Jay and Seb are not so much oil and water as fire and ice. In almost every way, they’re complete opposites: Jay is the son of a loving, working class family and Seb is the heir to his father’s vast business empire. Jay is in the closet, even to himself, while Seb is out nightly, flaunting his sexuality. But when golden boy Jay Ruttman and the ice prince Sebastian Saunders come together, it’s steamy passion and an unforgettable first love.
Both young men transferred to a local East London university from other, more prestigious colleges. Jay got into a fight on the football pitch and lost his spot at the pro-Academy, having to settle for being a Sports Scholar and hoping to do well enough to impress a scout for a chance at the future he’s always wanted. Sebastian tanked his grades to get himself kicked out of his expensive private school, ending up in a public university to piss off his father. It’s here that he met Martin and Noah, his band mates, and here he ended up running into Jay.
It’s not love at first sight. It’s something both more complex and far more simple. Attraction and interest that turn into something that’s not quite friendship until it is, and ends up being something neither of them were looking for. Love. But love is a fragile thing and Sebastian’s father — and his father’s plans — stand in the way of any chance of happiness.
Jay doesn’t know what he wants. Not really. Having gotten himself kicked out of his previous school, he has to work twice as hard at the local university in order to catch the attention of coaches and scouts in the hopes of getting chosen for a professional football team. Lately, though, his heart hasn’t been in it and he just seems to get by. He’s still friends with Ann, his childhood girlfriend, even though they broke up years ago. He does alright in class but, it’s as if the wind’s been taken out of his sails. Jay has lost his spark, and meeting Sebastian only makes it worse. Sebastian makes him feel things he’s been trying to put aside — his interest in other men, the idea that he may not be straight — and excites him. Seb smokes and drinks, has tattoos, and sings in a rock band. He’s loud and rough and edged in a way that Jay isn’t, and he draws Jay like a flame draws a moth.
Seb’s mother abandoned her family when he was quite young, leaving him with his father who — as far as Seb can see — is just a cold, angry authority figure. He does anything and everything he can think of to both get back at William and to get his attention. Unfortunately, it only gets him disapproval, anger, and contempt. If it weren’t for his music, Seb might have turned to more violent forms of expression. Instead, he writes songs full of rage and pain and unloads his pain on Noah and Martin.
Adding even more drama to Seb’s life was his affair with Stephen, his father’s personal assistant. It was a relationship that, for Seb, was a strike against his father. A relationship that ended when Stephen got a girl pregnant and ended up married to her. Stephen still wants to control Seb, and Seb can’t help but rising to the insults and comments with sneers and snarls of his own. It’s during one of their run-ins — Stephen trying to get back into Seb’s life and bed — that Jay interferes, blackening Stephen’s eye and earning Seb’s bright, focused interest. It’s not that he needed the rescue, but having someone try to rescue him, try to help him suddenly turned Jay from “the idiot who ran into me” into the guy he wants to snog. There’s a neediness to Sebastian, an urgency to the way he shows off for Jay, the way he struts and preens and kisses Jay that’s new to both of them.
For Jay, having the bright focus of Seb on him is addictive. To get to see the sweet side, the wounded side as well as the showman who can control a crowded room, to have someone who can flirt with — and have — anyone and everyone suddenly want Jay. Jay makes Seb feel safe and relaxed; Seb makes Jay feel wanted and wonderful. It’s a first love for both of them, bright and bittersweet.
There are some honestly amusing parts, some well-written parts (and a few that are overly written), and it’s interesting to see a book about young love and first loves have an actual villain that isn’t just class prejudice. For a villain, the line between creepy and caricature can be quite slim, and Stephen crosses that line more than once. But there’s a line, in one of his confrontations with Seb, that is honestly chilling.
“What’s with the new lock on your door?”
While there’s no mentions violence or abuse towards either Seb or Jay, this story has no happy ending. It’s also a reprint of an earlier work (District Line) with name changes, new chapters, and some story edits. This is the first book of a projected trilogy with books two and three scheduled to be out later this year. It can, however, be read as a stand-alone, so you don’t necessarily have to wait for book two before reading this story. I liked Seb, I liked Jay, and I’m very curious to see what happens to them next.