Author: Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock
Reviewed by: Barb
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: M/M Contemporary
ISBN 13: 9781623005832
Summary: Mark Cooper is angry, homesick, and about to take his stepdad’s dubious advice and rush Prescott College’s biggest party fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi. Greek life is as foreign to Aussie transplant Mark as Pennsylvania’s snowstorms and bear sightings. So, when the fraternity extends Mark a bid, Mark vows to get himself kicked out by the end of pledge period. But then he’s drawn into Alpha Delt’s feud with a neighboring fraternity.
Studious Deacon Holt is disappointed to learn Mark’s pledging Alpha Delt, his fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa’s sworn enemy. Mark is too beautiful for Deacon to pass up an invitation for sex, but beyond sex, Deacon’s not sure. He wants a relationship, but a difficult family situation prevents him from pursuing anything beyond his studies.
Mark and Deacon’s affair heats up as the war between their fraternities escalates. They explore kinks they didn’t know they had while keeping their liaison a secret from their brothers. But what Romeo and Juliet didn’t teach these star-crossed lovers is how to move beyond sex and into a place where they share more than a bed. That’s something they’ll have to figure out on their own—if the friction between their houses, and between Mark and America, doesn’t tear them apart.
Review: It’s not hard to see why Mark Cooper is fighting America, or at least America’s geography, climate, odd words, silly spelling, way of driving on the wrong side of the road, having 21 as the drinking age, and its ridiculously idiotic system of pledging for fraternities. It’s because Mark Cooper has been transplanted, i.e., uprooted, from Australia to rural Pennsylvania, the middle of nowhere.
Mark is supposed to be celebrating turning 18, but when he steps up to the bartender, the age 21 rule is strictly enforced and Mark is angry. In fact, bartender Deacon sees him as “Angry Little Bunny”, and is touched by how very alone Mark is when he overhears a phone call from Mark’s mother in which he relates that he’s at a party, celebrating with his friends. Deacon convinces Mark to stay a while for a Coke and conversation, and the two begin the first step in a long journey together.
Mark pledges to Alpha Delta Phi fraternity because that’s what his stepfather, Jim, wants. He tries to be as obnoxious as possible during Pledge Week, hoping that he won’t get in, but at least he’ll be able to tell Jim that he tried. Unfortunately, he’s accepted.
Deacon is a member of the rival fraternity, Phi Sigma Kappa. When invited to a frat party by Mark, though he thinks better of it, he decides to go and ends up in a fight when the Alpha Delts grab Phi Sig’s dog. Later that night, Mark, dressed in the French maid outfit the pledges have had to wear, is on the back lawn cleaning up from the party, when he looks over to the Phi Sig house and sees Deacon out on his balcony. A brief, fun Romeo and Juliet scene is enacted and the two end up hiding in the Kissing Booth together where they have their first steamy encounter.
Over the next few weeks, while Mark is trying and failing to study, and trying and failing to live up to Jim’s expectations for the frat, they have a few trysts, most notably the one in the Microfiche Room of the library, just after Mark has broken down and outed himself to his frat brother, Blake. He’s totally disgusted with the brothers and their hazing methods, and especially disgusted with Bengal, the pledge trainer. Bengal’s methods are cruel and hurtful and it’s because of him that Mark’s friend, Brandon, has been kicked out. It was the last straw for Mark, and he’ll be happy to be kicked out too. Unfortunately, he’s not kicked out, and that just makes him angrier, thinking he must be their token gay.
As the story progresses, Mark finds out he’s not the only gay man and not the only one who hates Bengal. We see insights into Mark’s character and begin to learn more of who Mark really is as he reflects on the changes in his life. Deacon reads him well, and knowing that Mark’s behavior can be self-destructive, Deke tells him that he might need a friend more than he needs someone for sex. Mark is still “Angry Little Bunny” in Deacon’s mind, still fighting back against conformity, and Deacon wants to be there for him in more ways than one.
Neither man had much previous sexual experience so they are learning together and slowly discover that Mark likes to be spanked, and that Deacon likes to do it. Mark also notices that Deacon is really turned on when Mark wears something feminine like his maid uniform or the fluffy pink sweater he finds under Deke’s roommate’s bed.
Deacon’s life drama in this story is related to issues with his mother’s OCD which manifests in a dread of future events. Through most of the story, she’s convinced that his brother Ben, a soldier in Afghanistan, is never going to make it home and Deacon supports her emotionally by going home every weekend. When Ben does come home, his mother is all wrapped up in Ben and Deacon feels rejected, like he’s no longer needed. I like the way the authors handled this issue, allowing Deacon to come to terms with the impact her illness has had on his own life, yet not downplaying its seriousness.
There are no huge crises in this story, but there are minor ones and events that show the reader how Mark’s perceptions are changing. Deacon is finally “getting” Mark. He now knows that when they are alone, Mark can be open with him, and as the story ends, the guys seem headed for their HEA.
There’s a lot of humor in this story, primarily in Mark’s impressions of America. His descriptions were fun and light-hearted to read, especially his thoughts on Thanksgiving and snow. And his impression of the Pennsylvania wilderness and the possibility of being eaten by a bear? Priceless.
I usually enjoy the writing style of this team of authors, and this story is no exception. It was fun and light-hearted, yet it was serious as well. The issues Mark faces with being torn from all he’s known and put into a whole new world are very real. And hazing such as occurs in this story does exist. Hopefully, it’s not as common as it once was, but nevertheless it’s still a serious issue, and I liked the way the authors handled it.
There’s also a wealth of secondary characters, all amazingly well-developed and able to be featured in a future story. Hint. Hint to the authors. I highly recommend this one to all lovers of M/M romance, especially those who enjoy a little hint of kink, humor, and heat in their stories.