Ev is the son of a conservative Kansas senator. He has come to college hoping this is his chance to break free of his parents’ controlling behavior and live more for himself and his own desires. After years of putting on a good public face and following his parents’ direction, Ev is now ready to figure out what he really wants out of life. When Ev needs some money, he decides to take a job working as a nude model for the school art program. He knows it would horrify his parents, but he likes the work and even enjoys the thrill of being watched by the students. When an attractive teacher asks Ev to do modeling for his own personal art show, at first Ev isn’t sure. But he’s drawn to the man and curious enough about the work to take a chance.
Adam’s art is all about expressing the contrast between masculinity and vulnerability. His work is deeply sexual and as Ev continues to model for him, it helps him to begin to rethink his own feelings about his sexuality. As a young boy, Ev saw his cousin sent away to “conversion therapy” for being gay and the experience has deeply scarred Ev, leaving him insecure about expressing his own sexual identity. But being with Adam has given Ev a chance to really think about what he wants and it’s soon becomes clear to him that what he wants is a relationship with Adam.
Adam really encourages Ev to question the judgment that he’s received from his parents and his church community all his life, and actually focus on his own desires. As he does, Ev and Adam begin a relationship where for the first time, Ev can explore his sexuality without guilt and begins to have a deep and significant relationship with Adam. With Adam, Ev explores both his interest in men as well as his submissive side and things are hot and intense between them, giving Ev everything that he is always wanted in a relationship and a chance to explore more of himself.
However Ev’s parents are not willing to give up on their beliefs and, when they learn about his relationship with Adam, they threaten to send him away to the conversion therapy program as well. Ev is terrified, knowing that the threat is real. Just as Ev is figuring himself out and accepting what he wants out of life, all that is threatened as his parents and the church attempt to convince him that his love with Adam is wrong. Now with Adam’s help, Ev needs to work to overcome his upbringing and his parents’ attempt to control him so that he can be confident and reach for the love and the relationship that he really wants.
Bare by Lynn telling us a story that really spoke to me. There’s such passion and intensity and a really thought-provoking story that’s wrapped within very hot and sexy packaging. I loved watching Ev’s exploration of himself as, with Adam’s encouragement, and sometimes push, he begins to think about what he really wants and push past the the way he’s grown up. Being the son of a senator and always in the political eye, Ev had very strict expectations of behavior and it isn’t until college that he’s able to really shake free from that and think about what he actually wants. Adam really helps Ev to start to look at himself and accept that he does have interest in men and to move past always doing what somebody else expects of him.
Kelling sets up a really nice dynamic here in that we definitely see Adam push Ev to think things through and to grab what he wants, but at the same time we see how well Ev responds to that and how it really helps him. I like that we see Ev reflecting and we know it’s not just Adam’s pushing, but Ev really taking the time to think about what he wants and reaching for it. That includes not just emotionally, but also sexually, and early on there are a lot of scenes where we see Adam giving Ev little nudges to help him open up and I think that Kelling does a nice job of keeping it right on the line. I never felt like Adam was pushing Ev into something he didn’t want, but there’s just enough there that we can see how Adam’s encouragement is helping Ev to think things through. At one point Ev notes he is at kind of a crossroads; he has begun to take some steps sexually, and he knows he can’t go back to the life he had before, but he is struggling to figure out how to move forward, and Adam really helps with that.
Ev is Adam’s artistic muse and, in a very short time, their relationship gets very deeply intense and physical. There was a really nice sexual chemistry there as Adam is painting Ev in lots of very sexual and vulnerable positions. So I found the story to be very sexy and hot, as well as really thought provoking.
One key element of the story is the “conversion therapy” and what happened to Ev’s cousin. The threat to Ev himself is always hanging over the story, but not knowing exactly how it’s going to affect him adds a layer of intensity to the book that I really enjoyed. I think Kelling does a really good job with this element of the story. It’s definitely terrifying and sadly all too real that these things happen and I think that she does a nice job of showing the terrible situation without going over the top and making the story too horrific. That said, be aware that there are descriptions of frankly the torture that people experience in these programs and so if this is something you have sensitivity to, just be aware. It’s not drawn out and the descriptive parts don’t take a lot of page time, but definitely there are on page elements.
As I said, I love the way we see Ev examining what he wants and needs and the way that Adam pushes him a little bit to move past his comfort zone. This really work for me and I found this adds a nice level of heat, as well as working really well with the story and Ev’s growth over the course of the book. The only aspect that troubled me a little bit was the dominant and submissions elements. I don’t feel like that is ever really something that the guys discuss. They just move from artist and muse, to boyfriends, and then suddenly to a sort of dominant and submissive vibe without ever really talking about the situation. While I never questioned that Ev was interested in men and sex with Adam, I never really got the sense before this that he’s interested in submission as much as it just sort of happens. I would have liked to see them have some conversations about whether this was a lifestyle that Ev wanted, especially as it goes from not just submission, but to referring to Adam as master and having a more intense Dom/sub dynamic. I just think that it would’ve helped me to better accept the at times heavy-handed way that Adam pushes if I felt like they had talked more about Ev really wanting that submissive aspect, instead of just seeing him enjoy it as the story goes on. I also was a little bit bugged by the lack of condom use. For somebody who is so protective over Ev as Adam is, it seems strange to me that he never uses a condom during sex, nor does Ev ever even think of it himself.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story and it’s a book that just sucked me in from the very beginning. I loved the dynamic between Adam and Ev and I love that Kelling made me feel just sometimes just the tiniest bit uncomfortable. I found these guys super hot together. I love the way that we see Ev explore himself and his sexuality and his interests. I think that Kelling adds a nice layer of suspense and intensity with the threats coming from the church and I love seeing the way that Adam helps Ev through this and how Ev comes out the other side as a stronger person. I really enjoy this one a lot and would definitely recommend it.