What to do when you are a teaching assistant and suddenly find yourself attracted to the man sitting in the front row of your classroom? While there may not be a school policy against your pursuing him, your past is like an anchor around your neck and you are determined to make your family proud of you again and dating a student is not in the cards. But you are drawn to each other and before you know it, a friendship blooms and passion is not far behind. Now if only you can keep it in check until the end of the term.
Such is the reality for David Powell, who has fallen for Ben Cooper, a student in his communications class. Both men bring a bit of baggage with them to college, Ben having just spent six years in the military trying to please a domineering father who has never been any kind of emotional support, and David who got kicked out of his previous school for stealing a test and partying way too hard. So, it makes sense that both these guys are determined to play by the rule book, even though they are crazy about each other.
Shae Connor offers up a slow burn of a romance in her latest release, Teaching Ben. While both David and Ben have great appeal and their burgeoning relationship was sweet and tantalizing, there were some decided problems with this story that left me more than a bit befuddled. I am unsure as to why the author chose to introduce a rather smarmy character named Larry who apparently had interest in both David and Ben and a rather strange way of showing it. Coming on strong is a misnomer when it came to this part stalker/part scorned lover figure who appeared to wreak havoc and then disappeared just as quickly a few times in the story. I never really understood who this guy Larry was or where he came from other than to have him appear suddenly in the story to hit on Ben or David and then angrily threaten them with repercussions for spurning his advances. It was just a weird plot thread that randomly surfaced a few times and never really went anywhere, but was used to throw both Ben and David into a panic over somehow being caught together when they weren’t together anyway.
The second and rather larger confusion I had was over whose story this really was—the focus initially seemed to be on Ben and his transition from the military to civilian life and learning how to live a life that didn’t focus on the strict soldier’s schedule he had been reared to embrace. Then the trajectory of the book changed and seemed to focus more on David and his past, which meant that while we got all kinds of clues about this distant and harsh father Ben had been raised by, we never really got a solid glimpse in to his past. I was raised in a family with many military men and I have to say that none of them were as backward as Ben seemed to be—the idea that he missed out on so much socialization by living on military bases seemed rather unbelievable. I understood that Ben was shy and unused to non-military folk, but It was as if he lived in a monastery hidden away, rather than on an army base.
I did enjoy watching these two men grow into their attraction. I like a slow burning romance and this one fit that bill. I did find that the glut of sex in the last two or three chapters a bit over the top even though I understood the author was trying to portray the pent up sexual frustrations of two men. I got it—and to be honest I didn’t need several days of nonstop sex to make me figure it out. Overall, I felt the story was unfinished. Little was really known about Ben by the end of the novel, the character of Larry seemed like an obligatory “bad guy” trope just to give the story some sinister action, and family scenes at David’s home were a bit too idealistic to be palatable. Shae Connor is a very good author, but I felt this particular story fell short of what we are used to seeing from this gifted writer.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.