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Level Hands

(Bend or Break #4)

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  615 ratings  ·  135 reviews
When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as smooth sailing.

Rafael Castro is so far out of his element he can’t even see it anymore. Carlisle College in Massachusetts is a long way from his Chicago home, even farther from his Dominican Republic roots.

The only thing keeping him attached to his last nerve is the prospect of seeing Denny Winslow again. The first time they
ebook, 407 pages
Published August 25th 2015 by Samhain Publishing
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Average rating 3.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  615 ratings  ·  135 reviews

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Start your review of Level Hands (Bend or Break, #4)
~✡~Dαni(ela) ♥ ♂♂ love & semi-colons~✡~
I love Amy Jo's writing, and I am head over heels for the first two books in the Bend or Break series. (I skipped book 3 because it's M/F.)

I liked this book. The writing, as always, is accessible, and the characters real.

I enjoyed the beginning, and I was excited for Rafi and Denny to reunite.

My problem is Rafi. I never really gelled with him. His POV filters the story, and OMFG, he's insufferable: whiny, insecure, obsessed with image, closeted, ungrateful, neurotic.

Being in his head was a t
☆ Todd
Sep 19, 2015 rated it liked it

Aaaaand now for the bad news...

I truly wanted to like this story much more than I actually did.

Rafi, Rafi, Rafi, man, I'm telling you. For 407 long pages, he truly wore me out on nearly every single page.

I had hoped for an upbeat book with plenty of, "Wow, I'm in college and having the time of my life. And the most awesome guy I've ever met digs me, which is fucking amazing."

That's not what I got, at all. This book contained so little joy for me.

Instead, Rafi was a complete worrisome Negative N
Jul 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: on-my-kindle, mm, arc
I received this book as an ARC through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

I was really disappointed by this book. I liked what I saw of Rafi and Denny in the last book, and I thought that their budding relationship was sweet. I was very excited to read this book, but Rafi drove me nuts in this book. I understand his frustrations, and his fears, but I did not like the way he took them out on the people around him, especially Denny. He blew so hot and cold throughout the course of this bo
May 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: m-m
 photo image.jpg1_zpsqa2xnoov.jpg

Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins is the 4th book in her Bend or Break series. I've read books 1 & 2 and really enjoyed them, but I skipped book 3 because it was M/F. I'm not sure if not reading book 3 did a disservice in the end.

I'll start with the negatives first...

This book started off very strong. It starts with a glimpse at Rafi and Denny saying goodbye to each other after finally sharing their first kiss. Fast forward to Rafi gaining a scholarship to Carlisle where he will be reunited with De
Jun 11, 2015 marked it as to-read
Whoever writes these Samhain "warnings" deserves ALL the money and the rewards. They sell me on every fucking book out there. ...more
Katrina Passick Lumsden
WTF is this?

400+ pages of Rafi worrying. About everything.

That's what this is. Rafi. Fretting. For 400+ pages.

May 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Love, Love, Love it!

I rarely do more personal reviews but this book touched me on so many personal levels that I can't help it. If you care about a more objective review of the book, I will put something like it on my blog and leave the emotional stuff here.

So, here goes nothing.

It's Rafi's book through and through, not just because the story is told from his POV. Don't get me wrong I loved Denny quite a lot and he has a strong presence in the story but Rafi got me teary eyed a time or two in
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
1.5 Stars

Rafi was beyond frustrating. We got over 400 pages of Rafi being insecure and whiny. He annoyed the hell out of me. I get his concerns and fears, but no matter how much I empathized, I couldn't like him. All the back and forth with Denny didn't help any. I really thought this was going to end up the other way around, since Rafi intrigued me in the last book and Denny was just the pinning teenager, but wow was I wrong. Denny shined and I grew to like him even through all his faults.

We d
Aug 15, 2015 rated it liked it
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

The one thing I can say about this author's work is that her characters are not clean cut. Her characters reaction to real life situation felt genuine.

Rafael is one depressing mofo of a character. He just wouldn't let you just breath before shit hit the fan. The man just couldn't allow himself to be happy. I skip book 3, so I have no clue how much background on Rafi or even Denny there is. I don't understand how someone who had the
Amy Cousins
May 27, 2015 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: books-i-wrote
An actual blurb and pre-order links will be coming soon, but in the meantime, I can tell you that you will meet the two heroes of LEVEL HANDS when you read THE GIRL NEXT DOOR. Rafi and Denny are a big part of Cash and Steph's reconnection, and I was super excited to give the boys their own story in LEVEL HANDS. :)

Sneak peeks and giveaways of LEVEL HANDS will be happening in my newsletter over the summer. Sign up at if you want in on that goodness!

