It is Aaron Seavers’ 18th birthday and his life is a mess. He has a domineering father who makes all his decisions for him and makes his life miserable. Aaron can’t figure out where to go to college even though it is already June of his senior year. And having moved to a new school this year, he may be popular, but has no real friends. However, it is his birthday so Aaron reluctantly agrees to go to a school party, where he gets drunk alone in the laundry room.
Giles Mulder can not wait to get out of his small Minnesota town and off to college. Anything has to be better than the bullying and abuse he has suffered for being out and gay. At college Giles can start fresh, playing his violin and being out without fear of retribution. Despite the bullying, Giles has always found himself with plenty of straight (or not so straight) guys willing to hook up with him. Of course, as soon as it is over, they are back to the bullying, even angrier than before as they fear exposure. As things go bad at the party, Giles ducks into the laundry room to escape, where he encounters Aaron.
The two guys manage to flee the party together and the connection between them is immediate. Deep down Aaron knows he is attracted to guys, though he has never admitted it to himself, and he and Giles have an amazing, scorching encounter that blows him away. But Aaron is freaked out afterwards, not knowing how to handle this new awareness of his own sexuality. And Giles assumes it is just another “shame-and-blame” hookup where Aaron is freaked out and will never speak to him again, or worse, will now try to beat him up. He really felt a connection with Aaron, but puts it all behind him until Aaron shows up at the same college as Giles.
At first Giles is furious. College should be his escape, and suddenly here is someone from his past showing up. Not to mention that Aaron is immediately a hit in the music department for his singing and piano playing and Giles once again feels out of place. Both guys try to avoid one another, each sure the other isn’t interested. But as they get further involved with school and the music program, slowly the two come together as friends, and finally admit the attraction for one another that neither one has been able to put aside.
Being together is a dream come true for both guys. They are both happier than they have ever been — in love, successful music students, and with lots of friends who care about them. They are each really finding their way and figuring out what they want out of their lives. But things are still not smooth sailing. Aaron’s dad is furious that Aaron is pursuing his dream of music instead of falling in line. His refusal to take no for an answer threatens Aaron’s future, and only the love and support of Giles and the new family he has found at college can help him find his way.
Ok, so I said it on Twitter and I will say it again here. I am pretty sure this is the best book Heidi Cullinan has ever written. And that is saying a lot, because seriously, this woman is a genius and has written some of my favorite books ever. I never dared to hope this would approach the first book in the series, the fabulous Love Lessons, but to my delight, I think Fever Pitch is even better. It has everything I could want in a story. Amazing romance built into a super sweet first love tale. Drama and tension that broke my heart at times, but also was so warm and uplifting as we see this newly built family come together. Fabulous writing, wonderful pacing, creative story. A lovely incorporation of music and singing and the power of finding something you truly love to devote your life to. And Walter and Kelly! Seriously you guys, couldn’t have been better.
Ok, so let me break it down for you. First off, Giles and Aaron. Sigh. So freaking adorable I can’t stand it. Both of these guys are dying to break free of this little town. Giles is ready to be away from the bullying, to finally have a life where he can be out and open and happy. He knows exactly what he wants, but is stuck waiting to get it. Aaron, on the other hand, has no idea what he wants. His father is a domineering jerk who makes all his decisions for him. So faced with a choice of college, Aaron is stuck, especially because he knows he is going to end up having to major in whatever his dad picks anyway. Their connection at the party is so immediate and intense. They are sexy and passionate and it is clear that these guys have something between them, but Aaron’s fear and Giles’ assumptions about Aaron’s motives derail things after the hookup. Even when they get to the same school, it takes a while for the guys to break free of that and finally make their way back to one another.
The pacing on this is perfect. Although of course we are dying for these guys to get back together again, both need time to find themselves at college. Giles and Aaron are both musicians and they jump right into the music programs at school. They make friends, they join orchestras and performance groups, and they both start to really see the future they want. Then, they are finally ready to be together. And seriously you guys, they are amazing together. It is a hard balance between freaking adorable and totally hot, yet Cullinan manages to combine both of them so well in these characters. I mean, they are so romantic and sweet together, but also totally burning and their attraction to one another is palpable. I love the way they take care of each other, nurture each other, and grow together throughout the story. It is such a wonderful and perfect first love that it practically made my heart burst to read it.
This story balances out all that sweetness with some real trials for these guys. Giles suffered real abuse in high school. Aaron is basically bullied by his father and abandoned by his mother. Aaron’s roommate has Bible-thumping parents who terrorize him to the point that he can barely function. Oh, this story broke my heart at times. These guys are really struggling with some very tough stuff. But what is so wonderful is that we see how much they love and care for one another, the bonds of friendship that have formed between them, and the way they rally the troops and come together when they need it. Again, Cullinan really balances these rough situations with the beauty of the support and love these guys have found.
Ok, and one of the best parts: Walter and Kelly! I adored Love Lessons and didn’t think I would find anything to compare with Walter and Kelly. But here Cullinan gives us the magic, because not only do we have these amazing new characters in Giles and Aaron, we have Walter and Kelly too. Walter ends up befriending Aaron during his pre-college summer internship and takes Aaron under his wing. Walter is in graduate school now and he and Kelly are settled together. He recognizes Aaron’s pain and all he wants to do is help take care of him. So while Aaron is away at school, he has basically the best big brother out there in Walter. It is so great to see this couple again, and especially to see all the love and care Walter gives to Aaron, and later Giles and others. If you loved him before in Love Lessons, you are going to go freaking crazy over Walter here. And I will just add that a third book is planned, and OMG, the way Cullinan has set us up for those guys. I can not wait.
So clearly I went crazy for this book and loved it to pieces. I can not recommend it, or Love Lessons, more highly. You can probably start here, but that would be crazy because if you haven’t read Love Lessons you need to fix that immediately. But for fans of the series, you will not be disappointed here. It is everything I could have wanted and more. Cullinan manages to craft a story that is at once sweet and romantic, that pulls on your heart at the same time as it sends it soaring. Just wonderful.
Cover Review: Of course the cover is totally perfect, right? Not only gorgeous, but it just captures the joy of the story so well. Love it.