this final step. Why?

I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get more information about James. Other than him being the captain of the swim team, patient boyfriend and apparently estranged from his parents we know nothing about him. Not even his age. A bit more information would have been beneficial in relating to the character.

All in all an ok enjoyable story about the trials of coming out and finding yourself.

Profile Image for Jennifer.
400 reviews
July 26, 2016
A free copy of the book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Strength of a Man is a sweet story about two college students - Kurt and James - falling in love and also dealing with Kurt's personal issues of pain from past boyfriends and rejection from both the boyfriends and his parents. It is novella length and was a quick read. According to the author, it is an expansion of a free short story (Starting Over); I have not read the short story.

I liked Sara Winters' writing style. It is pretty straight-forward and easy to read. I have previously read and enjoyed her other novella See Right Through Savannah . I found the characters in The Strength of a Man to be believable and interesting, although I would have liked more of Kurt's friend, Melissa. She was a kick, but she was not in the story all that much. I also enjoyed Kurt and James' relationship, especially their teasing banter and how James supported Kurt. "'Well that's the good thing about me,' James said. 'I'm a part of the bliss package.'"

I was excited at the beginning to see an element of competitive swimming in the story, but that was mostly dropped partway through.

My biggest issue with The Strength of a Man was how penetrative sex - and Kurt's reluctance to bottom - was made such a focal point. Having been hurt in the past, Kurt was having a difficult time with this aspect of their relationship. James, luckily, did not push him, but it still seemed like there was a parallel being drawn between Kurt's emotional health/happiness and his ability to bottom. The two enjoyed other types of physical intimacy, so I did not get the urgency. I also did not understand why, if penetration was so important, they did not consider having Kurt top.

I did like the rest of the novella, especially the way Kurt refused to live a lie to please his parents, highlighted by this quote: "I'm the same son you used to love, when you knew nothing about my sexuality. And if you can't accept that one small part of how you see me is different, then we have nothing else to talk about." I also liked how his problems with his mother were resolved.
Profile Image for Ro.
3,003 reviews16 followers
June 27, 2012
Reviewed for Hearts On Fire Reviews

Good heavens, poor Kurt. You want to scoop him up and hug him. He wants to be accepted for who he is, and though he knows his father will have issue with it, he has hope for his mother. That isn’t to be when he leaves a carefully worded letter explaining he is gay. To make it worse, not only do his parents reject him, but his two closest friends, who he thinks will be in his corner and convince his parents he is the same son he was before, also reject him. Devastating at any age, but a freshman in college, just on his own for the first time? Awful.
Kurt is a member of the swim team and he is floundering, as would be expected when your life is in upheaval like that. The Coach directs a senior member, James, to help him out. There may be a double reason why Coach wants James to help Kurt. James has been where Kurt is now, gay, rejected and afraid of failing the team. Coach helped James, James will help Kurt.
Kurt has additional baggage with him – his first sexual experience was with a user, and the second was with an abuser. Kurt has a lot to get over before he can become whole. James is patient, and wants only Kurt’s best. Sometimes, Kurt acts like an ass (for example, he gets angry at James for things such as suggesting counseling) but he is trying to work through things by avoiding them. He needs a nudge sometimes.
One disappointment for me was that as the story progressed the swimming seemed to take a back seat. It’s very prominent in the first part, and then relegated to very back. It comes up briefly but only really as a way for Kurt’s mom to come up. As a swimming fan, I would have enjoyed that focus. But there is a lot for Kurt to deal with, so we focus on that. James, that man is a saint, honestly. James’ friend Blake comes across as a doofus and yet I really liked him as well. He’s just funny, honest and in James’ face about things.
I thought his parents were realistically portrayed (unfortunately for those who thought they were loved unconditionally) and mom especially, gravitating from one end to the other, trying to find a balance, was a true life character. Kurt is so lucky to have James, and James is lucky to have Kurt. Recommended.
Profile Image for Veronica of V's Reads.
1,528 reviews41 followers
March 29, 2014
I received a review copy of this book via Goodreads' Don't buy My Love program. 4.5 Stars.