Right. I'm going to go b
Jul 22, 2015 rated it liked it
2.5 Stars

Let me start by saying I LOVE THIS SERIES!!! I was DYING for Rafe and Denny's story - dying.

I love Amy Jo Cousins' writing - she sucks me into a story.

In Level Hands, I really wished we could have had alternating POV. Rafe's POV and his character in general, was difficult for me to connect to. He want's Denny, but he doesn't want any help. I get that he wanted to make it on his own, with his own merit. But at some point, he was just being so mean to Denny that I just couldn't take it.
Wendy F
Aug 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I think my problem with NA is how it always seems have to have an overload of angst and shades of inappropriate behavior? What about New Adults who have their crap together and don’t want to deal with troublemakers or unnecessary heartache? That’s why I loved Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy so much. It was about two people who mostly had their crap together, and how they tried to operate in ways that didn’t hurt the other person.

In Level Hands there was a lot of unnecessary angst. In the fi
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is book 4 in Amy Jo's series starting with Reece and Tom. I like that the couples are so varied, and don't really live in each other's pockets, or are all related.

However, Rafe is a very difficult boy to like. The chip on his shoulder about money and intelligence and worthiness means his self-esteem is low, and we have to endure much self denial and unhappiness.

The times that Rafe is honest with Denny are really great to see. 'I'm not ready', 'I need time', and 'I hope you can wait' - all s
Barb ~rede-2-read~
This book was provided to me by the author through the M/M Romance Group’s DBML Program in exchange for an impartial review.

When Rafi Castro is granted a full ride athletic scholarship to be on the rowing team at Carlisle College in Massachusetts, he’s so excited he can hardly breathe. Not only will he finally get to go to college, he’ll get to pursue his dream of being an elite rower for the Carlisle team, and he’ll finally get to see Denny Winslow again.

Wealthy, blond, gorgeous Denny chose R
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: m-m, part-of-a-series, arc
2.5 stars

To say I'm frustrated after reading this book would be a gigantic understatement. This book was well written, no grammatical errors, no cheesiness, none of the stuff that usually makes me flip, yet I didn't enjoy reading it. I wanted to give up on it many times but I pushed through because I loved the first two books in this series so I expected this to get better. I didn't read book #3 because EWWWWWW M/F! I'm not sure if I missed some obvious parts about Rafi's character by skipping t
Jan 11, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: mmr, twenty-sixteen

I am at a loss for words.


I wasn't impressed with Rafi at all. He was a total douche for most of the book, with a too little too late ending. I also wasn't impressed with Denny playing games either, the texting the ex get a reaction...not cool dude, not cool.

Thank you Netgalley for letting me read this book in trade for an honest review.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Melancholy is the word I’d pick for this book.

One awesome book and two downers in this series. UGH.

I’m beginning to think book 1 is the only one I’ll like in this series.
Austin really saved this story for me. He is such a cute character and I look forward to his story the most after listening to this book.

Some parts of this story worked for me, and some parts didn't. I liked that they didn't jump into a relationship. I didn't like the back and forth, off/on thing they had going on. I got over that real quick. I liked all the friends/secondary characters and that previous characters make appearances (super cool!). I didn't like all the drama about staying in the
*I received this book as a part of the Don't Buy My Love Program in exchange for an honest review*

This was another really good installment in the Bend or Break series. We first meet Rafi and Denny in book three where they have a side story. I know a lot of people who read this series skipped book three because it was m/f. That's not a deal breaker for reading this book but you do need to know that these guys fell for each other then. Denny was only 17 so Rafi didn't let anything but friendship h

I have a strange relationship with Cousin's books.

They certainly make me think.
She straddles a very fine line for me, and sometimes she gets it right, really right, and succeeds at something I'm yearning for, namely giving me smart, self-possessed, complex young adults that don't read like dumb caricatures with stupid draaama. While still describing the struggles and eye-rolling hang-ups and intensive emotions of that time in life quite accurately.

