Published by: Samhain Publishing
Genre: NA M/M Romance
Reviewed by: Judith
Amy Jo Cousins is my new favorite writer: she whips up light-hearted romance like Five Dates and then sucker punches you with a heavy-hitting, quick-witted, sexual identity questioning read like Off Campus. Girlfriend has got IT and knows how to play me like a fiddle. And all I want is a whole lot more…
Plot: [from the publisher] Everyone’s got secrets. Some are just harder to hide.
With his father’s ponzi scheme assets frozen, Tom Worthington believes finishing college is impossible unless he can pay his own way. After months sleeping in his car and gypsy-cabbing for cash, he’s ready to do just that.
But his new, older-student housing comes with an unapologetically gay roommate. Tom doesn’t ask why Reese Anders has been separated from the rest of the student population. He’s just happy to be sleeping in a bed.
Reese isn’t about to share his brutal story with his gruff new roommate. You’ve seen one homophobic jock, you’ve seen ’em all. He plans to drag every twink on campus into his bed until Tom moves out. But soon it becomes clear Tom isn’t budging.
Tom isn’t going to let some late-night sex noise scare him off, especially when it’s turning him on. But he doesn’t want any drama either. He’ll keep his hands, if not his eyes, to himself. Boundaries have a way of blurring when you start sharing truths, though. And if Tom and Reese cross too many lines, they may need to find out just how far they can bend…before they break.
Review: A book about a gay guy trying to force his straight roommate to move out through sexual hijinx? I figured this would be one of those light-hearted, fluff pieces that you can read on the train, stopping and starting without a whole lot of concentration required to pick it up again. I thought there would be some dirty hanky panky, a whole lot of naughty, and that it would be irreverent and unmemorable and kind of trite. I thought a lot of heavy-handed, dumb things and will be the first to admit: they were all WRONG! Amy Jo Cousins’ latest book, Off Campus, is a subtle and oh-sexy read that will stick with you long after you finish it. Heck, I’m on my third reread in a month’s time and I’m still finding it beautifully written and refreshingly nuanced.
Tom is your typical straight college jock…or is he? When he is paired up in a dorm room off campus with out and proud Reese, Tom discovers he may not be as straight as he always assumed. Reese pushes all his buttons…even those late night naughty ones he wants no one to know about. He doesn’t back down from an argument and he certainly doesn’t want a boorish jock as a roommate. Reese has some very personal, painful reasons not to trust a jock like Tom and all he wants is him gone. When he decides to give Tom an eyeful of how gay he really is, subjecting him to a new boy toy nightly in an effort to make him leave, Reese and Tom are both surprised to find that Tom might be more bisexual than straight after all. When they begin a tentative relationship, both must come to grips with some very real, very personal issues and decide if their fledgling romance is worth the trouble.
By far the best part of this book, beyond Amy Jo Cousins’ writing style which is gorgeous by the way, is watching Tom discover parts of himself he never knew existed. That constant push and pull as he struggles to come to terms with appreciating and enjoying both genders? It’s amazing and incredibly nuanced. Bisexuality is a sexual identity I knew practically nothing about before this book. I didn’t really understand how difficult it would be to discover that your sexual identity is a fluid thing and that you can love people regardless of gender. I mean we’re all people and we all have the capacity to love, right? It should be easy to accept except it’s not and that’s mainly due to others. Tom’s struggle is very real and the constant questioning of his sexuality from both the gay and straight community reads as agonizingly painful and difficult to justify. In the end, it’s that struggle that forces Tom to give up on Reese and it isn’t until he really identifies what he wants and is important to him that he can actually have a relationship with another man without worrying about what others think.
I love Amy Jo Cousins’ writing style. She has a fresh, quick-witted voice that makes for a fast read. The sexy bits are scorchingly sexy and all the introspection on sexuality and love will really make you think. This is a voice to be reckoned with in fiction and I’m looking forward to much, much more from her.
Final score: 9/10.
How much did I like the hero: 8. Tom has issues. He can’t trust, he can’t allow himself to feel, he is always on edge thinking that others are judging him. He’s an extremely likable character with some serious character flaws. I found him sexy and compelling but his constant trust issues made me grit my teeth and want to smack him around. When he gives up on Reese? Even for a misguided notion like letting him be free to find someone better? Oh man, he’s lucky he’s fictional because I was ready to cut him.
How much did I like the love interest: 10. Reese is an amazing character. He’s sassy, smart, sexy, fashionable, cool, caring, loving…basically he’s everything you want in a boyfriend and curse the world to discover he’s gay and will never like you like that. (BTW Damn you, world! Why are the cool guys like this one always gay? Why? Why? WHY?!)
How believable is the plot: 10. We’ve all had a horrible roommate, in college or otherwise (hello? Family, anyone?) so we all know how impotent we feel when paired with a bad one. Reese taking matters into his own hands to force the issue is spot on and the romance that blossoms out of that is so organic and real. This plot is so believable.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 10. Amy Jo, I want to know where you learned to write cause your style resonates with me big time. The writing is superb – fluid, nuanced, well-paced. There’s no grammatical issues and everything is described beautifully. This is a rare voice in fiction; a solid writing style that will only get better.
How much did I want to keep reading: 10. GIVE ME MORE. There isn’t more of these two but we are in luck! Off Campus is the first of a series of books! Now my only problem with this is I really want to read more about Reese and Tom. Mainly doing naughty things. Actually, no, even just vignettes of them like, eating pizza or running together is fine. Their characters are so sweet together that I bet after you read this book, you’ll be right there with me.
Final Score: 9/10. If you are on the fence, let me urge you now: READ THIS. It is so so so worth every penny.