Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Even though the reason for the fake boyfriend charade was, frankly, stupid. The book was saved by the wonderfully human and vulnerable MCs that I just fell in love with.
Trey is 21 years old, finishing his junior year at a liberal east coast college, and majoring in social justice and everything about as far left as you can get. He has points to prove, and a world to change (and kudos to the authors for capturing that youthful passion and idealism so well!). He comes from privilege, with wealthy conservative parents, who just don’t quite get him. For instance, when he announces to his parents that he is bisexual, they are a little disconcerted, but not upset and are pretty sure that he’s just going through a phase, and start encouraging him to settle down with a nice girl because he’s old enough for that now. Although he is quite passionate about all the social issues he embraces and active in groups and clubs that support them, he is personally a little awkward and insecure, and has trouble connecting with people. His only long term relationship was with a girl in high school, and throughout college he has limited himself to drunken hookups with men. Now that he’s getting closer to graduation, he wants to prove to his parents that he is really serious, really into guys, and in a move endearingly reminiscent of college age hubris and immaturity, decides that having someone pose as his boyfriend when he goes home for the summer is a great way to accomplish that.
Lee is also a junior at this college, but he is much less sure of what he is doing and where he is going with his life. He’s on the swim team, and his friends are mostly other jocks. He needs somewhere to stay for the summer (his scholarship only covers the dorms during the regular school year), so a mutual friend of his and Trey’s suggests they spend the summer together as a way to solve both of their problems. It’s not said explicitly at this point, but it’s pretty obvious that he is homeless because he’s gay. And it’s equally obvious that he is closeted because he fears other people will react equally negatively. Spending the summer with Trey’s family, posing as his boyfriend, seems like a great idea not only because he will be fed and housed, but also because he can drop the pretense of being straight.
The backgrounds these young men come from couldn’t be more different, and both of them come to realize how little of the world they know by being exposed to each other. Trey knew that he was privileged, but didn’t realize just how much that privilege protected him and allowed him to challenge the status quo without worry of repercussions. He thought he was oppressed because his parents wanted him to pursue a different career and were not 100% supportive of his bisexuality. Seeing that Lee has become, quite literally, homeless, disowned, and without any safety net solely because he is gay, was something of a shock to Trey. Hearing about Lee’s situation growing up in a large, blue-collar, Catholic family with alcoholic parents, and watching how Lee tried to reconcile the differences between who he is, what he believes, and what he wants to become despite this background is also an eye-opener. Lee, on the other hand, saw what life could be like without hiding who he is or trying to conform to narrow-minded expectations. That conflict and growth in both characters was far and away the best part of the book.
As the summer progressed, both of the men found more and more to admire about the other, and they fell in love for real, though they tried to hide it from each other, thinking there was no way it could ever work because they were just so different. In the meantime, keeping up the pretense of being boyfriends in front of the family, with all the little affectionate touches and endearments, led to a level of sexual tension that was just delicious. There wasn’t much sex in the book because of this, but it had a captivating slow burn that I just adored.
The crisis that finally led them to acknowledge their love was pretty artificial, but I wanted them to proclaim that love so much, I was willing to accept almost anything at that point. The book ended with a pretty firm HFN – this is, after all, college and people change – but Trey and Lee were right where they should be, smarter, more compassionate, and more confident from being together.
Cover art by April Martinez is lovely, and perfect for the book.
Kindle Edition, 175 pages
Published October 10th 2016 by Loose Id LLC