Title: Just Like That
Author: Cole McCade
Series: Albin Academy, #1
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Imprint: Carina Press (Carina Adores)
On-Sale: June 30, 2020
Format: Trade Paperback *ebook and audio formats also available!
Price: $14.99 U.S.
Summer Hemlock never meant to come back to Omen, Massachusetts.
But with his mother in need of help, Summer has no choice but to return to his hometown, take up a teaching residency at the Albin Academy boarding school—and work directly under the man who made his teenage years miserable Professor Fox Iseya.
Forbidding, aloof, commanding: psychology instructor Iseya is a cipher who’s always fascinated and intimidated shy, anxious Summer. But that fascination turns into something more when the older man challenges Summer to be brave. What starts as a daily game to reward Summer with a kiss for every obstacle overcome turns passionate, and a professional relationship turns quickly personal.
Yet Iseya’s walls of grief may be too high for someone like Summer to climb…until Summer’s infectious warmth shows Fox everything he’s been missing in life.
Now both men must be brave enough to trust each other, to take that leap. To find the love they’ve always needed…
Just like that.
In Just Like That, critically acclaimed author Cole McCade introduces us to Albin Academy: a private boys’ school where some of the world’s richest families send their problem children to learn discipline and maturity, out of the public eye.
“Extinguisher first, then sand,” the voice ordered. “Dr. Liu, if you insist on getting in the way, at least make yourself useful and remove anything else flammable from the vicinity of the blaze. Quickly, now. Keep your mouths covered.”
Summer’s entire body tingled, prickled, as if his skin had drawn too tight. That voice—that voice brought back too many memories. Afternoons in his psychology elective class, staring down at his textbook and doodling in his notebook and refusing to look up, to look at anyone, while that voice washed over him for an hour. Summer knew that voice almost better than the face attached to it, every inflection and cadence, the way it could command silence with a quiet word more effectively than any shout.
And how sometimes it seemed more expressive than the cold, withdrawn expression of the man he remembered, standing tall and stern in front of a class of boys who were all just a little bit afraid of him.
Summer had never been afraid, not really.
But he hadn’t had the courage to whisper to himself what he’d really felt, when he’d been a hopeless boy who’d done everything he could to be invisible.
Heart beating harder, he followed the sound of that voice to the open doorway of a smoke-filled room, the entire chemistry lab a haze of gray and black and crackling orange; from what he could tell a table was…on fire? Or at least the substance inside a blackened beaker was on fire, belching out a seemingly never-ending, impossible billow of smoke and flame.
Several smaller fires burned throughout the room; it looked as though sparks had jumped to catch on notebooks, papers, books. Several indistinct shapes alternately sprayed the conflagration with fire extinguishers and doused it with little hand buckets of sand from the emergency kit in the corner of the room, everyone working clumsily one-handed while they held wet paper towels over their noses and mouths with the other.
And standing tall over them all—several teachers and older students, it looked like—was the one man Summer had returned to Omen to see.
He stood head and shoulders above the rest, his broad-shouldered, leanly angular frame as proud as a battle standard, elegant in a trim white button-down tucked into dark gray slacks, suspenders striping in neat black lines down his chest. Behind slim glasses, his pale, sharply angled gray eyes flicked swiftly over the room, set in a narrow, graceful face that had only weathered with age into an ivory mask of quiet, aloof beauty.
The sleek slick of his ink-black hair was pulled back from his face as always—but as always, he could never quite keep the soft strands inside their tie, and several wisped free to frame his face, lay against his long, smooth neck, pour down his shoulders and back. He held a damp paper towel over his mouth, neatly folded into a square, and spoke through it to direct the frazzled-looking group with consummate calm, taking complete control of the situation.
And complete control of Summer, as Iseya’s gaze abruptly snapped to him, locking on him from across the room. “Why have you not evacuated?” Iseya demanded coldly, his words precise, inflected with a softly cultured accent. “Please vacate the premises until we’ve contained the blaze.”
Summer dropped his eyes immediately—habit, staring down at his feet. “Oh, um—I came to help,” he mumbled through the collar of his shirt.
A pause, then, “You’re not a student. Who are you?”
That shouldn’t sting.
But then it had been seven years, he’d only been in two of Iseya’s classes…and he’d changed, since he’d left Omen.
At least, he hoped he had.
