Hello! I’m Erin, and welcome to the blog tour for my m/m college romance, Controlled Burn! I can’t wait for you to meet Joel and Paulie, and hope you enjoy their romance as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Follow along as I stop off at several blogs throughout the week, and don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a $25 Riptide Publishing gift card!
About Controlled Burn
At eighteen, Joel Smith’s life fell to pieces. His boyfriend died in a car crash while reading a sext from him, the local newspaper outed them both in the aftermath, and his parents got a divorce. Joel did everything possible to outrun his past: he moved to Oklahoma for college, legally changed his name, and started over.
Since then, he hasn’t let anyone get close—not his classmates, not his roommate, and definitely not his hookups. The strategy has served him well for over three years. Why would he change it now?
But Joel doesn’t plan on the articles about his boyfriend’s death being used as a case study in one of his classes. And he doesn’t plan on Paulie McPherson, who is sweet and giving and fun. In Paulie, he finds a home for the first time in years.
But love isn’t simple, and lies have a tendency to get in the way. Joel must figure out if he’ll allow his grief to rule him, or if his connection with Paulie is worth letting all of his walls come tumbling down.
Now available from Riptide Publishing. http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/controlled-burn
Favorite College Romances
One of the reasons I loved writing Controlled Burn was because the two main characters—Joel and Paulie—fall in love with each other with college as their backdrop. There’s something about that time in a person’s life that lends itself really well to storytelling, and the structure of college, from dorm life to first parties to graduation and job hunting, can be really evocative and interesting. For many people, college is their first taste of freedom, but it’s also a time when they’re supposed to be figuring things out, like careers, belief systems, love, sex, cooking for themselves, and finances. Of course, that’s not always smooth sailing.
Luckily, there are a lot of great college romances out there. Today I’m sharing my favorite college queer romances (in no particular order), and I love recommendations, so if I missed your favorite, let me know in the comments!
Resistance by Amy Jo Cousins
I originally planned to include Cousins’s Nothing Like Paris from The Bend or Break series in this list because I love a redeemed hero, but then I read this little gem in Rogue Desire: A Romance Anthology. It’s about a teaching assistant who takes a group of students to an immigrant rights protest in D.C. He ends up rescuing and fooling around with an antifa protestor, who is in disguise, only to realize it’s one of his students. College is a time when many people question and develop their belief systems, and this story perfectly encapsulates the passion of ideas and resistance and rebellion. I can’t wait to read more about these two main characters.
Starting From Scratch by Jay Northcote
This book follows a trans student as he returns to college and the dating scene after hormone treatment and chest surgery. The whole Housemates series by Northcote is wonderful—they are my comfort reads—but this one is my favorite. It has a perfect friends-to-lovers vibe and such kind characters that it’s impossible not to fall in love with them.
Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon
I’m obsessed with this book. It follows a college freshman as she befriends and falls in love with a woman in her computer science class, who also happens to be the stripper who gave her a lap dance at her sister’s bachelorette party. Both of the characters are fresh, interesting, and adorable. It has wonderfully positive sex worker representation, and perfectly captures the nervousness and excitement of first love.
Winning Bracket by Annabeth Albert
I originally read this in the Campus Cravings bundle, but it has since been released on its own with a bonus epilogue. This story is sweet and sexy and centers around two frenemy RAs and their bet on the March Madness NCAA College Basketball Tournament brackets. As a huge college basketball fan, I gobbled this one up.
A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde
This book is the most perfect. It’s a May/December, billionaire romance that follows a trans art student and a genderqueer tech billionaire as they meet, woo each other, fall in love, and build a life together. I love the way this story plays with and sometimes subverts the May/December and billionaire romance tropes. But my favorite part of this book is how it handles discussions of sex, especially in relation to consent, boundaries, negotiations, and gender. I didn’t want this book to ever end. I could have read about the characters’ life together for another 500 pages!
Poster Boy by Anne Tenino
I’m a fan of the whole Theta Alpha Gamma series, but I think this one is the most romantic. It follows a grad student who can’t seem to complete his thesis and a frat boy jock who is enjoying the freedom to have lots of sex for the first time. The two main characters are flawed, funny, and super sexy. It also has an unabashed rom-com silliness that is refreshing, and is set during a semester abroad in France. Bonus: Tenino’s book Too Stupid To Live has a main character in grad school and he is my favorite awkward hero EVER!
Mark Cooper Versus America by J.A. Rock and Lisa Henry
This book follows a hilarious Aussie freshman as he deals with college in the U.S., rushing a fraternity, and falling for a studious boy in the enemy frat. It’s funny, kinky, and heartfelt. The second book in the series is just as good.
