Title ~ Off Campus (Bend or Break #1)
Author ~ Amy Jo Cousins
Publisher ~ Samhain Publishing
Published ~ 30th December 2014
Genre ~ Contemporary YA M/M Romance
Everyone’s got secrets. Some are just harder to hide.
Bend or Break, Book 1
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.
Warning: This book contains cranky roommates who vacillate between lashing out and licking, some male/male voyeurism, emotional baggage that neither guy wants to unpack, and the definitive proof that sound carries in college housing.
Tom Worthington and Reese Anders are complete opposites but what they do have in common is that both of them are dealing with dramatic issues that have deeply affected them. Ex rich boy Tom, through no fault of his own, is the now tarnished 'golden boy' jock and Reese: the gay, conflicted, loner. A bit of a twist on the usual jock/geek pairing. First impressions of twenty two year old Tom, are that he's the quintessential straight guy. Big, blonde and imposing, it's a huge shock to the black haired, skinny jean wearing, slightly built, unashamedly gay Reese to find out he's sharing a room, with the type of guy he's been trying to avoid at all costs. The traumatic reason for him living in the off campus student housing, away from the general student population, is something he's not willing to share with Tom, who himself is struggling to keep his shit together after a public family disgrace has left him penniless; reduced to sleeping in the cab he drives every weekend to try to subsidise his tuition so he can finally finish college.
This is not a match made in heaven, but Tom has no other options and is so weary at this point—physically and mentally—that he's prepared to put up with anything his prickly, skittish roommate comes up with to try to drive him out of his space, including Reese bringing back a succession of twinks to their room, where he proceeds to have sex, firstly with Tom having to wait, and listen, out in the hall, but later when that doesn't work, going the whole hog by doing it in the room whilst Tom is lying in his own bed, aware of everything happening in the bed across the way from him. Thinking this will shock Tom into leaving, what it actually does is awaken memories and feelings he's been pushing away for years and suddenly he can't think about anything but Reese doing those things to him, and when Reese finally realises that Tom isn't the homophobic jock he'd expected, their relationship takes another turn and they move from initial enemies, to tentative friends and then finally to lovers. A situation that brings its own set of new problems because despite his growing feelings for Reese, worried about the fall out, Tom won't out himself publicly to be with him openly, a state of affairs that Reese isn't happy about but at the same time because of what happened to him, still struggles with certain physical aspects of their relationship, putting Tom in the position where he feels he's walking on eggshells around the younger guy. Cue more angst as they take turns pushing each other away every time they reach an emotional impasse and like all impassioned couples think they're doing the right thing by keeping important things away from each other, although both their conflicts are understandable and I could see why they acted like they did.
This read like a book of two halves to me. Part one being my favourite section of the book by far, because I absolutely loved the dynamics when they were at odds with each other. Reluctant roommates, in such close proximity, causing a tension that simmered. Reese: conflicted, angry and standoffish and poor bewildered Tom, just trying to get through the best he can and hanging on to his sanity by the skin of his teeth. Amy Jo Cousins really grabbed me and pulled me in at this stage and I was hooked! The sizzilingly, sensual voyeuristic sex a brilliant catalyst for changing up their relationship. I loved how they skirted aground each other in a slow, hesitant dance that started out confrontational, especially on Reese's part, but over time gentled as they began to perceive each other in a different light. Absolutely everything about this half of the book worked perfectly for me and it showed just how talented Ms Cousins is.
The second half however brought a completely different feel to the story for me, when the focus became more about them trying to make their relationship work once they made the decision to take it to the next level; as well as coping with all the personal baggage outside of it. Mid way through, once they became more established as boyfriends, I felt it slowed down a bit, as it fell into a loop where something would trigger a blast of angst...they'd resolve it...and it would end in a long session of sex, that personally became a bit repetitive. I love a good sex scene and granted these were hot, with oodles of tangible chemistry but I found myself zoning out slightly as each love scene became more or less a rehash of the one before it, basically a lot of blow and hand jobs, so unfortunately I did lose some of the connection that had kept me so engrossed in the first 50% or so of the book.
