Jay is heading off to college in the fall and he has decided it’s time to be more comfortable accepting who he is — a gay jock who likes poetry. So when he learns his favorite poet is reading at an 18 and over bar, he makes the trip out to hear him. While there, Jay meets a gorgeous older man, Emile, and the two seem to have an instant spark. It looks like the connection might be leading somewhere, but things fall through and Jay is left with nothing but memories.
Weeks later, Emile can’t stop thinking of the young man he met in the bar over the summer. He was totally drawn to Jay, but the age difference made him panic. But Emile hasn’t been able to get Jay out of his mind. Imagine his surprise, however, when Jay walks into Emile’s introductory English class at the college.
Emile’s attraction to Jay hasn’t diminished, but the reasons for not getting involved just multiplied. However, he can’t stop thinking about Jay and, for his part, Jay is just as attracted to Emile. Not only is their chemistry intense, but Jay is newly exploring his interest in kink, something that aligns with Emile’s own desires. Emile realizes Jay could be exactly what he wants and needs, if Emile can only let himself have him.
Jaywalking is the first in Rachel Ember’s new Tangled Leash series and appears to be the author’s debut publication. I was drawn in to this one right away from the blurb highlighting the student/teacher angle, as well as the younger dominant partner dynamic. I found I really enjoyed the author’s writing style and it fit well with the story. Both Jay and Emile have an interest in poetry and Emile is an English professor, and Ember’s style is really evocative with some great imagery and a really nice style. She paints great pictures with her words, without having the writing feel stuffy or overly dramatic. In particular, I liked how Ember connects Jay’s role on the soccer field with his personality as he relates to Emile. It does a great job really giving us insight into his character in a nice way.
Jay and Emile have great chemistry together and the sexual tension really leaps off the page, particularly in the early scene when they first meet. Considering there is very little sex here (in fact, nothing really other than some kissing and a lot of tension until the epilogue), Ember manages to really create an intense sense of heat and longing. Obviously, you need to be good with the idea that Emile is ultimately dating a student at his school (as well as the fact that there seems to be no real threat of repercussions discussed), but as long as you are good with that, there is a great dynamic between the men that I really liked.
The real issue for me here is that I think the story suffered from its shorter length (it is a long novella/short novel). It’s not just that I wanted more (though I did), but that a lot of things are brought up and never explored in enough depth. One of them is the student/teacher angle and the resulting risks. But there are others as well. The biggest is that we never actually see the relationship develop. The story takes us through the very earliest stages of the guys agreeing to move forward to something, but then we jump to almost a year later and their whole relationship is just highlighted in sort of a recap in the epilogue. We see almost none of it on page. The story makes time to give details on other things, like the dogs Jay walks, or both guys hanging out with friends, but then skips over a lot of the main relationship, which should be the crux of the story. The book also introduces a Dom/sub type dynamic, and it is clear that Jay is just starting to explore his interest in being a more dominant partner. And again, in the epilogue we learn that has come to pass, but we don’t see anything in between him talking about it briefly with Emile and it being a done deal. There are just a lot of places where key things are introduced, but we never see them develop, while other less directly relevant thing are given more page time.
This story is the fist in a series and, based on the blurbs of the next couple of books, it looks to center around the dog walking connection. (Both Emile’s friend and Jay’s friend look to be getting their own books, which is perhaps why they seem to get so much of the limited page time here.) I am definitely intrigued by both characters, so I am eager to follow along and check out more of Ember’s work.
P.S. I don’t usually change covers when authors release new editions because it would be full time job keeping up with it all. But Ember recovered this book almost immediately after I wrote the review (as well as the covers for her at that point unreleased other books in the series), so I updated the cover here. Just in case anyone is confused, here is the old one…