Monday, August 25, 2014

Campus Cravings Anthology

Title: Campus Cravings Anthology
Overall Rating: A-

Story Overview:
Welcome to Cathia University, where school is in session! Nine of today's hottest gay romance authors have crafted brand-new interrelated novellas celebrating everything wonderful about college, with over 200,000 words featuring sophisticated professors, sexy teaching assistants, ambitious grad students, and spirited undergraduates, all looking for the same thing: an A+ in true love.

Annabeth Albert: Winning Bracket 
Cassandra Carr: The Eloquent Jock
Dalton Diaz: Lesson Learned
Mia Downing: Switching Leads
Whitley Gray: Artistic Endeavor
Bianca Sommerland: Solid Education
KyAnn Waters: Private Lessons
LA Witt: Did Somebody Order a Pizza?
Sara York: The Dust Of Everyday Life

Private Lessons by KyAnn Waters
Characters: Jake and Ryan
My Rating: B+
My Review:
This first story introduces us to Cathia University through Ryan, a soccer player on an academic scholarship, and Jake, the TA for the class that endangers Ryan's ability to keep playing soccer. Ryan is no dummy, but his prof has it out for jocks, so he's giving him bad grades when he doesn't deserve them. When the prof isn't responsive to Ryan's pleas, he goes to Jake. These two have been eyeing each other all semester, but Ryan is a jock...and not so sure he wants to come out of that closet yet. 

At the beginning it took me a bit to settle into the characters and setting, but once I did, it was incredibly sweet. I really enjoyed Ryan and Jake. Ryan is pretty inexperienced, but he knows he wants Jake. He just isn't so sure that he's ready to endanger everything to have him. The new relationship is stressful, just in that he is in the closet, but everything about it feels right to him. But he's also dealing with the stress from his grade in this class. Jake and Ryan are fun together. They have great chemistry and I really enjoyed the scenes where Jake was giving Ryan all new sexual experiences. The story is pretty hot and overall, I really liked it. 

The Dust of Everyday Life by Sara York
Characters: Cole and Seever
My Rating: B
My Review:
Cole is obsessed with swimmers and their hot bodies. Most days he studies where he can watch the swim team practice merely for the eye candy. So he's in complete shock when Seever, one of those sexy swimmers hits on him at the coffee shop. Cole is scrawny and gangly- not exactly up to this guy's standards. But that's not the way Seever sees him. He's been trying to work up the nerve to approach Cole for a while. 

This is a book about two gay guys who have never had a reason to come out. They haven't hidden the fact that they are gay, but have never had a reason to make it public either. This new relationship is changing all the rules for both of them. The story follows them as they navigate the turmoil and stress of coming out, but does so in a positive light. I enjoyed it. 

The Eloquent Jock by Cassandra Carr
Characters:  Scott and Brandon
My Rating: A
My Review:
I'll admit when I saw Cassandra Carr's name on this antho that I was hoping for a hockey story. Yes...this is one. And even better, this story combines my love for hockey trope AND books since the main characters work together in a creative writing/English class. Double YES!

The premise of this story is that Brandon is an English Lit major in his senior year. He's just been hired to be Scott's TA in his creative writing class. Scott is a prof, but the prof job really is just to pay the bills. He's really a best-selling mystery author. Brandon is the assistant captain on the university hockey team.  They both experience the draw to one another, but this relationship isn't a good idea. Scott is a professor and Brandon's boss...and he's 15 years older than Brandon. But as they become closer and realize just how much they have in common, it becomes more and more difficult to resist that draw.

I liked this one. Everything about the premise worked for me and the story flowed effortlessly as I read it. I loved how passionate both these guys are about books. Brandon may be a jock, but his first love really is literature. He's working on his degree in the hopes that someday he can teach at a college AND coach the hockey team. I liked them and the surrounding scenery we got to see in their book. There are some super-hot scenes in this book and a couple of them took place on hiking trails. YUM!

Switching Leads by Mia Downing
Characters: John and Finn
My Rating: A
My Review:
It's been a while since I read a Mia Downing book and I'll admit that I had forgotten just how incredibly well she does angst. 

This book is about John and Finn. Now adults, they were once students at Cathia University and were involved then, 10 years ago. It ended really awfully when Finn screwed up and the following blow-up broke both their hearts. Now John is the Coach of the Cathia riding team. Unfortunately, the team has been rocked by a scandal from the an assistant coach who took advantage of John's distractions with his mother's health. The program is in trouble, but John has plans to fix things...those plans don't include Finn coming back as his new assistant coach, but he's been overruled on the choice. 

The history between the two is extremely painful, just in that neither one has truly ever recovered from it. Finn knows he screwed up big time. Helping out with the team is just one way for him to pay John back for that. He also is harboring a secret and needs John's help too. Everything about this story resonated with me. The emotions felt true and valid. I love a bit of angst and this book had it in spades. I love the college setting for the entire book just because colleges have such a fantastic vibe to them, but I also really loved that both these mc's were a bit older than college students. It made for an incredible story...both with the back story and the depths of the current stories for both of these guys. I loved this one!

