Helping Hand by Jay NorthcoteRating: 4.25 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Length: Novella

Jez and Mac are housemates in their second year of uni. Jez’s parents have money but cut off his allowance after Jez rang up a huge debt drinking last term. Mac’s folks are pretty much expecting Mac to flunk out after he didn’t keep on his studies. While they both want to go out partying this term, neither is in position to do so: Jex is skint (broke) and Mac needs to focus on his assignments. So they spend a lot of quiet Friday and Saturday nights at home. Without the chance of meeting people for sex, Jez suggests they jerk off together. And he is stunned when Mac agrees.

As the weeks pass, Jez’s desire for Mac climbs. Jez went to private boarding school and he had many male partners in his adolescence, though he rather considered himself straight. His revised opinion is “potentially bisexual” as he finds Mac to be extremely good-looking, sexy and—as they spend more and more time together—interesting on a personal level. They don’t just wank. They talk about school, work on projects together, and play video games. In short, they’re mates. Jez wants more, and is sometimes able to achieve it when he and Mac are fortified by liquid courage. Each time he has to walk Mac back, however, as Mac is opposed to considering himself even a little gay, being a recipient of all Jez’s sexual favors notwithstanding.

I found this to be a very tender friends-to-lovers story. Jez is taken with Mac and he’s heartbroken when they finally do go out with their friends and women are hitting on Mac right in front of him. He tells this story and his POV is so bittersweet. Mac seems so hesitant, so reticent, that I was as surprised as Jez when Mac takes control in their experimentations. I was dismayed, too, every time Mac denied his “gayness” knowing that it gutted Jez. As will happen in a house full of people, someone will intrude at just the wrong moment, and it caused a whole lot of heartache. Poor Jez! (And, poor Mac!) Good thing there are other roomies who have an eye on the situation and a willingness to counsel. Expect an HEA before term’s end.

This is a well-paced novella with engaging characters and a slowly building romance. As with all the Northcote stories I’ve read, the men are realistic, lovely, with big hearts and delicious vulnerability.

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