I received this book as an ARC though Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
I have to say that I was pretty sure I was going to like this story, but I was blown away by exactly how much I liked it. I was intrigued by the change in the usual dynamics, and I liked the idea of an older submissive, and a younger dominant, but I was thrilled that this book was so much more than that. The kink is different, and refreshing after all of the same old same old. I really loved that the author didn’t fall into so many of the stale topes that seem to pervade this genre. I really appreciated that the author didn’t play into the notion that topping was an inherently dominant act. It made for a much richer reading experience.
For me, though, as much as I liked the kink the characters were the real stand out. They were just so well developed that they felt like real people. Neither one of them felt like a type, or trope. Toby wasn’t just a Dom he was a young man; smart, insecure, talented, caring, and scared. He wasn’t in control all of the time, and he wasn’t afraid to admit what he didn’t know, and to ask questions, and to learn. He was just starting out, and trying to find his place in the world, and I could really empathize with him. Laurie wasn’t just a sub he was a smart, competent professional, caring, and afraid to trust in Toby, and himself. Laurie’s fears about their relationship, and the age difference felt honest, and not like silly angst. It takes time for them to learn to understand, and trust each other. Their sexual chemistry doesn’t equal instant love, and I liked that. I also loved the lack of any sort of abuse/rape back story. Not that I’m against that, but sometimes it feels a bit overused in the genre.
I also loved that the characters didn’t exist in any sort of bubble. The secondary cast is vital to the story, and they are a rich a varied bunch. I loved that Toby’s mother, as unconventional as she is, still loved Toby in her own way. She wasn’t perfect, but she wasn’t a terrible mother either just because she wasn’t the domestic sort. Laurie’s friends were great as well, and I really liked the Oxford crowd. Jasper was a personal favorite sort of wonderful, and terrible at the same time. The kind of larger than life person you’re afraid of, but want to like you at the same time.
The plot was well done, and I really liked the natural feeling to the progression of the story. Nothing felt like it moved to quickly, or was drawn out for too long. It fit the characters, and their personalities well. The writing was amazing. It was one of those books that I kept interrupting my very patient best friend, and reading her the parts that had made me laugh. If this hadn’t been an ARC all of my updates would have been quotes, and there would have been many. Oh so many. I also loved that it wasn’t just funny, but it was such a blend of humor and pathos. That it was such a picture of the fullness of the human experience. It wasn’t one thing or another. Romance, coming of age, kink, and learning to trust yourself and others after you’ve been hurt. Of what it means to let go of the past, and what it means to embrace the future. I really loved this book, and I’m glad I set aside my usual reservations about large age gaps and requested this book. It’s been an amazing ride. In short this book was