When you meet a guy that pushes your every button and is undeniably someone who you really want to get to know better, how disappointing is it to find out they are deep in the closet and for some very good reasons? Jackson really can understand why Ed desires to keep his sexuality a secret—after all, not only does Ed think his job depends on it, but since his parents need his income to stay afloat and pay the mortgage, it’s pretty important that he stay employed. But there is no denying the attraction between Ed and Jackson and the more time they spend together, the more likely it is that Ed will be found out.
For Jackson, the stupid bet he’s made with what essentially is the frat bully doesn’t help at all. Since his parents died, he and his best friend, and brother by guardianship, have always dreamed of living in the same frat house room their dads did at their age. Now with the fraternity formal looming and the bet that Jackson must bring a date in order to remain in the room that is one of the last links to his dad’s memory hanging over his head, the stakes are very high to either get Ed to agree to come or convince him taking another guy would be okay.
Andy Gallo has released his first solo novel, Better Be Sure, and it’s a really nice college romance. Jackson has lost both his parents and is slowly recovering from the trauma. He has been through some counseling and has been supported by his best friend, Marcus, and Marcus’ parents who are his guardians, making he and Marcus “brothers.” Now at college, Jackson and Marcus are living in the very same room their dads had as college students and it means everything to Jackson to be there. It’s his last link to his dad and nothing is going to make him give it up, not even the stupid bet he took when he was pushed around by the guy who loves to bait him and who cheated on Jackson’s best gal pal. Then he meets Ed and something so simple like dating becomes a minefield for both guys.
All Ed knows is the last guy to come out as gay at the garage he works at was fired a few weeks later. He can’t risk that exposure since his own dad lost his job and can’t find a new one. His money is vital to his parents and has kept Ed working and attending only community college to earn his degree. Staying in the closet isn’t ideal, but it’s the only way to go and until Jackson showed up, it was enough. Now Ed is faced with the very real problem of either losing his job or giving up Jackson whom he cares for too much to see stuck in the closet with him.
With great characters that were so fully realized I felt I could walk onto any campus and recognize them, to the sexual tension and obvious chemistry between Jackson and Ed, Better Be Sure is a fiery and passionate love story that went well beyond the normal college boys fall in love trope I am so used to reading. I was instantly pulled into this story. Jackson had endured a lot to this point in his life and it was obvious how much he mourned the loss of his parents.
I appreciated how the author took the time to let us know Jackson had undergone some counseling to cope with the panic attacks and anxiety he felt due to their loss in his life. If I were going to say that I had any reservations about this novel, it might be that I think given the amount of trauma Jackson is still dealing with regarding his folks, some further counseling might be warranted. There are several instances in this novel where Jackson comes close to losing it and Marcus is able to pull him back and help him cope. Given that side plot point, it’s obvious how much Jackson is still affected by their deaths. However, in the grand scheme that’s still a minor point and even though it is a fairly frequent theme for Jackson, it doesn’t overshadow how strong the story was overall.
The growing relationship between Ed and Jackson was very well done. So often with stories I have read with characters this age, there seems to be more attention given to the sex they have rather than to the actual development of the story surrounding their attraction. This was not the case in this novel. Instead, Gallo spent time just letting these guys date and get to know each other—even going as far as Ed introducing his parents to his “friend” Jackson. I appreciated how the author made the decision to develop both the characters and their feelings for each other and have it be the focus of the novel.
With a coming out trope added to the mix of a first love theme, Better Be Sure was a really entertaining novel that was well written and definitely establishes the author, Andy Gallo, as someone to watch for in the future.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.