Kurt is a freshman on the varsity swim team at NYU. He has only been at school a few weeks, but they've been bad weeks. He left a letter at his Philly home telling his parents that he was gay, and their response was to shut him out. Kurt's tension and frustration is translating to his swimming, so the coach has team captain, James, give Kurt some extra technique training.

James is an openly gay man. He's certainly attracted to Kurt, but Kurt doesn't know James that well, and is embarrassed by his own arousal whenever they train together--at least until James tells him the feelings are mutual. They begin to date, but whenever they get close to sex Kurt defers. It seems that his two previous lovers were callous and hurt him, physically and emotionally.

James wants to be better than that--and he really sees the beauty in waiting for Kurt, if Kurt will seek some counseling. Kurt is reluctant, but recognizes that he has a lot of emotional issues--not the least of which is abandonment, after being left by his lovers and disowned by his family/friends. With time, patience and therapy Kurt mends, and he and James find a true connection with each other.

It's a slow building, tender romance with a solid HEA. Kurt really learns to overcome his fears, and James is as much a friend as a lover. I enjoyed this story very much. It's a short, but sweet, tale.
Profile Image for Bookjunkie12.
307 reviews
August 11, 2016
I was provided a free copy of this book by the author for an honest review.

I'm very middle of the road on this one, I didn't love it and I didn't hate it...but it didn't stick with me when I was done either.

Kurt is a freshman on the swim team at NYU who falls for and starts dating the captain of the swim team, James. I really liked James he's thoughtful, caring, and considerate. But I think he let Kurt's issues linger just a little to long.

Ok so Kurt had just come out to his parents, via letter, just before he leaves to start his freshmen year in college and they did not take it well. Before meeting James he had only been with two other men who, lets just say weren't gentle with Kurt. So Kurt is a little gun shy to just jump into bed and bottom. I felt like if James had offered to bottom they could have moved pass Kurt's issues a lot faster. Instead the story shows their growing relationship, which is great, but Kurt's issues kinda drag on for most of the story. Almost to the point I wanted to say get over it already...but that just me.

Don't get me wrong the build up to James and Kurt's first time together completely was almost worth the wait.
Profile Image for Anke.
2,452 reviews84 followers
June 16, 2012
3.5 stars
It was a nice and easy read. I just found the storyline with Kurt's hang-ups was too drawn-out and the timeline was a bit unclear, especially at the end. A simple epilogue might have been better.
Profile Image for Issa.
419 reviews18 followers
July 29, 2016
2.75 stars. Kurt is not in a good place. A freshman in college, he lost his family and friends after coming out to them believes he’s getting kicked off the swim team due to his poor performance. Add to the mix some past relationship trauma and Kurt is lost in a sea of insecurity. He meets with James thinking he’s getting the axe from the swim coach but instead the coach as asked James to help Kurt with his technique. Not only that, James comes on to him. A little flirtation later, and they start going out.

James is a wham bam, thank you man kind of guy who’s aggressive in his pursuit, too aggressive considering Kurt’s shyness and insecurity is at the forefront. Fortunately Kurt speaks up and puts the brakes on and James does back off and only then I believe does he try and get to know Kurt outside of the pursuit of sex.

This story is mostly Kurt’s. We learn little of James outside of his parents disowning him when he came out. Their relationship grows but as Kurt’s issues come to the forefront it’s made clear that they are striving for only one thing, Kurt bottoming for James. Kurt can’t do it so they hold off on the sex, I think anyway, I’m not sure. And that rubs me the wrong way. What’s wrong with James being the bottom, oral, hand jobs? There is more to sex then one position. Keep in mind two they’ve only been together a couple months and the idea that it’s a problem that someone’s not bending over at the two month mark is ridiculous.

Kurt has a lot of issues not just from the bad sexual experience but his coming out problems, issues James tries to deal with but is completely unequipped. Here the book is solid showing the James’s frustration as he feels his way through being supportive. And Kurt himself responds like I’d expect an 18 year old to act with emotions all over the place. Then Kurt’s friend Melissa is hilarious and I’d read a story with her as the MC in a minute.

The sex finally happens, Kurt loves it of course, and it is the good luck charm because Kurt now reconnects with someone who’d abandoned him. Like rubbing Bouda’s belly I guess.