Solid Education by Bianca Sommerland
Characters: Gage and Derek
My Rating: A+
My Review:
Wow, I really loved this story. Two men brought together by the love of an abandoned dog was just perfect. Gage is a recovering former Marine who lost his k-9 partner during the war. After being wounded in the same blast, he was medically discharged. His love for that dog brought him to Cathia University with the hopes of someday being a veterinarian. 

Derek is a veterinarian and a professor...a professor who is harder on Gage than other students just to cover by how much he's attracted to the guy. Derek is straight-laced and a by-the-rules kind of guy. Gage has learned way early in life that sometimes you have to grab life and just live. He wants to do that with Derek, especially as he gets to know him better and better as they take care of the ailing, abandoned dog, Matty. 

Matty was the perfect addition to this story. Gage's backstory with his dog and his new story with Matty brought me to tears a couple of times during this book. I love that the dog brings out the softer side of Derek so that Gage can see the true man behind the stern facade. I really, really liked this one. Great love story and romance with plenty of back story to be completely satisfying even as a novella.

Did Somebody Order a Pizza? by L.A. Witt
Characters: Paul and Cory
My Rating: C+
My Review:
This story didn't quite work for me personally. There wasn't anything wrong with the writing. The issue seemed to be with the relationship and my perception of it. Paul and Cory were best friends as kids that naturally moved into being boyfriends as teenagers. That all fell apart when they came to college and pledged the same frat where Paul stood up against the hazing and Cory didn't. 

My problem with it was that happened 18 months ago and they never spoke again until Paul coincidentally delivered a pizza to the frat. 18 months is a long time to go without ANY contact with your best friend. Would Cory have ever contacted Paul if it wasn't for a pizza? That just felt too convenient and then with the further events in the story, I just couldn't believe the true nature of the supposed feelings behind the relationship. As a reader, I didn't believe in them and it just didn't work for me. 

Winning Bracket by Annabeth Albert
Characters: Ollie and Edwin
My Rating: A
My Review:
This was such a fun, cute story. This one is about two RA's that have lived in the same dorm for the last four years. They are complete opposites. Ollie is all about the party, but Edwin is all about the rules. They've had a push/pull relationship over the years just because they run their dorm floors so completely differently, but they've also fallen into a friendship of sorts over that time. They are both playing with an attraction for the other that neither will acknowledge. With Cathia's basketball team headed into March Madness, suddenly they have a way to connect. Betting on the brackets. This is a way to meld Edwin's love of math and computations with Ollie's obsession with sports and parties. It's a win/win especially with the outcome of the bet being a kiss.

I loved the set-up for this one with the partying fun of March Madness. These two guys are such complete opposites that they work together perfectly. I also really loved the fact that neither guy ever guessed he truly had a shot at something more with the other guy. Ollie may play at the party animal who has a different guy every weekend, but it was perfect that a lot of that was just perception. Seriously, I loved these two together. Their small moments together left me smiling and happier for having read their story. 

Artistic Endeavor by Whitley Gray
Characters: Cobey and Michael
My Rating: A+
My Review:
I think this was my favorite story in the entire anthology. There was just something about the character chemistry between Michael and Cobey. 

On the surface, Michael is a man-slut. He hooks up a lot, but doesn't do relationships. It's not that he's a bad guy...he's just been badly burned by love and wants nothing to do with it ever again. 

Cobey is the exact opposite. He grew up in a strictly religious upbringing and series of schools and although he's a professor, this is his first experience out in the world where a gay relationship is acceptable. As a result of his background though, he has zero experience at the age of 25. He's tried on his own, but the gay club scene is too hard and too fast and too intimidating. Mutual friends bring them together knowing they have art in common and that may make things easier for Cobey. Also, although Michael has the experience, he's not a bad guy. He can take things slow with Cobey and not overwhelm him. 

What I loved about this story was just how much Cobey overwhelmed Michael. Michael's the one with experience, but in the face of just Cobey's kisses, it shoves him to the brink. I love how unraveled he would become by this guy. And Cobey is just so shy and unsure...I couldn't help but feel for him. It's just a great book and I loved the art elements and Pride things going on in the background. It made for a fantastic novella!

Lesson Learned by Dalton Diaz
Characters: Adam and Tyler
My Rating: A+
My Review:
Wow...what a great way to end this fabulous anthology. This story was about two men with a past. For one, Tyler, it was his first gay relationship so he didn't realize it was so good because of WHO he was with, not that it was just another guy. But by then he had broken Adam's heart and it was too late. That was two years before this story took place and those two years haven't been great for either of the characters. In fact, Tyler worked actively to make sure they never crossed paths in those two years until Adam walked in as his fill-in professor for summer school. 

This book started in that classroom with the shock of Adam walking in as the professor and the back story of what happened between the two men slowly filtered out, each revelation even more painful and emotional than the one before. Neither one of these guys is a bad guy and my heart ached for both of them. The emotion jumps off the page and I was completely invested in both their stories. I wanted and needed them to find that happiness together again. I really like that Adam is a psychology geek....he is all about talking everything through which makes Tyler so uncomfortable, but it made the likelihood of success this time around so much better. I loved them together and loved this story. 

It's been a GREAT anthology and I love the stories that have come out of Cathia University!!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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