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Mark Wills ~ Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews

I'm an avid reader and reviewer of m/m fiction. I also love historical novels and crime / thrillers.

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Out of the Past
Jeffrey Ballam
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Arthur Conan Doyle

Social Skills

Social Skills - Sara Alva This is a wonderful story of coming out, first-time love , first-love heartbreak and basically many “firsts” all happening at once.

Connor is in his first year at UVA, but the only thing he really feels safe with is his music and his violin. Painfully shy and socially awkward he finds solace in his music where he can run from the demands put on him by having to socialise at college. He is effectively a bit of a loner, a very sweet one admittedly, however playing in an orchestra is a social thing so he soon makes a friend, Rebecca, and with her finds himself a group of friends where at least he feels a little comfortable with.

I loved Connor sweet, innocent (yes, when he arrived at college he was still a virgin), a gentle soul, but I found his low self-esteem and panic around crowds excruciating. I could really feel his anxiety and embarrassment which has tendencies going on to panic attacks. He constantly berates himself in his thoughts, second guesses himself and gets angry with himself at his lack of social skills! The author let me really get into Connor’s thoughts and feelings with marvellous coherent writing. All this shyness must come from somewhere, maybe some things are inherent and genetic, but then.......

Then you meet Connor’s mother – it all becomes totally clear why Connor is the way he is. His mother is totally over-bearing, dominant, demanding, manipulative, dictatorial and, and..........words fail me. No wonder the boy is so shy. Connor's father isn’t much help either as he is just as much under the thumb as Connor. The only one who really knows how to cope with his Mum is his thirteen year old younger sister. At first she comes across as your normal irksome little sister, but later I learned to like her A LOT! Connor’s parent’s has his complete life planned out for him and he doesn’t even get a say in what he wants. I know for a lot of people this character of Connor’s domineering mother maybe a little stereotypical, but this is necessary to understand Connor, the way he is and where he’s coming from, and I guess such mother’s also really exist.

OK, back to college ~ Connor his a high achiever! Connor's anthropology teacher suggests he gives remedial lessons. I also thought that the lecturer here was also thinking about trying to bring Connor out of his shell a little. He gets glittlesto football jocks, Michael and Jared to tutor. Although Michael drops out, Jared still keeps coming to his class with Connor and it’s obvious there is something more there than just remedial teaching sessions.

The attraction grows and the rest is history so to speak. It is now a journey full of discovery, high emotion and changes. First Jared tries to keep their relationship secret, can’t have a gay football star, can we? Connor wants more than a closeted football player can give and this leads to a break-up. At this point I could have cried buckets for Connor, there is nothing worse than breaking up with the first big-love in your life. Oh the hurt! Connor now pulls himself together with the help of Rebecca and starts a new life at college, still a little shy, but you can definitely start to see the change. This time it’s Jared’s turn, he realises how much he misses Connor and tries to win him back, but then Jared is outed! MAJOR DISASTER for the football player. Now not used to dealing with “not being the popular guy” Connor needs to treat him gently and help nurture Jared’s hurt ego and dealing with snide remarks from his friends.

Coming out is a very different experience for everyone. Here the author takes two examples, Connor choosing to out himself and Jared being outed involuntarily. I found this a nice contrast and plot device. Making Jared now the one needing help from Connor, whereas before it was the other way round. Coming out can be a traumatic affair and in this book we get to read both sides of the coin and its effects. Some people being more accepting than others, Jared has to learn that if he loses friends now that they were never really true friends to begin with, the question is will Jared be able to cope with his outing. I also liked the way the author handled the different reactions of the parents. Jared's mum being understanding, although upset, accepts her son's sexuality, but Connor's parents are indifferent and cold. Here Connor's sister comes up trumps. This is a very true to life situation and the most harrowing part about coming out is the reaction of parents for many young people.

I loved this book as the characters felt real. Yes, they were young, all around 18 to 20, but oh the emotional turmoil of being a young adult. The author conveys these feelings wonderfully and delivers a believable and heart warming story.

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