Brent Collins, a new professor in the music department of a mid-western university, makes friends quickly among his students and his colleagues. A traumatic experience in high school has him determined to stay celibate in his personal life. However, his resolve is tested when he meets the very sexy and slightly older Gabe Sutton.
Although Gabe is happy in his work as an electrician for the college’s Buildings and Grounds crew, he’s less happy with his love life. He’s had brief flings with a few men, but none have been worth coming out of the closet for. That is, until a new French horn professor joins the faculty.
Though Brent and Gabe are careful not to be seen in public together often, rumors begin to spread, as does a series of electrical failures on work orders Gabe has completed. Someone is out to discredit Gabe, but who? Will these incidents cause the spark of Gabe’s and Brent’s budding romance to fizzle out, or will exposing the wrongdoer bring their duet into ever closer harmony?
This book wasn’t for me. As much as I tried to like it, it just didn’t work. In the end, I put it down before the halfway mark instead of finishing it.
Right off the bat, the narrative style didn’t work for me. There were tense shifts throughout the book that really niggled at my brain. Told in alternating first person, it was mostly in past tense, but then sentences or paragraphs would be in present tense. The MCs aren’t the only ones who get POV scenes, though they get the most. Every time there was a POV switch to other characters, it caught my attention in a bad way. On top of that, there was far too much telling here and not enough showing. Being told about important details instead of seeing them play out was not ideal for me. But even more so were the times that conversations were actively ongoing in the passage, but instead of seeing the conversation, it was told through the filter of storytelling. For one example, instead of a character asking, “How are things going?” instead it was written “She asked me how things were going.” It created far too much distance between me and the story.
The MCs are both fine, if not particularly well drawn. At times, both Brent and Gabe read like caricatures instead of people. But they were surface characters at best and that, coupled with the telling-style narrative, kept me from really engaging with the characters and with the story. When the pet names came into play seconds after beginning to date, and they were numerous and somewhat cliched, it created even more disconnect for me. I also found the dialogue that was on page to be stilted, cliched, and often over the top. It didn’t feel natural and I had a hard time going with it.
But none of that was enough to make me give up on the book on its own.
The first time I almost put the book down was prior to the 20% mark. Brent hooks up with a secondary character. That in and of itself is not a problem for me. However, the whole tone of the scene felt far too much like coercion and, on top of that, the secondary character made two separate joking references to having raped Brent. I think the author was going for something almost playful, but for me, rape is never something to joke about, no matter who is involved or what the culture might be like. This left a bad taste in my mouth then for the rest of the book, and a lot of it didn’t sit well with me. But I kept reading.
But things kept going downhill. Not even halfway through the book, the MCs were declaring their love for each other. Considering the utter lack of chemistry between the MCs, this was wholly unbelievable. Other than the instant attraction upon first meeting, I didn’t feel any other connection between them. Part of that was due to the telling narrative, and many of their early interactions were nothing more than a sentence of something like “we spent time together and enjoyed conversation” (not a direct quote), which left me in the dark in regards to their chemistry. But part of that was also simply the flatness of the characters as they were portrayed on page.
Ultimately, I put the book down at 48% percent and decided not to finish it. I finally gave up after a secondary character was shown to be coerced into sex as blackmail for something he did, and then it was followed closely by Brent having a conversation with one of his students about the student’s inappropriate erections and how nice they were, but they couldn’t do anything about them. This just didn’t sit right with me, as the inherent power imbalance just made the whole conversation creepy. The things both Brent and the student said just made it feel too close to crossing a line that I wasn’t comfortable with.
I wasn’t the right audience for this book and it wasn’t to my taste. And in the end, I chose to put it down rather than finish it.