4.5 star book review for Absolute Beginners, SJ Hooks’ debut, contemporary romance novel, out March 18, 2015, but now available for preorder.
[Some Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge fan of (slightly) forbidden romance stories, so I’m always on the lookout for a novel that can explore this sort of precarious storyline in a compelling way. Well, for me, Absolute Beginners by SJ Hooks does this and does it well! In her debut novel, SJ gives us sexy romance, humor, and heart-felt drama all within the context of well-edited, well-paced book. I felt so many emotions while reading, and isn’t that what we all want? A story that takes us outside of ourselves for a bit to explore experiences that might be quite different from our own? Throw in some swoons and sexy times (which this does) and I’m all in! I gladly give Absolute Beginners 4.5 stars, and I’m excited to review it here and tell you why.
We begin with Professor Stephen Worthington, a slightly awkward, yet kind-hearted college professor. He leads a relatively simple life—teaching English courses at the university, conducting his academic research, and spending time with his family (which includes his loving, slightly annoying step-brother Matt). But if Stephen is being honest, while he likes his life, things have gotten monotonous and lonely. He hasn’t had a lot of luck with the ladies, and after a series of rejections, has retreated inside his bubble of family and work. But, without him realizing it, his life gets shaken up in a most abrupt way.
Stephen has one student that he can’t stand: Julia Wilde. She’s loud, stubborn, opinionated, and constantly challenges the proper decorum of the classroom. Add to that Ms. Wilde’s clothing choices and smudgy make-up, and Stephen is beyond ready for the semester to be over so he never has to see her again. However, after he runs into Ms. Wilde at his brother’s sports bar, he gives her a ride home so she doesn’t have to walk. A brief conversation and nightcap turns into a one-night stand…then a two-night stand…and then an informal sex-buddies relationship. Sure Stephen can’t stand Ms. Wilde in the classroom, but in the bedroom things change. Julia has a way of making him feel confident, while giving him the best sex of his life. But there’s the issue of him being her professor—he could get in serious trouble with the university and jeopardize his career if anyone found out about his sexual relationship with Julia. Plus there’s still the fact that Julia isn’t his type…or is she? The more Stephen gets to know her, he quickly finds that Julia might be the exact type of wild he needs in his life.
I really enjoy that Absolute Beginners is told from the male-POV, and Stephen is such a great protagonist. I love being in his mind…he can be down on himself at times, but mostly Stephen is kind, sensitive, quirky, and intelligent. One of the best things about the story is watching him open up as a result of his relationship with Julia Wilde.
And Julia… Jules is a raging inferno—she’s self-assured, very smart, and knows herself completely. So it totally makes sense that Stephen, initially annoyed with Julia, would eventually be attracted to her. Because of her confidence, she has no trouble telling Stephen exactly what she wants in and out of the bedroom. And because Stephen knows he can trust Julia to be vocal honest, he can let go of any apprehensions and just feel. And goodness gracious, these two are HOT HOT HOT together:
She placed her hands on my thighs and leaned back on them. I was captivated by the sight of her when she started riding me again. I could see all of her and the light from the candles made her skin glow as she moved on top of me. I had never been with a woman in such a way…The sex was undoubtedly the best I had ever had…it didn’t go unnoticed by me that whatever Julia provided, whether it was food, drink, or sex, I enjoyed it immensely.
*UNF* They definitely enjoy themselves… in bed, on the couch, over the couch, against the wall, on the dining room table 😉
Besides having a great time in the bedroom, Stephen’s relationship with Julia also gives him confidence in other aspects of his life—he feels more comfortable opening up with his family and friends and meeting new people. But how long can this thing really last?
“Don’t worry Stephen, I’ll teach you anything you want to learn. The next woman you sleep with won’t know what hit her.”
But…I don’t want to sleep with any other women.
And here lies the conundrum. This arrangement between Stephen and Julia can’t possibly be long term, can it? She doesn’t date, and he’ll eventually need to meet a “suitable” woman to marry and have a family with. And his student cannot be that woman…right?
Interestingly, a complication that arises from their professor-student relationship and the possibility of losing Julia is what serves as a huge catalyst for Stephen. By the time we reach the end of the book, he’s ready to turn all this newly gained confidence on her and explore the possibility of more.
I really congratulate SJ on this novel—she strikes a great balance between drama and comedy within this story. There are definitely serious moments in the plot; however, it never becomes unnecessarily angsty. Moreover, I find that Absolute Beginners is very well edited. While Stephen and Julia’s relationship is the primary one, other characters and their development are well-done and add a robustness to the overall story. Mostly, I just LOVE step-brother Matt!
As you can probably tell, I’m extremely excited to get my hands on the next iteration of Stephen and Julia’s story (Is it June yet?!). I highly recommend Absolute Beginners to those who enjoy contemporary adult romance, slightly forbidden romance, and stories told from a male protagonist’s POV.
You won’t have to wait much longer to be able to read this novel—Absolute Beginners comes out on March 18! Right now SJ is running a crowdfunding campaign where you can pre-order the book. There are different levels and personalized options you can choose that include autographed copies and even bonus outtakes. Definitely make sure to check it out HERE and add Absolute Beginners to your Goodreads TBR list.
Many thanks to SJ and Full Fathom Five Digital for the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy!