Title: Love Lessons Love Lessons (Love Lessons #1)
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Cover Artist: Kanaxa
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.75 stars
A Guest Review by Sammy
Review Summary: An incredibly well written and undeniably beautiful love story that stole my breath away.
Blurb: Love doesn’t come with a syllabus.
Kelly Davidson has waited what seems like forever to graduate high school and get out of his small-minded, small town. But when he arrives at Hope University, he quickly realizes finding his Prince Charming isn’t so easy. Everyone here is already out. In fact, Kelly could be the only virgin on campus.
Worst of all, he’s landed the charming, handsome, gay campus Casanova as a roommate, whose bed might as well be equipped with a revolving door.
Walter Lucas doesn’t believe in storybook love. Everyone is better off having as much fun as possible with as many people as possible…except his shy, sad little sack of a roommate is seriously screwing up his world view.
As Walter sets out to lure Kelly out of his shell, staying just friends is harder than he anticipated. He discovers love is a crash course in determination. To make the grade, he’ll have to finally show up for class…and overcome his own private fear that love was never meant to last.
Review: Kelly wanted it all, despite the rock sure knowledge that he was naive for wanting a “Disney-esque” romance, not to mention a happy ever after he stoically stuck to his guns sure in the knowledge that somehow it could all be his. Little did he account for the wonderfully cynical upperclassman who would be his roommate during freshman year, or the healthy dose of realism that same young man tended to let dump all over Kelly’s silly dream of finding a lasting and true love. But as the year wore on, and Kelly remained steadfast in his beliefs, something began to happen to the fragile hold Walter had on the thin armor that his sarcasm allowed him to have around his heart.
Piece by piece, each man found themselves gravitating more and more toward that fine line between friendship and love and the closer they got the more frightened both Kelly and Walter became. Kelly found he could not bear the idea of not being wanted by Walter, the self-proclaimed and decided Casanova on campus. As Walter continued to confuse him with his mixed signals, Kelly fell further and further into anger and panic that Walter would never see him as more than a nice “kid” who was sweet but not worthy of Walter’s time or love. Meanwhile, Walter was struggling with such feelings of guilt and lack of self-worth that he couldn’t even bring himself to believe that he would ever be worthy of Kelly–he was tainted and in his mind Kelly was pure and that was that.
A good portion of Love Lessons by Heidi Cullinan dealt with the dance between these two impossibly wonderful young men. Each battling feelings of self-loathing and even some shame over either their naiveté (Kelly) or their blatant whoring around (Walter), they watched helplessly as each fell further in love with the other, unable to either move forward or leave the other altogether.
Coupled with this was the nightmare that was Walter’s home life, one that had already caused him to lose time at school, making him older than most juniors in college and pointed up how dysfunctional his fractured family was in comparison with Kelly’s more idyllic home life. Again and again, Walter would ask himself, how he could possibly ever be enough, be worthy enough to be the one that Kelly loved. And so, these two stand poised on the edge of a knife in many ways, waiting for the other to make the next move before the door closed on the future once and for all.
Without a doubt, Heidi Cullinan gives us one of the sweetest love stories ever written in her novel, Love Lessons. Her brilliant, in-depth character analysis that allowed us to peer inside the heart and mind of both Kelly and Walter was so finely written. I felt as though I was living inside these men, experiencing what they were feeling as it unfolded in the novel. Her switching point of view never left me confused or lost, rather I felt so at home within her story, feeling the pain her men encountered and the joy they experienced. The love aspect was so gradual, so tentative for the first half of the book; this was a time to get to meet the boys as they got to know each other.
The side characters from Professor Matthews to their friends, Cara and Rose, were a delightful addition to the overall scope of the plot line. I was particularly impressed that Prof. Matthews own crisis issue was not neatly resolved despite all of them pouring their heart and soul into saving him from his fate. And that idea…the one that Walter had spent most of his latter teen years and young adult life trying to “save” his family and, in doing so, had buried his own pain and fears so deep that he almost could not see that Kelly was there to ease his burden was so well done, unraveling bit by bit in sync with how Walter came to discover the truth about himself.
Love Lessons had it all, romance, humor, a bit of angst and just enough truth to make it a solid and believable novel. So when it came to that last chapter in the book, I really wanted to cry out, “please say it isn’t so, Ms Cullinan”. You see, it was in those last few pages, where there was some very necessary typing up of a few loose ends that I felt myself tossed outside this carefully crafted story for the first time. I literally had to shake my head in confusion. I had lost the story line. I went back and reread the chapter and yet I still could not figure out where these two boys had progressed too, what year in college they had moved to and why they seemed to be so settled. Add to that, the ending, which was admittedly sweet, but fairly startling, and I really felt as though we had fast forwarded to the future without any warning.
This last chapter really stopped me cold. Here was a story that had been so lovingly handled and written in such a realistic way and suddenly we were thrust into a scene without any idea of the time frame that had passed or where these two boys were headed in their life’s journey. However despite this seemingly haphazard ending, I could not deny that this was a really good book! Honestly had the ending not been so abrupt this would have been at the top of my Best of 2013 list. As is, I can still confidently recommend Love Lessons to you. It is an exquisite romance and very well written. While the ending is too quick and a bit confusing it cannot detract from the fact that this is a novel that should be on your must read list.