Overall the characters were well written though I thought James should dial back some of his aggressiveness. However the pursuit of nirvana, which was nothing less than Kurt bottoming, rubbed me the wrong way. This could have been a good coming of age type story with a different focus.

I received a copy of this story at no charge from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Roger - president of NBR United -.
636 reviews28 followers
April 7, 2014
I got this book for free in exhange for an honest review through the DBML program of M/M Romance group at goodreads.com.

I thouuroughly enjoyed this quick read of a comfort story. Kurt Dennings is a freshman on the swim team at NYU. just before he started college he left a note telling his parents that he is gay. James Theard is the captain of the swim team. Because Kurt's parents didn't take the news well, Kurt is having problem at swim practice. The coach has James, who is also gay, give Kurt some one on one attention.

We learn that Kurt has two limited bad experiences with sex and even though he want to have sex with and is attracted to James; he pulls back because he hasn't yet recovered from the trauma of the bad experience. James is very supportive and becomes not just Kurt's boyfriend but a strong support when it seem like all the rest of his support is removed because his family and friends can't deal with the fact that he is gay.

When Kurt is finally ready after time and some counselling to have sex the scene is so hot I nearly came in my pant on a city bus that I was reading the story on.

I strongly recommend this Novella and will be rereading it.
Profile Image for Justin.
601 reviews145 followers
July 16, 2013
This book is the continuation of Starting Over, the free short story for the MM Goodreads group by the same author. The short story makes up first 20-25% of this book and is mostly unchanged. The author builds on the story and takes you even further into the relationship between James & Kurt and Kurt and his family. I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet college romance with a HFN ending.
Profile Image for Gabbi.
395 reviews2 followers
September 2, 2012
This is the first book I’ve read by Sara Winters, and I have to say I’m impressed by this short story. She really captures the angst and emotional trauma that one of her heroes, Kurt, goes through, and even though they’re a lot of things going on with him, it’s not overly done and the romance between Kurt and James really made this a lovely read.

Kurt has recently come out of the closet to his parents and to his dismay and heartache, they have rejected him. As a member of his college swim team, his performance at meets and practice has suffered because of Kurt’s pain. He believes he’s about to be kicked off the team and is starting to think that there’s nothing positive in his life, the captain of the swim team, James, steps in and offers to give Kurt some pointers and help him.

Soon, James and Kurt fall into a fast friendship and their relationship starts to evolve into something very special. But Kurt’s hurt and anger often keeps him from totally trusting and opening up to James. Lucky for him, James is a very patient and understanding person, so hopefully with a little love and acceptance, Kurt will begin to believe in both himself and in the relationship he and James have together. Will Kurt be able to work through his past hurts and open himself to the love that James wants to give?
I really liked this book. When it comes to the story in general, it’s not always an easy read. Kurt’s life is filled with sadness, anger and confusion, and this brought out all of my protective instincts for him. I just wanted to grab him and adopt him for myself. At the beginning of the story, Kurt feels a lot of loss and self-loathing, but with James’ guidance he begins to work though his pain and starts to evolve into a more confident man. I thought the drama between Kurt and his parents was well written and I often felt sorry for Kurt and the hell he went through. Even though there’s a lot going on with him emotionally, in the end Kurt still proves that he’s able to stand on his own and be proud of who he really is. I enjoyed watching him evolve into a stronger person and thought he was an all-around likeable and sympathetic hero.

James is a total doll. He’s truly perfect for Kurt. He’s supportive of Kurt without smothering him with over sympathetic gestures. He allows Kurt to grow and change at his own pace and ended up being the boyfriend that most people would be proud to have.

I really enjoyed the roller-coaster ride of emotions the author gave me while I read this book. I do wish the book had been a little longer. The ending was a big rushed for me. I wish there has been an epilogue or a least another chapter or two instead of the quick summary at the end. But otherwise, the story moves along quite quickly and is well-paced throughout. I thought the trauma that Kurt goes through was realistically written as well as the steps he took to overcome it. Recommended!
Profile Image for PJ Mooney.
15 reviews11 followers
March 31, 2014
Disclaimer: The author furnished a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Kurt Dennings is damaged goods. He’s just started his freshman year in college, but already his heart has been broken three times. Once each by the first two men he fell for; then by his parents’ rejection when he came out to them. Now, he finds himself falling in love with James Thearn. Will Kurt ever be able to confront and accept the pain others have inflicted on him? Can he grow to see himself as a good and worthy person? Will James become the love of his life, or be driven away by Kurt’s failure to cope? Can broken family relationships be healed, and at what cost? The experience of sharing Kurt’s journey toward the answers to these questions warmed my heart, made me laugh, made me cry (twice) and ultimately restored my hope for humanity’s future.

