summer skin coverRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Chase grew up the poor kid, with a flighty artist mother, and never staying in one place for long. When he starts a new school his senior year, things get off to a rocky beginning when one of the most popular guys in school, Aven Sinclair, seems to inexplicably hate him. Fortunately, the conflict between them doesn’t last long and, much to Chase’s surprise, it turns out that Aven is actually interested in him. The two fall hard for one another, reveling in their sweet, young love. They share a love of music, writing songs together and dreaming about their future. But as much as he loves Aven, Chase has never been able to fully shrug off the self-doubt that plagues him. And, on the cusp of taking their next steps together, Chase leaves town.

Five years later, Aven has never gotten over Chase, his one and only true love. His heart broke that day and Aven can’t even imagine ever feeling the same way about anyone else. He resorts to casual, meaningless hook ups and nothing more. Even as he is angry at Chase for leaving without a word, for causing him endless pain and heartache, Aven can still admit to loving him. Then, Aven returns home from out of town, only to find that Chase is the new roommate in his shared house. Seeing Chase suddenly appear in his home, hanging out with his friends, it is all too much for Aven. He is torn between anger and bitterness at Chase, but also the deep longing that he feels upon seeing Chase again.

Aven is determined to keep his distance, but it is impossible with Chase so close. And deep down, Aven doesn’t really want to stay away. With Chase scheduled to leave town again as a touring musician at the end of the summer, the guys agree to spend the intervening time together. They can enjoy each other once again, have some closure, and end things when Chase leaves. But it is all easier said than done, as the love and passion the men once had for each other has only grown stronger over the years. Now that Chase and Aven have finally found their way back together, they need to decide if they can find a way to make things work long term, or if they will say goodbye at the end of the summer.

Summer Skin is the second book in Dani Lakely’s University District series and I just loved this one! The book follows Cam Fan, which features one of Aven’s roommates, but while Tyler and Justin do appear here, I think you could read this one on its own. This is a story told in two halves, with the first part focusing on their relationship in high school, and the second taking place five years later when Chase and Aven meet again. I liked the way Lakely sets this all up, as the book opens with a prologue from Aven’s POV as he comes home from a short-term job playing guitar to find Chase is his new roommate. The book then jumps back in time to give us their young love story from Chase’s POV, then returns to Aven’s narration for the second half in present day. I think this works particularly well in that we meet Aven in the first book as a side character and so, as a reader, I felt connected to him, particularly as we see how devastated he is to see Chase again as the book opens. It was then helpful to start off the main story from Chase’s POV so we get to connect with him and see things from his perspective.

This is a sweet, sexy, and deeply romantic story. The first portion where they are high schoolers is just such a beautiful story with all the intense emotions of young love. Chase and Aven fall so hard for one another and begin to envision their future together. I just fell in love with both of them and, if you are a fan of first love stories, I think you will adore them as well. Then, they reconnect in present day and have to figure out a way back together. The hard part for both men is that they are still in love, but they have this conflict hanging over them. Chase is eager to move forward, but Aven was so hurt for so long, he has a harder time taking another chance with Chase. But once they decide to give it a shot for the summer, all that intensity and passion comes back. I did enjoy the first part a tiny bit more than the second, but I found the story well rounded overall and really lovely.

My only small complaint is that I wanted some earlier discussion about what exactly happened all those years ago. We know the basics, but not the specifics, and given how good these guys are about sharing their feelings, it seemed weird that they never just talk about it once Chase shows back up. We do learn some things later in the book that explain not just what happened, but gives some context as to why they don’t talk about it sooner, but it comes late enough that I found myself a little frustrated early on wanting some clarity.

Overall, I found this just a really engaging story. It combines the intensity of young love, the pain of heartbreak, and the thrill of reuniting. I really enjoyed both Chase and Aven and loved their story, and I can definitely recommend this one.

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