Rating: 4.25 stars
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Professor Evander Carson can’t believe his student James Sheridan has just offered him sex in exchange for improving his failing grade in history. Carson knows he has a reputation on campus for being gay and kinky, but there is no way he would ever sell grades for sex. But he does see some potential in James, both academically and in terms of James figuring out what he wants sexually. So he offers James a deal: Carson will tutor him, using some unconventional techniques, and if he does well, the sexual reward will be well worth it.
James is mortified that he has sunk so low as to try to bribe his professor with sex. But after some big trouble at the end of the previous year, James needs to keep his grades up desperately. When Carson offers to tutor him, James isn’t really sure what to expect, or what Carson wants from him in return. But he needs the help and he is definitely intrigued by the professor. And what James learns is not only a lot of new history, but many things he never imagined about himself as well.
So, I’ll admit that at first I was a little squeamish about the whole teacher/student thing, especially given the age gap. But it really works here for a couple of reasons. First off, Carson is very clear that this is not sex in exchange for grades and that nothing that happens during the “tutoring” sessions will impact James’ grade one way or another. I never felt that James was being manipulated or used, and in fact, though the incentive to do well is sexual, they don’t actually have sex until after the class ends. I also think it works here because this story is a prequel to Giving an Inch, which takes place some years later, and having read that, we know that James and Carson go on to have a significant relationship. So I could read this knowing that ultimately there is an emotional relationship here, that these guys become important parts of each other’s lives, and I think that helped with accepting what normally I would have been wary about.
This story is fairly short and it really doesn’t give us much indication of what happens to these guys after the final exam. Again, that is why I think this works well as a prequel, because we already have the backstory fleshed out from that first book. There we learn that the men have broken up, primarily because James began to feel uncertainty about his own willingness to put limits on their sexual exploration. But we also see the guys reconnect, and know that James has grown a lot and that maybe there can be more between them once again. What I think the authors do well here is to pull out those threads from the other book and really highlight them here. For example, we learn about James’ issues with addiction, which explains his fears about giving in too much that we learned about in Giving an Inch. So I found this book to be very well developed and a great companion to the first story. I think it could probably be read before Giving an Inch, but I am not so sure it makes a good standalone as you really don’t get that larger context that made this book feel complete.
I think my biggest issue is that I wanted more from this — more kink (the first book was smoking and I expected more of the same), more of a sense of realization from James about his interest in the kink, more detail on James’ past, and just maybe more to happen. Even with having read the first book, I still think this felt a little too simple. But I did enjoy this one and loved seeing the early stages of James and Carson’s relationship. I am definitely looking forward to more in this series and can’t wait to see where it all goes.