watching and wantingRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Shawn has graduated, and while most of his friends have moved on, he is stuck in a dull job and all alone after being dumped by his girlfriend. Shawn lives in a shared house with some other guys, and while they get along all right, Shawn doesn’t quite fit in and at times ends up speaking without thinking and causing trouble with his gay housemates.

Jude is out and proud and has no time for Shawn’s macho posturing. Jude is a student and makes extra money running a cam boy show from his room. When Shawn accidentally catches him at it, Jude is mortified. Not that he is embarrassed by his job, but he is sure this is going to make things very awkward between them.

Shawn is shocked when he sees Jude filming, but he is intrigued as well, and can’t help but secretly check out Jude’s show. He can admit to himself that he is much more curious about watching the other man that he would have expected, and in fact, finds it a huge turn on. Shawn is so drawn in by Jude’s show that he offers to take part, just to see what it is like being with a guy. Jude’s fans love it, Jude himself finds Shawn crazy hot, and Shawn surprises himself by how much he enjoys the experience. Not only that, but Jude totally picks up on Shawn’s kink for a little domination and light bondage, something he has never shared with previous girlfriends.

As the guys continue to film together, the sexual chemistry between them is off the charts. Shawn comes to accept that he is bisexual, and thoroughly enjoys being initated into the world of sex with men. And as they get to know each other better as roommates, they also begin to build a solid friendship. Things are going well for them, but Shawn is wary of coming out and being public with their relationship — and Jude is not interested in going back in the closet. Now they have to figure out if they can move their relationship from fooling around on camera, to something real and lasting between them.

Watching and Wanting is the fourth book in Jay Northcote’s Housemates series. The series is tied together by a shared house where most of the characters have lived, and while the guys often reappear in each others books, the stories stand alone pretty solidly. In this case, Shawn has made appearances in earlier stories (he was the one who discovers Mac and Jez together in Helping Hands), but Jude is newer (or at least he has not had a major appearance in the previous books).

I have been enjoying this series all along as it hits what Northcote does so well — young love, guys coming of age, and lots of hot sexual chemistry. I think this one is actually probably my favorite in the series as it has a few of my other hot buttons, including some light kink by way of domination, light bondage, and some edging, as well as a sense of voyeurism as Jude (and later Jude and Shawn) perform for the camera, and with Shawn getting off secretly watching Jude do his show. These guys are crazy sexy together. The book falls pretty heavily on the sex side of the “sex to story” ratio, but Northcote makes it work. I worried a little early on that it would be hard to transition these guys from sex buddies to an actual romantic relationship, but again, Northcote is great at this. We see the friendship growing, the connection between them getting more intense, and by the time the story wraps up, I could totally believe in their happy ending.

I also like the way the story explores Shawn’s coming out. He starts off the story (and the series) a little uncertain about his own sexuality and so he puts on some airs of macho posturing that get him in trouble. But despite that, Shawn is introspective enough to accept what his body is telling him and to take it in stride as it becomes clearer that he is into guys as well as women. It isn’t a perfect journey, however; at times Shawn still leaps to a defensiveness that shows his discomfort with himself and his fear of being found out. But we see nice growth from him over the course of the book.

So this is a really fun series and I think this is my favorite installment. Like I said, you could jump in here, but if the series appeals to you, I’d definitely encourage you to check out the others as well.

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