Off Campus (Bend or Break #1)

Author: Amy Jo Cousins

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Rating: 4 stars

Buy Links: Samhain and Amazon

Type: Novel

Received from Publisher

 

Blurb: Everyone’s got secrets. Some are just harder to hide.

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.

 

Review: Tom is returning to college after his father was arrested in a huge embezzlement scam. He was shamed off campus. Stripped of all money and his home, he’s been using his car as a home and taxi service to make money to be able to afford this semester of school. When he’s finally in his off campus dorm room, the first place of his own he’s had since being kicked out of his house, Tom is met by a screaming young man he assumes is his roommate. Who eventually he learns is named Reese.

Reese was promised a single room off campus after an awful experience with his roommate from last semester. So when big athletic Tom is in his room it causes some issues. The housing department tells them they are stuck together. Reese tries his best to scare Tom off by parading his male lovers in and out of the room. He doesn’t know that Tom literally has no where else to go. That finishing college and getting a good job is all he’s focused on. So Reese’s plan isn’t going to work. The sexual escapades do wake up an urge Tom hasn’t visited in years. Living with Reese is forcing Tom to admit, at least to himself that he’s bisexual. Eventually the close quarters and sexual tension lead to them hooking up. Which leads to feelings. Tom’s not ready to come out in public or be honest about his past with Reese. Reese has physical boundaries and issues with Tom’s refusal to acknowledge him in public. Tom’s determined to hold onto Reese as long as he’ll let him.

The story is told from Tom’s POV. So his struggle seems like the heaviest in this story. Even though Reese had a traumatic experience. Tom carries around so much shame for his father’s actions and how that reflects on him that he becomes somewhat delusional. When he’s helping Reese he seems lucid and gives good advice. If it’s about him he’s got tunnel vision. He only sees one way out. Keep himself hidden from everyone from his past life and graduate. Reese opens him up a little but it’s not enough. This did become frustrating as the book goes on. He’s just so ashamed he spends most of his time chastening himself for the way he used to act, for his father’s wrong doing and for believing that his friends were real friends. He thinks he’s not worthy of Reese’s love because he can’t be who Reese deserves. Reese was a detour in his plan that ended up saving him.

Reese was so adorable. I did feel like he pushed Tom a little too much to be out and proud but if I was frustrated with Tom I’m sure he was too, so I get it. Meeting and falling for Tom helped Reese as well. Reese was able to focus on someone with problems other than his own. To have a relationship with someone after his ordeal was a huge step for him. They did help each other but it wasn’t an easy path.

I LOVED their friends Cash and Steph. They had me laughing out loud. There were plenty of funny moments to add some levity to the heavy angst soaked moments. Reese’s dad was great. I’m glad they had a single dad who was totally accepting and supportive of his gay son. The stalker psycho was a bit much but you understand a little better when you find out why he was such a nutter.

Overall I liked the book. Maybe a tad too much brooding for me personally but the characters were complex and always in their heads. You think you have Tom figured out but he doesn’t even have himself figured out so you’re always wanting and waiting for an epiphany. There was always a sense of that moment when it all goes to shit. And it did as things do when you keep secrets and let things fester out of control. It all worked out and made sense in the end. I’ll be looking forward to more from this author.

 

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