Drew Jackson is an American teacher who recently accepted a job at an academy in Wales. He’s moved there from London, where he got his degree. Drew left America because of a tragic event, and he’s ready to settle down. On his first day, he meets history teacher, Nathan Morgan. They strike up a friendship and become close.
Nathan is gay, but he doesn’t talk about his sexuality. He doesn’t want it to be revealed at school, so he just keeps everything to himself. Unfortunately, as his friendship with Drew deepens, Nathan begins to have feelings he’s afraid won’t be returned. Drew has never given any impression other than being straight as an arrow, even occasionally making rather crude statements about women and what he’d like to do with them.
When a female student with a certain reputation begins telling everyone she’s been intimate with Drew, everything breaks. Nathan jumps to conclusions, and Drew doesn’t understand what’s happening. He finally realizes it’s Nathan he wants (turns out he’s not as straight as he presented himself), and the two men realize they’ve fallen for each other. However, the tragedy from Drew’s past seems to be keeping him from being truly happy. The men must battle that, as well as an unseemly accusation made against Drew. Will they be able to stay together in spite of everything that’s conspiring against them?
I chose this book for the Reading Challenge Month’s Self Published Book Week because I love several of the tropes in the story…friends to lovers and out for you, but I have a real thing for teachers falling in love. Maybe that comes from my giant crush on my high school math teacher (Seriously…he was the dreamiest man on the planet). All I know is I have a special place in my heart for them. Drew and Nathan didn’t let me down.
Drew and Nathan were strong characters with depth. No one dimensional clichés here. Drew is, for all intents and purposes, on the run from his past. No, he didn’t do anything illegal, but America only reminded him of the terrible thing that happened to him several years back (I don’t want to give that away, though). He really wants a new start, and he’s ready to grab it with this new job. It’s obvious he’s hiding from part of himself in order to feel safe. Instead of safety, though, it’s only bringing him pain and anxiety.
Nathan seems to be a happy man. He’s got a good job, friends, and a great family. He’s not terribly lucky in relationships, though. When he meets Drew, he’s immediately attracted, but when he realizes Drew is straight (well…), he knows he’s in trouble. Even though he tries valiantly, he can’t stop himself for falling for his new best friend. This causes him a different sort of pain than Drew’s, but it’s no less traumatic, especially when his faith in Drew is shaken. Of the two main characters, Nathan was my favorite, and I wish I could have been there for him to offer comfort during the difficult times.
The chemistry between Drew and Nathan was well written and believable, from their friendship, to their romance, to their sex lives. The story isn’t slow moving by any means, but the progression felt natural. I was fully invested in their relationship. I wanted them to find each other and keep each other. They held my interest all the way through. My only issue with them is there was a bit too much angst. I especially wanted to reach through my Kindle to grab and shake Drew. You know that scene in Moonstruck when Cher slapped Nicholas Cage and yelled, “Snap out of it!”. Yeah. It was like that. Still, Drew and Nathan finally came to their senses and got with the program. They were sweet and solid when they needed to be because there is a period of time when they really needed to be.
I’d like to just give a small mention of the sex in Lesson Learned. It was smoking hot, and there is plenty of it! None of it is gratuitous, or sex for the sake of sex. There was passion, playfulness, and they damn near worshipped each other’s bodies (especially from Nathan to Drew). Even when it’s down and dirty, there is a certain tenderness written into the scenes. Some of it is very subtle, but I felt it on a deep level.
There are some important background characters in the story. Nathan’s best friend Kimi, a fellow teacher at the academy, Claire the scheming student, the head teacher, and Nathan’s family…especially his adorable and precocious niece, Bethan. All of them fulfilled their roles and kept everything moving along smoothly. However, Lesson Learned is completely owned by Drew and Nathan. The true focus never leaves them, and that was a relief to me because I wanted to know as much a possible about them and simply be a part of their lives.
I went into this book thinking it may be a pleasant distraction from a rough day, but I got so much more. I finished the book two days ago, and I’m still thinking about Drew and Nathan. In fact, I might even go so far as to say I miss them. I’d love to just be able to go back, knock on their door, and see how they’re doing. I predict they’ll stay with me for a long time. I can’t recommend this book enough, and I’m excited to go and explore other books by Lillian Francis.
This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for Self Published Book Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of seven fabulous prize packs from an amazing group of self published authors. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on Self Published Book Week here, including a list of all the prizes being offered this week. And check out our prize post for more details about the awesome prizes offered this month!