Player and the Prude is the fourth book in Daisy Harris’ Men of Holsum College series and I think it is my favorite so far. It features two guys who are mentioned briefly in the previous book — Matt Porter (Gabe’s roommate) and Brooks Price (Gabe’s occasional sex buddy).
One day Brooks and his lacrosse teammates encounter Matt working at the place where the team is doing some community service. Matt is awkward with his out of style clothes and looming height and Brooks’ friend Hunter hones right in on him. Hunter taunts Brooks about hooking up with a guy like Matt and bets Brooks he can’t sleep with him. Brooks is a wealthy guy with a social climbing mother for whom connections are everything. Hunter’s family is quite powerful and Brooks’ mother is pushing him to foster a relationship with Hunter. Although he and Hunter have hooked up on occasion, Brooks doesn’t like him much. But he goes along with the bet to save face and to maintain their superficial friendship.
At first Matt can’t figure out why Brooks is following him around all the time. But when he talks to Gabe about it, Gabe encourages him to give it shot with Brooks. Matt grew up in a very religious family for whom sex without marriage was a big sin. Matt doesn’t want a casual hookup; he only wants to be intimate with someone within a relationship and whom he loves. So although he is interested in Brooks, he feels bad about it. Adding to his guilt, Matt has some kinky urges that make him feel incredibly ashamed. He has a sort of an aggressive, dominant streak, and he fantasizes about holding Brooks down, rough sex, and nasty talk. So he is wary of both Brooks and his feelings about sex, but Matt ultimately gives in and agrees to date him.
The guys hit it off much more than either of them expected. Brooks is loving and patient and willing to give Matt the time he needs to get comfortable with sex. And Matt slowly opens himself up to Brooks, letting himself reach for what he really wants. The two guys soon are dating seriously, but things continue to be complicated with Hunter. He wants to continue his friends with benefits relationship with Brooks, and Brooks’ mother is pushing him hard to maintain their connection to boost her social standing. Brooks and Matt must work to get their relationship through the interference.
I really liked this story and think it brought in some unique elements I wasn’t expecting. As soon as I read about the bet I assumed the story would follow the typical pattern of the big reveal where Matt would find out and lead to a huge third act conflict. I was pleased that Harris doesn’t take the easy way out here, and keeps the story much broader than this usual cliche.
First off, I think Matt is quite an interesting guy. He has had to reconcile his very religious upbringing with his current beliefs about sex. Being at college has broadened his views and he has become more flexible about what is acceptable to him. But he still wants more than just casual sex, something not always easy to find in a college environment. So on one hand he has moved past most of the shame about his sexuality and his desires. But then he still feels guilt for his kinkier side and even as he and Brooks start to form a relationship, he is afraid to tell Brooks what he really wants and needs. I thought Matt was a really interesting character and nicely developed.
I also really liked Brooks and enjoyed his progression from sort of shallow, popular kid to someone with great sweetness and sensitivity. He is so accepting and supportive of Matt’s emotional and sexual needs. Brooks shows Matt that he can be aggressive and dominant and all the things he wants, and that Brooks can take it, and even revel in it. I loved that their kinks worked together and the guys were a super hot couple.
Brooks deals with quite a bit of family baggage too. His mother is a total social climber, only caring about people who can give her something. He faces considerable pressure to stay friends with Hunter (and even to date him) for the connections he can bring to their family. But Brooks is willing to stand up for himself and for Matt when it is needed and I really liked that about him.
My only real complaint is that the ending felt quite abrupt to me. I wasn’t tracking pages and when I flipped forward and found the ending I practically did a double take. I guess it just didn’t feel like an ending scene, and there were some things I wanted to see before the story ended. For instance, with all the backstory about Matt and his family, it felt like things were never quite resolved. We do get an HEA for these guys though and a sense of where things are going in the long term, even if the short term wasn’t fully fleshed out. So despite my concerns about missing some details, I did feel confident in their relationship and their future.
Overall I really enjoyed this one. Great characters, interesting plot, super sexy, and quite fun.