Jamie Brennan is enjoying life at college. He is good looking and smart and has lots of opportunities for hook ups with hot college boys. He has earned himself quite a reputation, especially for seducing the straight boys (and even helping a gay man or two take his first steps out of the closet). Jamie enjoys the challenge and the fun of broadening their horizons.
Everyone seems to like Jamie but art student Roger Hunt. Although Jamie is attracted to the big guy with the lumberjack wardrobe, whenever they see one another Roger is giving him hostile looks. It takes some time for Roger and Jamie each to begin to see one another in a new light, but when they do there may be more in store for Jamie than he expected.
I really enjoyed watching Jamie grow and change through the course of this book. Although the story ultimately comes around to the relationship between Roger and Jamie, the vast majority of the focus is on Jamie himself. We follow him through a series of hookups as he seduces various men — gay, straight, and in the closet. Yet as he watches those around them finding love and happiness in a real partnership, he begins to realize the hollowness of his lifestyle and that he really wants something with more meaning. Despite his constant efforts at seduction, Jamie is really quite likeable. He is friendly, caring towards the men he is with, generous, and a overall good guy.
I wish we could have gotten to know Roger a bit more in this story however. As I said, most of the book focuses on Jamie and his self-discovery. He and Roger don’t really interact for the first time until about halfway through the book and things don’t really kick off between them until very late in the story. The romance between them is there, but it is not the primary focus. So I didn’t feel I got a chance to get as much of sense of Roger or what was drawing the two men to one another besides physical attraction.
I really enjoyed Jamie’s interaction with his cousin Jo, with whom he lives. I am always excited to see a real fleshed out female character in m/m romance as they seem to be few and far between. Jo is a best friend and confidant and she provides a great sounding board to Jamie as he works through his feelings. And Jamie returns the favor, supporting Jo and even helping out by treating the guy who likes her to a makeover to help him gain the confidence to ask Jo out. I loved their relationship and the key role she plays in the story.
The story also touches on a really interesting concept related to Jamie’s hookups with the straight guys. When one of them comes to him afterwards thinking he must be gay if he enjoyed the sex, Jamie reassures him that “we haven’t done anything that a straight couple with imagination and a few toys couldn’t do.” Later when he is talking to Jo:
“I didn’t expect Hollins to be so enthusiastic about getting buggered.”
“Maybe he’s gay?”
“Nah. He’s no more than ten percent fairy. It’s just he discovered a major erogenous zone and is unwilling to give it up.”
“Doesn’t that make him gay by definition?”
“Not at all. You can be totally hetero and still enjoy getting your prostate stimulated. … You don’t get it–it could be anyone. He doesn’t get hot and bothered thinking of guys or even looking at them. It’s not me who excites him, but what I do to him. Hollins is just one giant erogenous zone, and I’m his self-powered sex toy.”
“So you’re tired of doing all the work?”
“Well, that’s not really it. It even feels a little bit like seducing him for the first time. But the novelty is wearing off, and while he’s a nice guy, and I like screwing him, it would be nice to have someone who’s more than just a willing body, you know? Somebody who gets dirty thoughts just thinking about me.”
I liked the exploration of the concept that the sex and the feelings are not the same thing, and that someone could enjoy a sexual experience but that isn’t the same thing as attraction or real feelings. I also think it illustrates nicely Jamie’s changing feelings as he starts to realize he wants more than to be just the person these guys get off with, but wants someone who really feels something for him emotionally as well as physically.
This was my first book by Harper and I really enjoyed the author’s voice and the characters in the story. I did find myself wishing for more time with the main characters and more focus on their relationship. But I think the story does a great job showing Jamie’s personal growth and development as well as touching on some interesting issues. I enjoyed Academic Pursuits and will definitely look for more by this author in the future.