Rating: 4.25 stars
Length: Novel


When Gabe Ashton runs into his classmate Nick Flynn in a local pub, Gabe can tell right away that Nick is not only gay, but in love with his straight best friend John.  The only problem is that Nick is completely unaware of either of these things.  When Gabe points this out to him though, Nick is certain it isn’t the case, and he is a little put off by this guy telling him that it is.  But despite this initial awkwardness, Nick really likes Gabe, and the two of them start developing a good friendship.

Yet Gabe is sure there is more to Nick than he realizes, and Gabe is definitely attracted to the man.  So Gabe starts make some fairly obvious sexual overtures toward Nick to draw him out and Nick definitely responds positively. Well, obvious overtures to the reader anyway.  Nick seems somehow oblivious to the fact that while straight guys may occasionally jerk off together, or may even jerk each other off (at least in romance land), they probably aren’t kissing naked, giving each other blow jobs, licking nipples, and cuddling in bed afterwards.  So he is quite content doing all these things with Gabe and enjoying them, but “not in a gay way.”

As the guys grow closer, Gabe starts to get frustrated with Nick’s denial that there is anything really developing between them when they are so clearly in some kind of physical and emotional relationship.  Especially when it is clear that Nick still has feelings for John and is attracted to him, despite John’s clear lack of interest.  But Gabe can’t keep going the way things are, and he has to hope that Nick realizes that the relationship he really wants is with Gabe.

This story is the third in Harris’ Men of Holsum College series and once again takes place between students at the university.  I don’t believe we have met either character before (or at least they weren’t featured prominently), but Gabe is friends with Chris from College Boys, linking the books together (although this one certainly stands alone perfectly well).  In a bit of a twist, Nick is a local boy and has somewhat of a stigma about being a townie. Most of his friends, including John, don’t seem to be in college, and finances force him to still live at home.  So he is a bit shyer and more awkward about getting involved in life at college, and is sort of caught between the two worlds.

This plays right into his issues with John I think.  John represents his past, and sadly their friendship has sort of faded away, but Nick doesn’t really see it yet.   He is still stuck in that childhood relationship and doesn’t realize that their lives have gone different directions.  And of course, that the feelings he has for John will never be reciprocated.  This is one of those coming of age things that I think I lot of kids go through when they start college and I think it is done nicely here.

In addition to that issue, the story also explores Nick’s awareness and acceptance of the fact that he is gay (or bi, he is never totally sure).  I think the early parts of this felt a little awkward to me.  I mean, he has done virtually everything but anal sex with Gabe, yet Nick is still sure he isn’t gay.  I wasn’t ever really clear if he is firmly in denial, or if he is just oblivious, or if he really thinks straight guys give and receive naked blow jobs with each other all the time.  If it is denial, I get that, but if that is the case it didn’t come across clearly enough.  I mean at one point they are naked, Nick just finished giving Gabe a blow job, and Nick is planning to top Gabe in anal sex.  And then when Gabe touches him to prep Nick for a plug (so he can feel what it is like to be penetrated), Nick thinks to himself, “Still, he had to admit Gabe’s touch was starting to border on a little bit gay.” Um, ya think? Just a little bit gay maybe?

Once the story moves along into the acceptance phase I found it much smoother going.  I am a fan of the “just realizing I am gay” trope and I think Harris handles it well here.  Both Nick and Gabe are really likeable both individually and together.  I am not sure Gabe needed to tell Nick he was gay and in denial in basically their first conversation, but other than that he was a really a good person, amusing and friendly.  And I enjoyed watching Nick sort of grow into himself, realizing what he wanted out of a relationship, accepting himself, and then just going for it. I also liked how Nick connects with Chris from College Boys, since both recently realized they were gay and Chris provides a good sounding board for Nick as he goes through the process.

Overall I liked this story and am continuing to enjoy this series.  Some aspects stretched my belief at times, but I still think it was a lot of fun with likeable characters, hot sex, and an interesting story.

For more of the Men of Holsum College series:

 

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