Off The Beaten Path by Katrina Strauss

Travis Bell is openly gay to family and friends, but as a college athlete, he chooses not to define himself by his sexuality. When he covers for a friend’s misdeed, he’s forced to renegotiate his future. Carefully. Or he’s going to lose his coveted lacrosse scholarship. The last thing Travis plans on, however, is a “volunteer vacation” in the remote wilderness with members of Omega Beta Pi, a.k.a., Off the Beaten Path, a fraternity devoted to gay rights and environmental causes. To make matters worse, he must share a tent with Kyle Schafer, an opinionated activist who also happens to be the hottest guy Travis has ever met.

Kyle Schafer is a proud activist who disapproves of Travis’s ignorance on issues affecting the environment and the gay community. To his even greater annoyance, Kyle finds himself attracted to his shallow tent mate on a purely physical level. Travis goes against everything Kyle believes in, but that doesn’t dampen the chemistry that sparks between them. Pretty soon, it looks like Travis isn’t the only one who’ll be going off the beaten path.

In Off The Beaten Path Katrina Strauss delivers a contemporary m/m romance under the guise of opposites attracting. Travis thinks that Kyle is a self-righteous and judgmental tree-hugger; Kyle thinks that Travis is a selfish and self-centered jock. The ideological lines in the sand are drawn from the get go, but this is a ruse behind which both Travis and Kyle hide. Underlying their nose-to-nose standoff is their sexual attraction to one another.

The sexual tension between these two is established early on in the story, essentially from the opening scene, and is then ratcheted up notch-by-notch with each verbal encounter. Indeed this verbal sparring becomes a form of foreplay for Travis and Kyle.

While at first glance they appear to be polar opposites, as the story progresses, we come to realize that even though Travis and Kyle may have different outlooks on life and their place in it, they are flip sides of the same coin in that they have many things in common. They are both loyal, compassionate, caring, opinionated and stubborn.

I looked forward to reading this story because I was very interested in the whole premise of throwing a jock and environmentalist together and seeing what happens. In Off The Beaten Path, Katrina Strauss takes this idea and runs with it serving up a great story chalk full of sexual tension, some angst and erotic sex. In addition, through good characterization, well-written dialogue and rich points of view Strauss brings to life two very believable characters and taps into the barometer of what has become a very important issue for today’s generation – environmental issues.

What stood out for me were the sex scenes which I found to be very well written and highly erotic, in particular Travis and Kyle’s first time as they finally give in to their attraction and lust for one another.

“Travis skimmed his fingertips up Kyle’s spine to his neck. He carefully pulled the ponytail free. The soft waves he’d resisted toying with just moments before spilled over his hand as he massaged the back of Kyle’s scalp.

‘I like your hair,’ he murmured.

‘You do?’

‘Yeah. It’s really nice.’ Twining the waves through his fingers, Travis pulled the hair aside. He lowered his lips to the curve between Kyle’s neck and shoulder.

‘What are you doing?’ Kyle asked. His body remained relaxed, his tone ringing of curiosity rather than alarm.

Interpreting that as a good sign, Travis gently tugged Kyle’s head to one side. He traced his lips up Kyle’s neck to his ear, ghosting the flesh with a trail of breath. Kyle gave another shiver and sighed in turn.

Now or never, Travis told himself. ‘I want you,’ he whispered in Kyle’s ear, getting straight to the point. ‘It doesn’t make any sense, but I do.’”

Being a lacrosse fan I also very much appreciated her research into a sport that while is not commercially popular was an intimate part of the way of life of many Native American nations prior to contact and remains the gift from the Creator for the Iroquois today. There are a few editing glitches in this read enough to notice, but not enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of this story.

While Katrina Strauss is best known for writing yaoi in m/m romance, specifically through her very popular Blue Ruin series, it is clear that she can gracefully shift gears into strictly contemporary m/m romance. Off The Beaten Path is a perfect story if you are looking to read something with an interesting story premise and characters, a little bit of angst, a lot of sexual tension and of course a happily ever after.

Off The Beaten Path by Katrina Strauss is available at Loose Id.

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