Initially, I presumed that in this relationship, James was the strong one and Kurt was the weak one. Fortunately, the book’s title kept resurfacing in my mind as I read and led me to consider Kurt’s strengths, and the source of them, as well. Which brings me to the one thing I felt was wanting in this work—the element that would have earned a fifth star. Compared to the typical college dude, James is a saint. It isn’t that he’s too good to be true, but he is too good for there to be no explication as to how he came to be that way. There must be a backstory of events in James’s life that caused him to develop compassion and integrity to an extent that is unusual in one so young. Something tells me that this backstory could have been a juicy one!

Despite that missing element, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of reading this book and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a great love story.
166 reviews
March 29, 2014
I was given this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book started off so beautifully. The first scene was very well written and left me with a clear picture of a man who is in the middle of some deep emotional upheaval. Kurt is on the swim team and due to his problems his performance is lacking. He thinks he's about to be tossed off the team. But instead his coach enlist James, a teammate to help him out.
Their fist session is right after this first scene. Kurt goes from depressed to not being able to concentrate because James is touching him while giving technique instruction in an instant. At this point I had no indication James was feeling anything other than instructor/trainee feelings. From there the story went to a goodnight kiss and soon after they were boyfriends. I kept thinking I missed something.

Kurt has had a few bad experiences prior to this and has a problem moving forward. James is really understanding and wants Kurt to see someone to talk to. And he does see a doctor -once-.

One of Kurt's problems is that he came out and family and friends abandoned him. During this story his mom is trying to reconnect, but Kurt is too hurt to let her. I thought he was being a brat!

The whole story is set during a period of several weeks, so to me it just didn't make sense. There was very little of James background to get a sense of him. I didn't believe the "'I love you's", and there really wasn't much in the story but the question of when they would go all the way.

I needed more meat in this story.
Profile Image for Penumbra.
885 reviews7 followers
April 3, 2015
I received The Strength of a Man from the author through the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Don’t Buy My Love Program.

This story is told in third person through the eyes of Kurt Dennings and James Theard two students on their college swim team. This is a longer version of the 2011’s Don’t Read in the Closet short story, Starting Over. I didn’t read the short story so I can’t compare this version with the other, but can give my thoughts on this one.

Profile Image for Carly.
Author 4 books52 followers
April 7, 2014
This is the poignant and romantically told story of two young college aged men. Both on the swim team, Kurt's performance is suffering. When James, the team captain, is asked by the coach to offer Kurt some pointers one-on-one, sparks begin to fly. It's immediately apparent to Josh that Kurt is carrying some pretty significant emotional damage from past relationships. His recent coming out has estranged him from his friends and family, who didn't take his announcement well at all.

James has been attracted to Kurt since day one, but his ongoing reluctance to engage in more than heavy petting is putting a strain on their new romance. James is willing to wait as long as he needs to for Kurt to open up to him physically, but his reluctance to trust James with his heart and emotions just might be what breaks them apart.

A well written novella length story, the honestly portrayed emotions and flawed human behaviors is what makes this story as engaging as it is heart-wrenching to read. Love, like life, is a journey that can be harrowing at times. It's who we choose to take with us on that journey that will make or break us in the end.

A copy of The Strength of a Man was received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jilrene.
906 reviews81 followers
August 19, 2014
I received a copy of this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Hm. Well, I want to give this book 4 stars, but I didn’t love it quite that much. It’s a shorter story, and that somewhat limits the story arc. However, I’m actually pleased with where this starts and how much time passes and how the relationship grows. Kurt is struggling in the beginning, having just come out to his family and friends, who all rejected him. James has already been there and lived through it. This is their story. There are a few secondary characters, but they don’t have many lines.

