Story Rating: 3.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Kenneth Obi
Length: 5 hours, 40 minutes
Ben Cooper is a 24-year-old who’s recently left the Air Force and begun college. He’s had a tough life with a father who didn’t care much for him. He left home at 18 to enter the service and is only coming out now, as well. He’s immediately attracted to his TA, David Powell, but neither man is willing to start a relationship while they are linked in class. The author goes to great pains to make it clear such a relationship would not be frowned upon—which was surprising considering that behavior was severely frowned upon when I was teaching in universities. Anyway, they make a concerted effort to become friends, and I do believe that was really clearly shown.
Ben and David’s sister are both freshmen and have a chemistry course together. This trio seems nicely aligned in friendship; that is clearly building into something more for both Ben and David. The Powells invite Ben to dinner, and Ben accepts cooking lessons from Ben’s sister. It’s a nice dynamic. They also invite Ben to stay for Thanksgiving and Christmas at their family home. As the weeks and months go on, Ben and David confess their deepest secrets: Ben’s insecurity and lack of family and David’s battle with alcoholism. They build a strong rapport and it’s tangible. Ben makes other connections, too, and thrives in his education, which was nice to see. He’s a veteran, but doesn’t have PTSD issues or a bad experience that he’s suffering under, so that was a refreshing voice.
There’s a strange situation with a pushy, meathead at school named Larry that rather put me off. He was written to come on way too strong and caused inappropriate mischief, especially as we were told often enough that David and Ben dating would not be a problem. Yet, somehow, when Larry makes a phony complaint, it becomes an issue. That didn’t ring true and took me out of the story. Also, be prepared for a really long, really slow burn here. David and Ben don’t get together until way, way late in the book.
That said, I liked how narrator Kenneth Obi brought this book to life. The story was rather low stakes and low intensity, but his voice really kept me moving along and enjoying the journey. I might not have liked this book so much as a read, to be honest, because the pace would have felt slow compared to the audio. The heat, when it comes, is decent, though I was amped up for a bit more. Again, the narrator really helped me feel a part of the story, when I might have otherwise felt deflated.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.