Book+Main Loves: Learned Reactions
by Donna Soluri
Welcome to Book+Main Loves, a place for us to recommend some of the books that have captured our hearts and our fancy. We’re excited to share with you all the romance reads that have made us smile and laugh, cringe and cry, and all the feels in between. If you’d like to know more about Book+Main Loves, please feel free to reach to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by commenting below. Now, without any further ado, let’s get into it!
Series: Higher Education #2
Author: Jayce Ellis
Release Date: March 9, 2021
The second book in Jayce Ellis’ Higher Education series is out today! Learned Reactions is a friends-to-lovers, LGBTQ romance centered around Carlton and Deion. Friends, let me just say that the level of pining — twenty years of pining — had me all up in my feels for these two men. The sense of longing coupled with so much self-doubt and, on Carlton’s part, blind fear of rejection kept me mesmerized from chapter one. This is my first Jayce Ellis book, and it will not be my last.
Carlton and Deion were assigned as roommates early on in college. They had one blissful night of unbridled sex, which had such an intensity it promptly freaked Carlton out, so he decided they had to remain in the friend zone only. Carlton’s parents are not winning any sort of good parenting awards any time soon; not only do they not approve of Carlton’s sexual orientation, but they also make sure he knows of their disdain at every possible turn. To add insult to injury, they elevated his little sister Carrie to such an unrealistic degree that, upon her untimely death, absolutely no one could compete with her memories. Carlton’s rocky road with his parents made him realize it was too dangerous to risk losing his very best friend and the only solidly good part of his life, Deion, by ever jeopardizing it with a romantic relationship. Carlton decided for both of them that he would be a confirmed bachelor for the rest of his natural born days…and nights. He never dreamed of having a family of his own — until his sister’s death left him with the growing responsibilities of her two children, Trey and Olivia.
Only child Deion was raised by pretty awesome, albeit somewhat overbearing, parents. In all honesty, they just want their son happy and Deion’s mother isn’t one to keep her opinions to herself. After watching her son pine away for Carlton for twenty years, she is well past controlling her poker face or her inside voice. Introverted philosophy professor Deion has tried to date and find love away from Carlton, but the heart wants what the heart wants, and no other person has even come close to filling the hole Carlton left behind when he dealt Deion the friend zone card. To keep his best friend close, Deion resigned himself to silently pining after the only man he’s ever loved.
“Ellis deftly crafts a beautiful friends-to-lovers, fake relationship, epic longing tale for the ages with a glorious declaration of love that will make your heart swoon.”
The gist of the story is, while on sabbatical, Deion visits Carlton and mayhem ensues. Carlton’s young niece wants him to formally adopt her and, of course, a couple gets higher marks than a single dad. Carlton asks his best friend Deion to enter into a fake relationship for the social worker on his case to witness. Of course Deion, already in love with Carlton and also connected with Olivia, agrees. You can imagine exploding chemistry and eventual heartache takes center stage.
The part of Learned Reactions that really resonates with me is Deion. Haven’t we all been some level of Deion at some point in our lives? He is a person settling for less than he deserves in a relationship because he fears pressing the issue will result in losing the love of his life forever. Deion loves Carlton so much he will sacrifice his own heart, his own desire to have a family, because the idea of not having Carlton in his life is completely unacceptable. He will turn a blind eye to his own painful longing just to have the pieces of Carlton, Carlton is comfortable giving up. Even a little bit of what Deion holds so precious is better than nothing at all. On many levels, Deion makes himself small so Carlton can grow. At the very least don’t we all know a Deion? Or am I just projecting?
As their fake relationship grows, we learn the decades long pining goes both ways. To say Deion and Carlton are bad communicators would be doing the word “bad” a disservice. These men just don’t talk. Period. They are both so terrified of losing each other they are paralyzed by fear. We know Learned Reactions is a romance so eventually the story will give our guys their happily ever after, but boy o’boy does Ellis make you earn that happy ending! She will have you all up in your emotions and pining away as hard as Deion by the end of the book.
Learned Reactions can be read as a standalone. There are well-developed secondary characters that cross over books with interwoven timelines, but one can easily read book two without reading book one first. I do hope Carlton’s friend and attorney, Lawrence, gets book three. I’m sensing an age gap romance for him and my body is ready! Ellis deftly crafts a beautiful friends-to-lovers, fake relationship, epic longing tale for the ages with a glorious declaration of love that will make your heart swoon. Two thumbs up!
Donna should be an empty nester, but she’s not, thanks COVID-19. She’s a voracious reader of all books; she can’t pick just one sub-genre. A staunch supporter of seasoned romance and a lover of cupcakes, you’ll often find her with a cup of tea and a mountainous TBR pile close at hand. Follow her @DonnaSoluri on B+M Bites.
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