Then suddenly there creep up some passages or
1-Click Addict Support Group
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Straight-up arm porn, that's what the cover is. As if that wasn't enough to grab my attention, Level Hands also the fourth book in a series I've loved since book one. Oh, and it has another one of those brill warnings that Amy Jo Cousins has perfected. So, in summary: arm porn + beloved series + killer warning = FANTASTIC BOOK. Pretty simple math there.

Rafael Castro is a fish out of water. Or, a kid away from the Prairie. Two years after meeting Denny Winslow, sharing a memorable first kiss, an
May 27, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm not sure I'm very articulate in my review, but I tried. You can read my jumbled thoughts at Boys In Our Books. ...more
Mar 28, 2022 rated it really liked it
There’s an HEA,
But life’s still complicated.
This series moves me.
Maria Rose
This is the fourth story in the Bend or Break series and while it can be read as a standalone, the two main characters Rafael and Denny met in the third book (The Girl Next Door) when they were 2 years younger, forming a fast friendship that could have turned into something more serious if Denny hadn’t moved back home. But now they are both at the same college, Rafi having made it there via a rowing scholarship that Denny’s family had a hand in creating. Rafi is out of his element, struggling to ...more
Veronica of V's Reads
I received this book via Goodreads' Don't Buy My love program in exchange for an honest review. This is the 4th book in the Bend or Break series, but can be read as a standalone.

Rafi Castro is a man raised in Chicago, though his parents are from the Dominican Republic. He is Afro-Latino and has lived a hardscrabble life, mostly raised by his four elder sisters, once his mother returned to her home country. He met Denny two years before when Denny ran away from home and stayed with his cousin, an
Caroline Brand

3.75 Stars

I loved the first two books in this series but will admit to skipping over book 3. Amy Jo Cousins always gives us more than just romance in her books and this one was no different. As well as dealing with homophobia it also tackles racism and safe sex.

I will begin by saying I loved Denny. When he was seventeen and spent the summer giving his parents space after coming out he spent a lot of time with Rafi. His first crush on a guy and when he had just tur
Oh, how I could relate to Rafi. In this series, I think he's the most relatable for me. I come from a single parent, working class background and grew up with limited economic options. I was very lucky to grow up in a country and a time where I still had the opportunity to study, but I do know how sometimes, when you think something is out of your reach, you just learn to tell yourself you do not really want that. I've had wonderful opportunities in my life, but I had never had the opportunity t ...more
Sonia ~Ruber's fiancé in Crystal Court universe~

I'm torn about this book... I can't decide between 2,5 stars or 3...

Rafi is one big whiny bitch and he annoyed me through most of the book.. he was always complaining and being an asswhole and it was very disappointing since in the previous book he didn't seem like that.. even the beginning was nice and he seemed cool and collected and then it was like somebody else took control of his body.. ugh..

If I were to give the book 3 stars it would be for Denny, whom I loooooved. He was amazing and Raf
Erin Books
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. For me, this series has gotten better with each book. I saw a lot of reviews saying that Rafi is unsympathetic, that he goes back and forth too many times, that he's not the confident kid that we saw in The Girl Next Door...and yeah. He isn't. That's the entire point of the book. He's scared and out of place and young and dealing with an alien environment with nobody who truly understands what he's going through. Is he a total ass sometimes? Sure. But I think he's an ass in th ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2017
3.5 stars
Having won a sports scholarship to Carlisle College, Rafi is leaving his sister's in Chicago & moving to Boston - where he appears to be the only no white person in campus which is a bit strange...

With him in the rowing team is Denny - who 2 years ago he kissed when Denny turned 18 & he hasn't managed to get him out of his head since.

With homophobic and racist crew mates to deal with, a lack of educational preparation and then an injury to Denny Rafi is all over the shop. And then his s
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Amy Jo Cousins lives in Chicago, where she writes queer romance, tweets more than she ought, and sometimes runs way too far. She loves her boy and the Cubs, who taught her that being awesome doesn't necessarily have anything to do with winning.

Other books in the series

Bend or Break (7 books)
  • Off Campus (Bend or Break, #1)
  • Nothing Like Paris (Bend or Break, #2)
  • The Girl Next Door (Bend or Break, #3)
  • Real World (Bend or Break, #5)
  • Love Me Like a Rock (Bend or Break, #6)
  • Hard Candy (Bend or Break, #7)

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