Summer Hemlock never meant to come back to Omen, Massachusetts.
But with his mother in need of help, Summer has no choice but to return to his hometown, take up a teaching residency at the Albin Academy boarding school—and work directly under the man who made his teenage years miserable.
Professor Fox Iseya.
Forbidding, aloof, commanding: psychology instructor Iseya is a cipher who’s always fascinated and intimidated shy, anxious Summer. But that fascination turns into something more when the older man challenges Summer to be brave. What starts as a daily game to reward Summer with a kiss for every obstacle overcome turns passionate, and a professional relationship turns quickly personal.
Yet Iseya’s walls of grief may be too high for someone like Summer to climb…until Summer’s infectious warmth shows Fox everything he’s been missing in life.
Now both men must be brave enough to trust each other, to take that leap.
To find the love they’ve always needed…
Just like that.
CW: anxiety and on page panic attacks, depression, talk of suicidal ideation, bullying, loss of spouse and parent in the past.
There are other content warnings which are mentioned in the beginning of the book.
I know I don’t read enough ownvoices gay romance stories even though I like the genre a lot, but I’m always looking out for more. And Cole McCade is definitely one author I look forward to even though I did abandon his Criminal Intentions aerial after reading nine or ten episodes because it was too dark for my taste. But this is a new romance series and I was so excited when I got the ARC.
While this series is definitely not dark, it’s also not like the romcoms I’m used to reading. Both the characters of Fox and Summer are the products of their pasts and traumas, and their depictions felt so real and visceral. Summer suffers from anxiety and panic attacks but he is also brave enough to give voice to his desires when challenged and I admired him so much for being compassionate and relentlessly trying to get out of his comfort zone.
Fox on the other hand has closed himself off for years because he couldn’t process the grief of losing his wife. He is a professor everyone is quite scared of because he is a very tough taskmaster, but underneath he is so soft and just needs someone to show him that deserves to live and love again.
Cole has a way with words and the writing really is exquisite at places, tugging at your heartstrings so much that you can feel all the pain and the joy that the characters are experiencing. Even though I did feel that the falling in love part happened a bit fast, it was still very believable and I was rooting for them all the way. I wasn’t sure I would like the setting of the boarding school before I started reading the book, and I’m still not entirely impressed with it because the concept of rich kids being bullies and traumatizing each other is not my kind of narrative, but I liked the direction the author took that particular subplot in. There were not many other side characters except Summer’s mom who only made a couple of appearances, but was delightful.
Overall, this was a very emotional love story with great depth in the characters and I thoroughly loved my reading experience. And I’m quite excited to see where the series goes next.
PS: Thank you to Carina Press and Netgalley for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.