Kurt was also hurt in prior relationships, and that has affected his relationship with James. I’m okay with how Kurt makes his way through that pain. James is pretty stellar. His imperfections are all off screen and only alluded to in the story, so that makes him seem too good to be true. Kurt has the most growing to do, as well as the most adversity to overcome. In a way, this is more Kurt’s story than James’. That’s ok. It works.

So, while I wouldn’t say this is a solid 4 stars, I will round up from 3.5+ angsty but fluffy stars. ;-)
Profile Image for The TBR Pile *Book review site*.
1,835 reviews53 followers
May 5, 2013

I really loved the characters and enjoyed the hurt and care for elements but James went from “in a relationship you show your emotions with sex” to “I can hold out forever”. I picked up that there was growth due to age and finding someone he loves however there isn’t really a show of that progression in the book. I loved that James wasn’t some magical cure for the issues that Kurt had, there was therapy and time. The book was very real and raw. Some of the emotions we see in James are age related and totally fit a Collage student. While I didn't always agree with some of Kurt's emotions such as how he couldn't see that he was abused, I could totally see how a young and insecure man would lay blame unto himself. This book was a hell of a lot more accurate when it comes to physical abuse than what I’ve seen in a long time.

All together, The Strength of a Man was very well written, enjoyable story that once again brought the emotions forward and brought me to tears.
Profile Image for Suze.
3,435 reviews
February 11, 2017
Kurt and James, are swim teammates and after a bold move by James, become boyfriends. Its not plain sailing as kurt has lots of issues - which are explored in the book and if not resolved, at least working towards resolution.
What I liked was that the was no easy fix to Kurt's problems. James I think deserved a medal.
What didnt sit right for me - Kurt's insecurities did grate a bit at times, I didnt get a feel for James as very little backgound on him, sometimes the story seemed to jump forward quite a bit (though that may have been paging issues on my reader)
A good growth/voyage of discovery story I'd rate at 3.5

Reread 25.7.16 - enjoyed again. James definitely showing maturity beyond his years and Kurt living up to teenage stereotype of being self involved. I thought the scenes at end with Mum a bit odd.
Profile Image for Alicia.
78 reviews8 followers
March 30, 2014
(This book was received free in return for an honest review.)

The Strength of a Man is an extended version of a short story entitled Starting Over. I had read the short at least twice in the past year and enjoyed it. The extension was a lovely addition to the relationship between Kurt and James. Kurt is dealing with the emotional fallout of abandonment by his parents and two prior miserable relationships. James becomes Kurt's shoulder to cry on and steady rock to hold on to.

Additionally I liked the relationship that Kurt has with his friend Melissa, but I wanted to deck James' friend Blake. The story ended sweetly with themes of moving forward and reconcillations. It seems that there could be a lot more to these boys' futures. A HFN and perhaps a HEA.
Profile Image for Ali.
1,760 reviews12 followers
March 31, 2014
I received this book free for review from the author through the DBML (Don't Buy My Love) program in the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads.

This is an expanded version of Sara's Starting Over she wrote as a short a few years ago. I really enjoyed this version of the story. It allows for more insight into the MCs thoughts and feelings and allowed for more development in their relationship.

I think this was a very good book highlighting issues with being let down by your family and hurt by previous sexual encounters. It was nice to see Kurt grow and learn how to deal with his past in order to move forward in his relationship with James.
Profile Image for Sadonna.
2,571 reviews40 followers
June 29, 2012
This is a nice expansion on the story from last year's HSD free story from the M/M Romance group. From the beginnings of James helping Kurt and the growth of their relationship, we see the ways that Kurt has been hurt in the past - but his former lovers and by his family. James is a really good boyfriend. We get to see both his frustration and his true caring for Kurt. I liked the ending that was not idealized or unrealistic.
Profile Image for Kenike.
187 reviews1 follower
April 23, 2014
I enjoyed the book. I received a free copy for my review. I like how James was willing to wait for Kurt to be ready for sex. The swim team aspect was interesting. This book is different from my usual reads but I enjoyed it. It was pretty short though.
Profile Image for Kendra.
80 reviews
July 11, 2012
I liked the potential of this story but it never came to pass. It seemed like Kurt was all over the place, one minute he hated someone, the next it seemed like all was forgiven. I couldn't keep up.
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