Review: Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins

off campusReviewed by Janell

This is a male/male romance of forced proximity, which is a trope that I like. Tom is returning to college after a year and a half off. His father was a Bernie Madoff-type, swindling tons of people out of their savings. After the scandal, Tom kept a low profile. Paparazzi were staked out in front of his house for months while he survived on canned food, and now he earns money as a gypsy cab driver in Boston. He’s been homeless, sleeping in his car, so when he finally arrives in the special dorm for older or non-traditional students, all he wants is a bed.

Reese is Tom’s totally gay roommate. Reese has posters of half-naked men on the wall, he wears eyeliner, and he really does not want to share his room. He brings different guys back to the room every night, hoping to drive Tom out. But the college doesn’t have anywhere else for Tom to go, and he’s not going to live in his car again, so Tom stops hiding in the hallway when Reese brings someone over. He lays in bed, listening.

I almost worried that this was a gay-for-you story. Then Tom reveals that he had a sexual encounter with another guy at boarding school. Tom considers himself bisexual, or equal opportunity. It’s just that girls are so much easier, so he hasn’t gone out of his way to be with a guy.

When Tom accepts a blow job from Reese, Reese assumes it’s a one-time thing, a straight guy being curious, and they’ll never speak of it again. But Tom has been fantasizing for so long that he can’t pretend it never happened. It’s not easy for him to convince Reese that he’s serious, but he is all in. Tom admires Reese’s inner strength, and the way Reese seems to know what he’s thinking. Tom definitely feels unworthy in the relationship, but he tries his best.

Now, because of the scandal in Tom’s past, he is anti-attention. He doesn’t want anyone to look at him for too long, he doesn’t want people taking pictures of him, or talking about him. He’d be happy just going to classes and hiding out in his room. This causes conflict because Reese is out, he can’t go back in the closet. Reese would love to have a boyfriend holding his hand on a date. But Tom argues that people would talk about him again if he were suddenly gay, so Reese agrees to hold off on PDA.

Reese has his own hangups. He was abused in the past, and he can’t handle being overpowered or restrained. Tom, being bigger, is always careful about how he holds Reese.

Tom never forgot to make himself smaller, pull himself in so as not to threaten. He wondered if Reese understood how Tom measured his actions, his posture, his very location in a room, in order to make sure Reese felt in control.

I loved this book. So much of it takes place just in their dorm room, and it makes every little movement so important. Tom is the sole narrator, and he’s observant, and careful, and thoughtful. He takes baby steps, and messes up, and he’s so honest about what’s going on in his mind. Besides that, this book was sexy (so sexy), and romantic, and immersive, and I couldn’t put it down (seriously, I was hiking in the rain with my family trying to read it).

Rating: A

Click to purchase: Amazon

Off Campus
by Amy Jo Cousins
Release Date: December 30, 2014
Publisher: Samhain

Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this one – and this series. <3

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