Worth Waiting For, by Wendy Qualls
Series: Heart of the South, Book 1
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Growing up in the Bible Belt, Paul Dunham learned from a young age to hide his sexuality. Now he’s teaching psychology at a conservative college in Georgia-and still hiding who he really is. If Paul hopes to get tenure, he needs to keep his desires on the down-low. But when an old college crush shows up on campus-looking more gorgeous than ever-Paul’s long-suppressed urges are just too big for one little closet to hold . . .
Brandon Mercer has come a long way since his freshman year fumblings with Paul. Now he’s confident, accomplished, proudly out-and the sexiest IT consultant Paul’s ever seen. When Brandon asks Paul to grab some coffee and catch up, it leads to a steamy reunion that puts their first night of passion to shame. But when Paul’s longtime crush turns into a full-time romance, he receives an anonymous email threatening to expose their secret to the world. If Paul stays with Brandon, his teaching career is over. Yet if he caves under pressure, he risks losing the one true love he’s been waiting for. . .
In the Closet
(highlight above to read spoiler,
and see review for more information)
Please note that the last paragraph of this review contains spoilers. The rest of the review can be read without spoilers, but please stop at the Spoiler Ahead graphic if you don’t want to be spoiled!
This is a book about a university professor written by someone who, it seems to me, does not fully understand what is expected of a tenure-track faculty member at a university. For readers who don’t work with faculty, or are not a faculty member themselves, then this won’t matter much. For me, though, it was like reading about a strange alternate universe and it was distracting in an unintentionally hilarious way. Paul would have been better off written as a high school teacher or as a staff member of the Psychology department.
To be honest though, it was my fascination with this interpretation of academia and Brandon’s “secret assignment” that actually kept me reading. And at some point, I actually did morph from amusement to sympathy for Paul.
I’m sympathetic to characters who struggle with communication in relationships because they’ve never had the experience to learn how. It’s a skill that often needs to be learned, and Paul acknowledges that he doesn’t have the experience he needs. Because of this, his mixed signals to Brandon made total sense to me. His struggles with being gay and Christian also resonated with me, because I’ve known people who are or have been in the same spiritual conflict, and I also understand his desire not to be out. However, Paul never has to make the decision about whether or not to come out, which is a critical component of his relationship with Brandon, and this is addressed under the spoiler notice below.
While I understand why Paul still thinks about his single hook-up with Brandon years after the fact – since it’s pretty much his only hook up in his life – I don’t understand why (as the story implies), Brandon has done the same. There are some undertones that Brandon considers Paul to be “the one that got away,” and it’s super unclear what it is about Paul that would engender that sort of reaction. We never get Brandon’s POV, so we’re left guessing.
However, I do have to acknowledge that the ARC I received for this book has some of the worst, most distracting formatting I have ever seen. On some pages, the line breaks make it look like the story suddenly turned into a prose poem, and in other places, all of the spaces between words disappear, along with paragraph breaks. Because of this, there was an level of extra effort required to read the story, and unfortunately it makes it harder to tell whether some of my lingering discontent is with Quall’s writing, or a response to the formatting, which is beyond Quall’s control.
As the story’s denouement, Paul is forcibly outed in a nightmarish way. His ex hacks Paul’s professional email account and sends an email to everybody in his address book (students, colleagues, bosses, friends, family, probably professional list servs) with a long, rambling, and obscene message outing Paul, including pictures of Paul having sex with Brandon. And yet, this is treated almost as an aside – now that Paul’s out, he can be with Brandon, yay! There is no treatment about how invasive, damaging, and potentially dangerous this sort of outing is, and I finished this book feeling angry that this event was used so lightly.
Wendy Qualls was a smalltown librarian until she finished reading everything her library had to offer. At that point she put her expensive and totally unrelated college degree to use by writing smutty romance novels and wasting time on the internet. She lives in Northern Alabama with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, and a seasonally fluctuating swarm of unwanted ladybugs. She’s a member of both the Romance Writers of America and way too many online writers’ forums Wendy can be found at wendyqualls.com and on Twitter as @wendyqualls.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.