Shadowboxing (Arbor Heights #9) By Diana DeRicci

MLR Press Presents


Wayne Hightower has lived with a secret since he was a teenager. Debilitating to relationships, his condition stands in the way of his father’s ultimate expectation: Finding a woman to marry. Of course, if he could do that, he’d have the grandchildren his mother was craving. And everyone would be happy happy happy. Or so he’d been raised to believe. If he could find her. If he could get over his problem.

Ditched by his brother for their planned night of sibling bonding, Erich Villalobos invites Wayne out instead as a simple act of friendship. One night that throws Wayne into an environment he’d never been exposed to and revealing a playfully animated side of Wayne Erich had never imagined. One that he quickly learns he’s actually attracted to.

Secrets. Everyone has them. Wayne. Erich. Even Wayne’s parents. If Wayne’s brother Curtis were still alive, he could tell Wayne the cause of his condition and how to cure it. But dead men don’t talk.


Erich and Wayne are friends and co-workers. On the night Wayne gets dumped (yet again) by his girlfriend, Erich invites him to a night on the town to drown his sorrows. Since Erich is gay, he invites Wayne to a gay bar and tells him, “Just tell any man who might hit on you that you are straight, they’ll leave you alone.” Right.

As the night progresses, Wayne does get drunk, and ends up both telling Erich his big secret (he thinks he’s impotent) and asking Erich to kiss him.

We only see things from Wayne’s POV, so I can only guess at Erich’s motivations, but he then later invites Wayne to go camping, and the two become closer friends. Yes, still friends. But after another night on the town and some definitely more-than-friends groping and kissing, Wayne freaks out and forces Erich to leave. But… after a few minutes, Erich returns and the two have sex.

Erich has some of his own secrets and we learn more about why Wayne never once “considered” he might be gay. (Huge, ugly family drama.)

In the end the couple finds their way, stands up to Wayne’s folks and we get a pretty solid HEA.


So – the first thing you have to do is ignore the elephant in the room. Why in the world didn’t Erich and WAYNE not even consider he might be gay when Wayne can masturbate but fails to get an erection in the presence of women. And really, no doctor suggested this?! Ok. Fiction. Just accept it and move on.

Once we get past that, the rest of the story is sweet and the sex is steamy. I though the drama with the family was a little too… dramatic, but again… fiction… move on.

I liked Erich and Wayne as a couple and enjoyed this book. (I haven’t read anything else in the Arbor Heights series, and I think this stands well on it’s own, but I am interested in looking at the others in the series now that I’ve read this.)

All in all I enjoyed this and give it 3.5 of 5 hearts