Title: College Boys
Author: Daisy Harris
Publisher: Siren Publishing
Buy link: Amazon
After returning to college following his mother’s death, Chris Fischer needs a little space to himself and decides to move to a single room across campus form the one he formerly shared with his soccer teammates. He is pleased to have some time alone away from his well-meaning friends. Chris is a little nervous when he realizes he will be living next door to Peter Cohen, an older student he had met during a pre-school camping trip. He knows Peter is gay and the guys had a bit of an awkward “morning wood” situation when they shared a tent on the trip. And for some reason, Chris hasn’t really been able to get the guy out of his head, even though he has never had any interest in men. As we soon find out, Peter has been thinking about Chris all along as well, feeling a deep attraction for the man even though he believes him to be straight.
When Chris moves in he is quite surprised to find that his tiny single has virtually no privacy from Peter’s room. The rooms were formerly doubles and the cheap walls the college installed between them do nothing to block the noise. The guys can hear every word, every sound from each other’s rooms. It is as if nothing but a curtain divides their spaces, providing the safety and anonymity of not being able to see, but drawing the men incredibly close as they can hear every detail of the other’s words and actions. At first the closeness serves as a way for the guys to get to know each other, talking casually through the walls each night. But soon the men begin to share more intimate activities together, even when in their separate rooms.
Peter knows right away he is totally hot for Chris, but he worries about getting himself involved with someone who is at best seems stuck in the closet, and at worst, straight. As things escalate between them, Chris realizes he is attracted to Peter, and begins considering what it would mean to take things further between them. He tries to imagine coming out, telling his teammates, and living openly with Peter as his boyfriend. Both men must take risks with their hearts to find out if they can have real happiness together.
I really enjoyed this story and think it is a great start to Harris’ new series set at Holsum College. Obviously you need to suspend a bit of disbelief at this room situation. Although college dormitories aren’t usually the highest quality design or places with lots of privacy, it is bit hard to imagine such an extreme situation as portrayed in the story. I also found it hard to believe that in a school so small that all his friends not only knew that Peter lived next door to Chris, but knew that Peter was gay before Chris even moved in, that Chris would have had no idea that what the wall/sound situation was before he got there. But the paper thin walls form the foundation for the story, so you need to be able to just go with it. And it worked fine for me because I love the way it allows for both the anonymity and intimacy between the two guys as they build their relationship. There is something about not being able to see someone’s face that provides a bit of security, a bit of boldness, and that allows things to develop between them in a really interesting way.
A big focus of the story is on Chris’ growing awareness and acceptance of his sexuality. Chris has always dated women and never been aware of any interest in guys (with the exception of his camping trip with Peter). He identifies pretty solidly as straight but he handles his growing feelings for Peter quite well. At first, Chris attributes it to two horny guys hearing each other jerk off, sort of telling himself this is fairly normal guy behavior. But he soon realizes that he has feelings for Peter beyond friendship, and that he is truly attracted to the man. Chris never really seems scared of his feelings for Peter, as much as fearing coming out and telling others. I wish we had gotten a bit more into Chris’ head during all this. Not that I was looking for a lot of angst here, but I would have liked to understand a bit more about how Chris felt when he realized his attraction for Peter and as he faced a shift in how he viewed his own sexuality. But I do think Harris nicely conveys the anxiety Chris feels about facing his friends and family and being with Peter in public (although I do think the idea that no one would be mean to him or give him a hard time because of the college’s strict policies against discrimination might be a bit of wishful thinking).
I really liked the incorporation of Peter’s friend Nathaniel into the story. When we first meet him, I was a bit worried Nathaniel would be nothing more than a queeny best friend stereotype. But he develops into a much more nuanced character, providing support and advice for Peter as he struggles with his feelings for Chris and what it means to risk his heart on a man who still sees himself as straight. And Nathaniel is able to say just the right words to make Chris really evaluate what he wants and whether he wants to spend his time at college hiding who he really is. I am hoping that as the series continues we will see more of Nathaniel (and I even have a hope for his hunky hero!). [Note: Harris has confirmed that Nathaniel’s book is next! Yay!]
I wish things had been developed a bit further with the impact of Chris’ mother’s death. We know that her loss hit Chris hard, leading him to move out of his old room. And Peter hears him crying one night, so we know he is not over her death. But I feel like this could have been developed a lot more than it really was. Her death sort of is used to kick start the story, but then pretty much dropped after that. I think it would have been interesting to see how this interplayed with Chris discovering his sexuality, thinking about telling his family, what she might have thought about it, etc.
Overall I really enjoyed this story. I think both Peter and Chris were really likeable and super hot together. I really like the idea of setting the series in a college as this is such an interesting time of life with all kinds of change and discovery and I think there are a lot of great story options here. I am really looking forward to following where Harris takes this series and can’t wait to read more.