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Just when you think Tamsen Parker has reached her peak, she introduces a new forbidden fruit that left me breathless.
Title: School Ties
Author: Tamsen Parker
Date Read: August 21st-September 6th, 2016
Date Reviewed: September 11th, 2016
Spoilers Ahead?: Yes!
Introduction: I love Tamsen Parker (and that’s no secret) and every time she writes another book I am grasping desperately to try to get a hold of it. So when I was able to get my hands on School Ties (since Tamsen is totally amazing!!) I almost fangirled myself to death. And then I read the book, and I was silently begging Tamsen to stop (and by stop, I mean stop giving me a heart attack with her super sexy stories!). She stepped her game up with this novel! A pinch of BDSM and sexy time, a few splashes of ex drama, a handful of strong characters and then she added dump truck of forbidden romance.
Quick Summary: Erin Brewster begins to teach at a boys boarding school – Hawthorn Hill. She notices a certain student, Zach Shepard, and instantly sparks flash. Their eyes linger over the school year, and feelings flutter. Flash forward three years after Zach’s grad, and here is he back to tempt Erin. They haven’t forgotten each other, and soon enough they’ll be begging for each other’s company…
Evaluations: I had no words when I first finished this novel. I had to wait a few days to even write this because my brain couldn’t wrap around how Tamsen stepped her game up. Not only did she include her typical, hot, sexy BDSM time, but she added a flicker of forbidden romance as well? Tamsen is doing what most writers don’t – she’s growing!! And that makes my inner fangirl super happy and desperate to get her writing more! Or at least get her books more recognition!!
The book was told in both Erin and Zach’s point of view. This gave an added umph to the story since we got to see both of their thoughts and not just one. It opened up the readers to the thoughts of the characters, and we understood what was going on inside of their head. I typically don’t like multiple POVs in past books, but in this story it fit perfectly!
I also enjoyed the realistic aspects of the story – Erin starts a new job and actually feels self conscious! I can’t list enough books where the characters are glowing and perfect the first day on the job. Every time I’ve done something new (new job, new school, etc) I am definitely not glowing with self confidence! Tamsen does a beautiful job showing this, and this makes Erin so much more relatable!
The angst, drama and love in this story is just overall fantastic. Tamsen opens up more and explores! While there isn’t as much crazy BDSM/sexy time like some of her past books, it’s still great! Erin deals with drama before she meets Shep and that makes her grow as a character, so when the story finally progresses and we see more of adult Shep, we understand the struggles our main woman has dealt with.
Overall, I loved it! It’s a step up in the plot and character building department!
Plot: Tamsen’s plot building skills have definitely improved. While I love all of her old books (and their plots are uber sexy) there seemed to be more plot than sexy time in this novel! While I do love some great sex scenes, I love a wicked plot as well!
Erin Brewster’s troubles before Shep are a bit drawn out and I wanted more Zach in those scenes, but it gave a beautiful insight into the character. We saw her struggles and into her mind. I liked understanding her instead of just sex scene after sex scene. To me, it made her more relatable than Tamsen’s past characters. I felt for Erin and I understood how she saw the world.
When we got to Zach’s scenes, I felt like it was a little to late. I kept yearning and yearning for Zach and Erin to have some kind of fling or flirty scene before he left, but it didn’t happen. Yet Tamsen didn’t disappoint! When Zach was brought back, the sex scenes were super sexy and hot. The long, drawn out wait made those scenes even better.
When Zach explains his life in a sex club (and how he’s a virgin? That was a strange twist) I wanted to read more about it. I wanted to see maybe a flash back chapter or an insight into that part of his memory. His explanations were so interesting, and I felt like his back story could have been a novel all on it’s own!! If anything, his back story felt out of place without the chapters to back it up, but Tamsen still made it work! I would love for Tamsen to make an ebook or side story explaining that, similar to how she made more books in India’s series to see other aspects of that world.
Erin Brewster – She’s a realistic and relatable character, which is great for a sexy, BDSM book. She gets nervous and has second thoughts and deals with real issues. I loved that! She wasn’t just some sex toy in the book for the man. The woman tries her best when dealing with her issues in the first half of the book. While I’ve seen other reviewers put down this aspect of the story, I felt like it fit her character. She married a man to keep her job, because she’s young and wants her job. I know many people who are in new jobs and let themselves get pushed around because they need their job. She then stays with the man she marries so she can keep the job. While in real life I would have kicked that guy to the curb, she’s young and she’s really trying.
Zach Shepard – Zach was an interesting character, and for a romance and BDSM book it was odd to read his POV, but that also made this book stand above the others. I didn’t expect to see his side of the story, but we did! As stated earlier I would have loved some more chapters relating to his back story. Him being a changed man was interesting, and makes sense since he went away to another school, but I would have liked to see more of it. He was definitely a hot character, and I could place his personality on a few guys I know, so relatable-ness was met on this character! Seeing Erin and Zach both work through forming a relationship was also nice, so I thoroughly enjoyed his character development.
Themes/Creativity: I wouldn’t say there were any distinct themes in this novel (it’s a romance, BDSM type book) but there was creativity for days in this book! Seeing Erin’s issues before she meets Zach is definitely creative compared to other books. I’ve read many romance novels where the main character complains about her past issues, but I’ve never seen the book actually display them. I also really enjoyed seeing both Zach and Erin’s POV in this novel. I liked seeing Tamsen step up her game with adding forbidden romance with BDSM in this novel and I would love to see her experiment more with these different topics in future books!
Uniqueness: I’ll combine the uniqueness with creativity together. Most of the unique aspects of this novel were also the most creative aspects.
Strengths: Character growth, the plot, the realism of the situations in the story – these are all wonderful strengths in my eyes. I enjoyed Tamsen’s growth in writing, and I can’t wait to see more!
Weaknesses: The lack of Shep’s background story felt like the biggest weakness. I would have liked to read more on that! It wouldn’t have added anything crazy to the novel and it wasn’t a necessity, but I would still like to read it!
Score: 5 out of 5. Despite the little issues here and there, I loved the book. I didn’t really see any weaknesses while reading the book, it was only after when I thought about it and compared it to other novels that are somewhat similar that I started coming up with “problems”. Tamsen did a fantastic job, and I’ll be reading this book over and over again! Tamsen stepped her game up and did a wonderful job with this book! It’s an addicting read that I read in one sitting, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s rare for me to literally sit down and finish a book all in one sitting, I can name only two other books I’ve done that with – Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and Hamlet by Shakespeare. That definitely puts Tamsen high in my books, when I literally restart the book on one day and finish it in that same sitting.