Sunday, December 28, 2014

ARC Review: Off Campus (Bend or Break 1) by Amy Jo Cousins


Blurb:

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.

Dani's rating:




Two men struggle with fears and past hurts, trying to make their unexpected relationship work.

There's angst here, yes, but there is lightness too: HOPE, humor, and plenty of sexy times.

Tom is as much a victim of his dad's Ponzi scheme as the families who lost their savings. His dad in jail, Tom has nothing but a car he drives as a taxi on weekends and a duffle bag full of clothes. Tom is obsessively private and paranoid about attracting gossip.

He could still feel that train coming, the long, low moan of its horn rolling ahead of it, warning, warning, that it couldn’t slow down. Not for anything.

Reese is openly gay and wears his skinny jeans like armor. To scare off his straight new roommate, Reese starts marching a parade of guys through the dorm room, giving out blowjobs like candy.

Little does Reese know that his "straight" roommate isn't so straight, and more than turned on by what he sees.

The book is told from Tom’s POV, but both men are fully sketched, complex characters. Both come AT life, expecting a punch to the gut at any moment. They move from defensiveness to a tentative friendship to something deep and meanigfull, but the tenuous balance they achieve is easily shaken as emotional ghosts resurface.




The author explores Reese and Tom’s inner struggles without preaching or offering platitudes for their problems. Love is a balm, but it's not a fix-it-all.

Reese and Tom can listen and support one another, but must ultimately do the hard work on their own.

Tom doesn’t think he can count on anyone but himself, and Reese sometimes pushes too hard and isn’t as patient with Tom as Tom is with him. That’s not to say Tom gets a free pass, because his paranoia about attracting attention is maddening and leaves Reese feeling helpless.

As frustrated as I was with both MCs, their conflicts and compromises felt true to life.

Cash and Steph are wonderful secondary characters and do much to lighten the tone of the story. I also loved Reese’s dad, who was nurturing and caring but still had to be trained on the appropriate use of expletives.

Tom and Reese create their own cocoon, so the focus of the story isn’t campus life but the relationship and the healing. At its core, this is a story about letting others in and taking a chance on love.

Off Campus is tender, poignant, and beautifully written. Thank the gods (or, rather, Amy Jo!) for the epilogue. It gave the story much needed closure and made me a happy reader indeed.

Reese pulled Tom’s head down until their mouths pressed together in a kiss that shifted from "Hello there, sailor" to "Fuck me now" in seconds.


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An ARC of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

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