Rian Falwell is the art teacher at Alvin Academy, an exclusive boarding school for boys. It’s a place where wealthy parents send their sons who they want to hide, for lack of a better word. The boys are trouble makers who embarrass their families…out of sight, out of mind.
Rian is an ethereal sort…flowy clothing, bangle bracelets, hair down to his waist, and he’s a caring teacher. Lately, he’s noticed one of his best students, Christopher, has been acting differently. Chris is often tired and hasn’t been focused. One day, the football coach, Damon Louis, comes in shouting at Rian, wanting to know what he is doing with Christopher. Apparently Christopher has been missing football practice, telling Damon he’s staying after school to work in Rian’s classroom. Rian is confused because Christopher’s been telling him he’s late for football and must run.
Even though Rian and Damon grate on each other’s nerves and they constantly argue, they realize they must work together to figure out what’s going on with their star student. Eventually, both men’s walls of defense begin to crumble. They wind up sharing their own troubles with each other. They also begin to want each other. The road isn’t easy. They still frustrate each other, and their arguments are still legendary, but saving Christopher from himself must be their priority.
Once Christopher’s troubles are settled, can Rian and Damon put aside their differences and become the couple they want to be? Or will those differences get in the way of their true happiness?
I’m going to start by telling you book one of the Albin Academy series, Just Like That, was amazing, and that is the reason I jumped on the opportunity to read book two, Just Like This. The whole boarding school aspect of the stories fascinates me. The men are in a sort of enclosed environment. Their options are limited, and they must rely on each other. The situations felt real, especially in this installment. Teachers always express concern for troubled students, and they feel responsibility for them. Here, even though Rian and Damon don’t get along, that concern and responsibility is more important than their personal feelings.
I loved both Rian and Damon. They were fundamentally good men, even though they grew up in extraordinary situations: Rian in a wealthy home where he felt like he didn’t belong, and Damon in a loving home where he wasn’t sure who he truly was. Their chemistry was off the charts, once again, even though their personalities clashed. Their fall was slow and full of road blocks. Every time it seemed as if their walls were going to collapse, when they’d begin to let each other in, a new conflict would arise. I have to say, this was really my only knock on Just Like This. The whole will they/won’t they, are they/aren’t they section of the book got a little tedious and dragged a bit. Thankfully, the dam broke, and when it did, it was perfect.
I’d like to take a moment to talk about the author’s writing style. There’s only one word for it, and that is “poetic.” The words flowed beautifully, and I was completely caught up in not only the story, but the pure beauty of the writing. Here is an example. It’s the first kiss Rian and Damon share:
Because he could say anything else, Damon let out a frustrated, breathless growl. And jerked Rian roughly close as he bent over him, that sizzling presence swarming over him, the cool dampness of Damon’s hair pouring over his cheeks as those angry, firm, ever-so-sensuous lips descended on Rian’s to capture him in a kiss
Rian froze. Heat crashed over him in an onslaught, and before his mind could tell him don’t do this every ounce of pent-up fury and frustration and loneliness and wanting inside him burst and took control. HIs arms slid around Damon’s neck, and he buried his fingers in the cool slick of wet hair that practically steamed against the burning flame of Damon’s burnished skin, the tight muscles flexing in his neck and thrumming with the low rumble that blead between them as Rian parted his lips, and gave his mouth to Damon’s with a hunger Rian hasn’t known he possessed.
A hunger to consume…and be consumed.
Wow. That left me speechless!
Now, I don’t want to give too much away. I will say, as I already mentioned, the issues with Christopher felt very real to me. None of it felt like a reach against reality. It all made perfect sense, and I was pleased with how it turned out.
Speaking of please, I was so happy with Rian and Damon’s love story. The epilogue summed it up perfectly, and it gave me such a warm, happy feeling. I was very happy with Just Like This on the whole. It was an excellent follow up to the first book. In fact, it may have been (in my opinion at least) a little better than Just Like That. I absolutely, wholeheartedly recommend this book…both books…and I think you should pick them up. They’re fantastic and so enjoyable.