Author ~ Lisa Henry
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Published ~ 15 August 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance, New Adult
The struggle is real.
Nick Stahlnecker is eighteen and not ready to grow up yet. He has a summer job, a case of existential panic, and a hopeless crush on the unattainable Jai Hazenbrook. Except how do you know that your coworker’s unattainable unless youask to blow him in the porta-potty?
That’s probably not what Dad meant when he said Nick should act more like an adult.
Twenty-five-year-old Jai is back in his hometown of Franklin, Ohio, just long enough to earn the money to get the hell out again. His long-term goal of seeing more of the world is worth the short-term pain of living in his mother’s basement, but only barely.
Meeting Nick doesn’t fit in with Jai’s plans at all, but, as Jai soon learns, you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to have the adventure of a lifetime.
This is not a summer romance. This is a summer friendship-with-benefits. It’s got pizza with disgusting toppings, Netflix and chill, and accidental exhibitionism. That’s all. There are no feelings here. None. Shut up.
This was adorable and sweet (yes, I’m using adorable and sweet to describe a Lisa Henry book), funny and sexy, while still managing to be touching and emotionally satisfying without the overwhelming angst of many new adult novels.
I knew from the first page I would love Nick. He has that missing brain to mouth filter that I usually love in characters. He is so earnest in his lusting after Jai. Seriously! As if ogling him every time he’s around isn’t enough, he has pages of bad poetry dedicated to Jai’s ass. Nick is pretty typical for any 18 year old Lord of the Rings fanboy. He’s set to go to college, working a boring summer job his father arranged, while his mother goes about organizing for his impending move to the dorms and he’s not sure about any of it.
At 25 Jai has spent years working summers in his hometown, living in his mother’s basement, just to earn enough money so that he can spend the rest of the year travelling. He’s living his life on his terms and making sure he experiences all he can because he knows life is short. The last thing he’s looking for is a relationship, but casual sex works for him. He’s got about 10 weeks to go before leaving for Argentina and plans to work his construction job until then. That’s all derailed by Nick’s offer to blow him in the porta potty on site and Jai’s agreeing. After all who could turn that down?
What results from that encounter is job loss, embarrassment, the potential of a summer where Jai gets all the no-strings sex he wants and Nick gets to leave for college with experience and without his virginity. A win-win. Nick and Jai couldn’t have more different personalities, but Jai is completely taken by Nick’s weird and Nick sees a glow around Jai every time he looks at him. As they hang out, have sex and watch Netflix, the two find that they really like each other. Like like each other, with feelings, but they are both still set on the fact that they will be going their separate ways in a few weeks and they actually are dealing very well with the emotional aspect of things.
That’s the best part of Nick’s last summer of his childhood. Nick is equally paralyzed by the thought of going to college as he is by the thought of talking to his parents about his fears. He doesn’t know what he wants to do, but he knows college isn’t it. At least not right now. Although he generally speaks without a filter, when it comes to his parents he doesn’t talk much at all (unless of course it’s to say the wrong thing at the wrong time). To be fair, Nick’s parents aren’t doing all that well communicating with him either. His mom’s busy organizing his move to school and his dad’s busy being disappointed in him. The only person who gets him is his brother from another mother, his best friend Devon.
Aside from the budding romance between Jai and Nick, there is the awesome, if codependent, bromance between Nick and Devon. These two are cute and cuddly and joined at the hip. Even when they’re not in the same place, they’re having awesome text conversations. Nick is not sure how he is going to survive them going to separate colleges. It seems Devon knows Nick better than Nick knows himself; or at least he is able to articulate the important things Nick is feeling, since those seem to be the only thoughts that Nick’s brain filters.
Nick and Jai’s romance develops naturally and unexpectedly. Jai and Nick are serious about it being a summer hook-up, but they find out that they really like each other and instead of freaking, they are both very good about it. No angst there. All the stress is related to Nick trying to figure out where he belongs and what he wants to do. He doesn’t want to lose who he is and he’s pretty certain that will happen if he follows the plans that have been laid out for him. Having started the college search with my daughter, I could completely relate to both Nick and his parents (to some extent). Of course Nick’s parents want him to go to school and don’t understand him, but it’s not all their fault. Nick may think he’s making his wishes known, but of course he’s 18 and there is a communication gap. Admittedly, being continuously caught in compromising positions with Jai isn’t helping his parents see him as an adult either.
Both Nick and Jai are changed by the end of the story. I’m not sure that Nick has actually grown and figured anything out, but he is moving forward. Jai has also not changed in his need to escape, but maybe it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition for him anymore.
There was so much I loved about this story from the text conversations, to Nick’s bad luck at being caught with Jai and the unexpected emotion that was pulled from me. My only real stumbling block in this story was the third person/present narration threw me out of the flow of the story on occasion. Other than that, the story was filled with entertaining, well drawn characters, geeky pop culture fandom references, awkward yet dirty sex, more than one love story (Devon and Nick’s bromance definitely qualifies as a love story) and just enough teenage existential angst to get Nick’s feelings of panic and dread across without leaving you drowning in it.
The end may not exactly be HEA, but it ends exactly where it should. I loved the solution and I loved that it wasn’t all about Nick having a sudden epiphany and figuring everything out then and there. He’s 18 and it shows. Anyway, Nick and Jai are happy, Nick is working on figuring things out and Jai is doing what he loves as well. A perfectly fitting and very sweet ending (but I wouldn’t complain if Lisa Henry wanted to tell more of their story in the future).
Meet Lisa Henry
Lisa Henry lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.
She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.