That was why he’d run away, after all. To shake off the boy he’d been; to find himself in a big city like Baltimore, and maybe, just maybe…
Learn not to be so afraid.
But he almost couldn’t bring himself to speak, while the silence demanded an answer. “I’m not a student anymore,” he corrected, almost under his breath. “It’s…it’s me. Summer. Summer Hemlock. Your new TA.” He made himself look up, even if he didn’t raise his head, peeking at Iseya through the wreathing of smoke that made the man look like some strange and ghostly figure, this ethereal spirit swirled in mist and darkness. “Hi, Professor Iseya. Hi.”
Copyright © 2020 by Cole McCade
Just Like That by Cole McCade
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Genre-wise this is a M/M age-gap romance. It was very well written and instantly drew me in with its easy style. This had such a beautiful flow to it and the prose used here was just so lyrical. Summer Hemlock returns to his roots in Omen Massachusetts to be close to his mother and to take up a position as a TA at his former school Albin Academy. Summer is now working under his former teacher and crush’s shadow the frosty and rigid processor Fox Iseya. When the professor brings attention to Summers reticent nature challenging him to step out of his safe-zone Summer without thinking of the consequences angrily kisses him. Fox has been closed off for years, the pain of losing his wife causing him to shut down his emotions and hide behind an icy outward demeanour. Summers unexpected move totally throws him and causes the first chunk in his defences to appear. I did initially think that it would be Fox being the elder here making that first initial move when surprisingly it was Summer who despite his more timid and submissive nature takes the reins and first pushes forward here. Fox initially is much more reserved but does react accordingly. He is initially very much perturbed by what is unfolding as he’s been living in an emotionless vacuum for years due to his past grief. Dropping his walls after all this time to allow someone closer goes totally against his every instinct. Fox’s initial floundering is adorable and such a contrast to his usual controlled outward persona. It’s also fascinating to see Summer emerge from his chrysalis after years of keeping his head down. As a character Summer is such a contradiction all anxious energy mixed together with a big glug of courage. He’s afraid but still prepared to go after what he wants despite his uncertainties or maybe even because of them. I loved the authenticity and complexity of the characters here they were imperfect and unique which gave this, in turn, such a realism. Dynamic wise Fox Iseya is very much the dominant personality here but that is not to say the more submissive and shy Summer doesn’t also have a voice. And as there relationship develops further Fox is very much a protector as well as a nurturer towards the much younger Summer whilst also trying to hold himself slightly separate for his own emotional protection. I especially adored his stern take no-nonsense approach and the way it made Summer feel grounded and secure in the face of his own fears and extreme anxiety. locked behind Fox’s stern persona is also so much surprising vulnerability and insecurities that he keeps hidden using fear of his wrath as a tool to repel others from getting close. They were both such diverse personalities and against the odds, they seemed to fit. This was very much a journey of discovery for both men who each found what they didn’t know they were looking for in each other and grew so much over the course of this story. With this, we mostly focus on summer and Fox and there building bond but rather than being bored I was enthralled. This was an incredibly romantic story, driven solely by the emerging bonds and past traumas. It was incredibly emotional and poignant and actually had me transfixed. I adored both Summer and Fox very much and was totally invested in their story. They had such explosive chemistry as well as such a deep emotional connection. There were no major gimmicks really with this and the simplicity of the story here was actually part of its whole appeal. This was thoughtful and insightful and the emotions and slow healing experienced here is the main focus. The struggles of a man afraid to re-open his heart and the courage of one who though still afraid doesn’t let it define and shape his future. Totally recommend this it was great and I enjoyed it immensely. A thumbs up from my camp.
I voluntarily reviewed a copy of Just like that.
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Cole McCade is a New Orleans-born Southern boy without the Southern accent, currently residing somewhere in Seattle. He spends his days as a suit-and-tie corporate consultant and business writer, and his nights writing contemporary romance and erotica that flirts with the edge of taboo—when he’s not being tackled by two hyperactive cats.
He also writes genre-bending science fiction and fantasy tinged with a touch of horror and flavoured by the influences of his multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual background as Xen. He wavers between calling himself bisexual, calling himself queer, and trying to figure out where “demi” fits into the whole mess—but no matter what word he uses he’s a staunch advocate of LGBTQIA and POC representation and visibility in genre fiction. And while he spends more time than is healthy hiding in his writing cave instead of hanging around social media, you can generally find him in these usual haunts:
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