Author ~ Heidi Cullinan
Publisher ~ Samhain Publishing
Published ~ 11th August 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M
With the quiet help of his wealthy family, Sebastian “Baz” Acker has successfully kept his painful past at bay. But as the end of college draws near, his friends—his buffer zone—are preparing to move on, while his own life is at a crippling standstill.With loneliness bearing down on him, Baz hooks up—then opens up—with Elijah Prince, the guy Baz took a bullet for last year. The aftershocks of their one-night stand leave giant cracks in Baz’s carefully constructed armor. For the first time, the prospect isn’t terrifying.
Accustomed to escaping his demons by withdrawing into his imagination, Elijah isn’t used to having a happy herd of friends. He’s even less comfortable as the object of a notorious playboy’s affections. Yet all signs seem to indicate this time happiness might be within his grasp. When Baz’s mother runs for a highly sought-after public office, the media hounds drag Baz’s and Elijah’s pasts into the light. In the blinding glare, Baz and Elijah face the ultimate test: discovering if they’re stronger together…or apart.
Warning: Contains sex in a Tesla, sex in a cupboard, sex under a piano, kinky role play, and a cappella RuPaul songs. Just a couple of boys groping, battling, then finally loving their way to becoming men.
This series has gotten better with each book. I’ll admit to having a soft spot for lost and broken boys and both Elijah and Baz fit that bill.
Rich kid Baz is physically and emotionally scarred, the result of a gay bashing nearly ten years earlier. He over medicates and tries to keep everyone, especially Elijah, at arm’s length by acting like an ass. Baz is slowly losing that battle however, as his overwhelming need to protect Elijah grows. Baz feels detached from his parents and now his friends are graduating without him. Baz realizes he has been avoiding moving forward and wonders what he could possibly do with his future as once again, the people he cares about are leaving him.
Elijah uses caustic remarks to keep people from getting close. His time on the streets and the aftershocks of his father’s attempt to kill him have left him suffering from panic attacks and unable to lose himself in his writing as he once did. As his friends rally around him, Elijah finds it hard to accept their help and feels more unworthy and alone than ever.
Although Baz and Elijah have a history, Baz has done his best to avoid Elijah, while still keeping a very close eye on him. This ends when the two have some hot, dirty, drug and booze fueled sex in Baz’s car at Walter and Kelly’s Disney Princess wedding. Much to Elijah’s disappointment afterwards, Baz again shuts Elijah out and Elijah withdraws further from the friends and house he is supposed to be moving into when school begins. Baz can’t keep away this time and talks Elijah into taking a road trip to Chicago and acting as boyfriends while they attend a fund raiser that will kick off his mother’s political campaign. As their attraction grows and Baz becomes determined to have Elijah as his real boyfriend, so do the complications, but the two are more alike than they ever expected which works both for and against them.
[Elijah] lifted his face to Baz’s gaze. “Why me?”
Baz hesitated. Eventually he sighed, and Elijah could practically see the walls coming down. “Because you don’t look at me the way anyone else does. You act as if I’m a real person.”
Heidi Cullinan has a wonderful way of dealing with serious issues, keeping them in the forefront without overwhelming the story. Although I know she always guarantees a happy ending, there were times where I was wondering if Baz and Elijah were destined for a “Sid and Nancy” disaster (but I have to admit their under the influence sex was scorching). The characters feel real and regardless of the fact that both Baz and Elijah have been through more than most people go through in an entire lifetime, what they want more than anything is just having someone they can be open and vulnerable with and who will be there when they need to fall apart. They will deny it, fight it and even self-sabotage it, but in the end you know it will be beautiful.
“…I don’t want to be alone.” [Elijah] sagged. “But I think maybe I have to be. Even in a crowd of people, my heart will always ache.”
The statement resonated in the furthest hollows of Baz’s soul. “Then we’ll be lonely hearts together.”
The story is not all heavy angst and emotional upheaval. There is Walter and Kelly’s over the top wedding, a road trip, movie marathons, drag performances, pop culture and fandom references, some musical numbers, lots of sugar cookies and a happy ending that will make you smile. Baz and Elijah are perfect matches for each other. I can’t decide what I liked better, the quiet, tender moments where the two men let down their walls or the dirty talking, slightly kinky, times.
As if the main story alone isn’t enough, we are introduced to another amazing secondary character in Elijah’s co-worker Lewis/Lejla, who I dare you not to fall in love with. Pastor Schultz and his wife are a grounding force for both Baz and Elijah and all the characters from the previous two books are back to add support with along with two fan favorites from another one of Heidi’s books that are woven into the story perfectly (although she’s discussed their appearance in the story in other interviews, I won’t spoil it here).
This installment of the series was more character driven than the others, without as much outside drama. Although enough background is given so you could read this as a standalone, I would strongly recommend reading Fever Pitch first. Baz and Elijah both have big roles and Elijah’s backstory with his parents plays out there, so I think their story arcs would be so much more satisfying, especially those times when Baz takes off his glasses and just lets Elijah take care of him and Elijah embraces the family he has found at the White House and St. Timothy’s.
The Love Lessons series are new adult LGBT contemporary romance novels set at various colleges within the American Midwest. While Love Lessons and Fever Pitch feature gay protagonists, subsequent novels will include lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual heroes and heroines.
The heat level for these stories is significantly sweeter than some of Heidi's erotic romances, which has a tendency to make the sexual tension ratchet off the charts.
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