There's no doubt that Amy Jo Cousins is a really good writer, with a style that did impress me and I did fall in love with Reese and Tom as characters...loved them as a couple. Plus there's some engaging supporting cast members, who add some fun and light into the angst fest, so had this been tightened up and stripped down of some of its sex a little more in the middle, it would definitely have been a higher rating. As it stands it's a solid, strong four stars because I was so engrossed and caught up in the early stages. If I've heard right, it's one of the not so nice characters: Jack, who is going to be the main feature in book two and I love that idea so I'm really looking forward to seeing how she handles that! Niggles aside, I forecast that Amy Jo Cousins is going to become an auto buy author for a lot of m/m fans and I'm certainly adding myself into that list.
Buy it Here
A Word from Amy Jo Cousins
I write romance with the metaphorical bedroom door wide open for a lot of reasons. Because bodies are awesome and awkward. And pleasure is worth pursuing. And being naked in front of someone you value involves a lot more than just taking your clothes off. The emotional intimacy of sex is fascinating and a fantastic way to bring hidden worries to light in a story, too. Trust is always needed, and the risk of getting hurt is real.
You know why else I love writing sex?
Because it’s hot.
I’m talking make you blush and send the kids to bed early, hope no one’s reading over your shoulder, holy shit he just did what with his what, HOT. I love reading books that make me want, and when I write, I hope my readers, in between the laughing and the crying, are finding time to get turned on too!
In honor of my new release, OFF CAMPUS, which has some of the sexiest sex I’ve ever written, I put together a list of a few of my favorite, totally hot, m/m romances! Enjoy…
Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan. This is one of the earliest m/m romance novels I read, and I just loved, loved, loved Sam’s desires, and he’s willingness to go after them, even when he felt so shy sometimes. Between the ever-steady Mitch and the irrepressible Randy, the adventures in this book left me, um, flushed.
Lana McGregor’s His Roommate’s Pleasure is so hot and so sweet that I just keep reading about these two college roommates who go from cordial to intensely intimate over the course of this incredibly hot book about experimenting with BDSM. So good, it kills me that we don’t have another book from Ms. McGregor yet.
Mark Cooper vs. America by JA Rock & Lisa Henry. Dude. They do it in the microfiche room in the library. That’s really all I should need to say. (And in a shack, and on a mechanical bull, and there are lacy things, which is now my new favorite thing.)
The Shivaree trilogy by Cara McKenna. Something about the heat and humidity, the billowing white drapes made from old wedding dresses, the lure of Gabe’s mandolin, made me wish there really was a bar called Shivaree, with its complicated sexy owner Shane and his seductive lover, Gabe. Hot, hot, hot.
Claimings, Tails & Other Alien Artifacts by Lyn Gala. Yes, ALIENS. The worldbuilding in this book, and in the sequel that came out this year, just blows me away. And the sex, although not, hmm…traditional, shall we say? Is super hot. Because nothing is better than someone who is fixated on understanding you and what you want. *fans self*
I’m going to cheat and name a whole anthology! Another Place in Time, put together by the lovely Susan Lee in order to raise money for AllOut.org, has a whole bunch of sexy stories. The card game in KJ Charles’ “The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh” was the biggest turn-on I’ve ever read on a felt table…
With or Without Him by Barbara Elsborg. The sex is so hot in this book about a sometimes rent boy who agrees to move in with the rich guy who uses money to distance himself from his emotions that I forget sometimes how funny Elsborg is. Her wit shines in this book.
If you had asked me what the chances were that a piece of Sherlock fanfic would be one of my favorite reads of 2014, I’d have giggled and given you the side-eye. Foolish me. Eli Easton’s The Great Sex Olympics of 221b (written under the name Xistential Angst) is so hot I can’t stop rereading it. Between the precise control of Sherlock’s brain and the bigness of Watson’s heart, plus their extremely creative experiment to prove who’s more expert in sex, you can’t miss. And it’s a free download on Easton’s website!
Comment with your favorite hot read to be entered to win an ebook of OFF CAMPUS!
Claimings, Tails & Other Alien Artifacts by Lyn Gala
AMAZON GLOBAL LINK
The Shivaree trilogy by Cara McKenna
AMAZON GLOBAL LINK
Mark Cooper vs. America by JA Rock & Lisa Henry
AMAZON GLOBAL LINK
His Roommate’s Pleasure by Lana McGregor
AMAZON GLOBAL LINK
The Great Sex Olympics of 221b by Eli Easton
Meet the Amy Jo Cousins
Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series.
Amy is gifting an e-copy of Off Campus to one lucky reader, all you need to do is enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win.