Hold Me by Courtney Milan
This book is what all my nerdy, geeky dreams are made of. It follows a trans woman who is an undergrad student and the creator of a very popular apocalypse-centered blog and a bisexual professor who is a workaholic and commenter on the blog. When these characters meet in real life, they hate each other, not realizing they’ve been flirting online for eighteen months. This enemies-to-lovers book is a slow burn with huge rewards. I loved its geekiness, the full character arcs, and the way the characters deal with planning their careers while in love.
Abroad: Book One by Liz Jacobs
This debut by Liz Jacobs is just lovely. It has three POVs—Nick is a closeted Russian-Jewish immigrant to the U.S. who is spending a year studying abroad in London, Dex is a queer black student who is in control of his own life but worrying relentlessly about his little brother, and Izzy is bubbly, irrepressible woman who has recently discovered her bisexuality. (Team Izzy, all the way). Nick and Dex’s romance unfolds so sweetly, and seeing Nick come into his own is such a treat. I can’t wait for the next book in this series. I want more Izzy, stat.
After losing his boyfriend, Diego, in his senior year of high school in a horrible car crash and then being outed by the police who find a sexy text he'd sent to Diego's phone, Joel is humiliated and tries to run away from it all, tries hiding by moving to a new state and changing his name. He doesn't want a serious relationship again. He'll never survive another loss like that of his first love. But Joel also can't help the pull he feels towards Paulie. He's helpless to stop his feelings for him.
Paulie left his home and his family's strict religious beliefs at fourteen to go live with his Aunt. Paulie is unapologetically gay and comfortable in his own skin. He's liked Joel from the first time they met in class. But if Joel won't open up and be honest, how will their relationship survive? You can't build a solid relationship with secrets between you.
I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the secrets Joel harbored to blow up in his face and after they did, my heart was just heavy and sad. Even though Paulie doesn't react as Joel expects him to, Joel can't let go of the past so he can have the future he wants with Paulie. He can't let Paulie in completely for fear of losing Diego and Paulie can't compete with a ghost.
The emotions this author made me feel were absolutely heartbreaking. She tore my heart right out of my chest and had me a sobbing, ugly crying mess. The pain Joel and Paulie felt was real and vivid, but I couldn't put the book down and walk away. I had to keep reading to see if Joel and Paulie could ever make it work. From Joel and Paulie's first scene, I was captivated and completely invested in their story.
The story is well-written, but maybe paced a bit slow at times. The chemistry between Joel and Paulie was undeniable. Their relationship is loving and passionate. This was such a great story and the author took me on an emotional rollercoaster throughout. I not only loved both Joel and Paulie, but Joel's roommate Travis, as well. He was an amazing friend to both Joel and Paulie and I'm really hoping the author decides to tell his story, too. Very enjoyable and highly recommendable!
*copy provided by the author/publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
I loved Paulie and I felt bad for all he had to go through, both with his family and with Joel. My heart broke seeing how invested he was in their relationship and how badly he hurt when he thought his feelings would never be reciprocated the way he wanted and needed. I liked Joel, but I was so frustrated with him. There is no worse blind man than that one who doesn't want to see, and that was Joel in regard to Diego, his boyfriend who died in an accident years before he met Paulie and with whom Paulie was competing with without even knowing. Joel had closed himself off because of the guilt he felt over Diego's accident and wasn't willing to let anyone in, until Paulie bulldozed past his defenses. Even if I was annoyed with Joel during most of the book, I can't deny the two of them had a lot of chemistry and once Joel finally allowed himself to see what had been in front of him all that time, he made it up to Paulie and behaved like the man Paulie really deserved.
I adored Travis! He was such a fantastic friend, loyal and supportive, lending a sympathetic ear when he was needed. I truly wouldn't mind reading more about him. *hint hint nudge nudge*
Overall, this was a great (albeit frustrating) read, well-written and even if there are some things that didn't quite work for me, I still have no problem recommending it.
*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***
About Erin McLellan
Erin McLellan writes contemporary romance, often set in the South or Midwest—particularly Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas—with characters that are complex, good-hearted, and sometimes a little quirky. Erin likes her stories to have a sexy spark and a happily ever after.
Erin has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in library and information studies from the University of Oklahoma. She has always enjoyed writing, but becoming a librarian and meeting enthusiastic romance readers helped her find her own writing passion. Now Erin cheerfully writes romance with characters across the LGBTQIA spectrum. A former public librarian, she still enjoys being surrounded by books and readers, but Erin hopes to find her stories on the shelves as well.
Originally from Oklahoma, she currently lives in Alaska with her husband, and spends her time dreaming up love stories set in the Great Plains. She is a lover of chocolate, college sports, antiquing, Dr Pepper, and binge-worthy TV shows.
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To celebrate the release of Controlled Burn, one lucky winner will receive a $25 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 19, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!