Erryn reviews ‘First Time’ by Stella Starling. This book was released by the author on April 30, 2019, and is 134 pgs long. The audiobook version of this story was narrated by Michael Fell. It was released on July 19 2019, and is 4 hrs and 9 mins long.
Why I read this book: I wanted something sweet.
It’s 2007, and no one is out at Hamilton High School….
…least of all Cody McPherson, the star quarterback everyone says is destined for the NFL; the boy who the entire school expects to see crowned Homecoming King in a few weeks.
Cody’s dad wants to see Cody start the professional football career he’s been grooming him for all his life. Cody’s friends all want him to hurry up and ask Jessica Edmonds to be his Homecoming date. Some days, it feels like everyone in the state of Ohio wants to chime in with an opinion about which college he should play for.
Just about the only one who doesn’t seem to want anything from Cody is Simon Andrews, the transfer student who’s been tutoring him in biology. Cody’s pretty sure he wants something from Simon, though. Not something he can ever admit to, of course. Not something he’d ever do anything about. And definitely not something he expects Simon to want, too.
It’s 2007, and Simon has no plans to come out any time soon….
…especially not before he graduates. Hamilton is the sixth school that Simon Andrews has attended during his high school career, and all he wants to do is keep his head down, his grades up, and make it through graduation without attracting any attention. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things at Hamilton that attract Simon’s attention.
Well, just one thing, really: Cody McPherson, the too-nice, too-hot, too-straight jock who Simon’s been crushing on – er, tutoring, ever since the start of the school year.
Simon has started looking forward to his study dates with Cody more than he should. He can’t imagine ever letting Cody know he’s interested. Not after he’s already experienced firsthand just how ugly coming out at the wrong time, to the wrong people, can be. Besides, Simon doesn’t expect to be at Hamilton for long enough to matter. Sure, his mother has promised that this time, she’ll hold down a job long enough for them to stick around, but Simon’s too smart to trust that either.
There’s a first time for everything though, and at Hamilton High School, there are going to be a lot of firsts.
First Time is a coming-of-age gay romance novella of approximately 34,000 words that contains an unruly set of butterflies who take up residence in Simon Andrews’ stomach, biology tutoring that comes with a heaping side of sizzling chemistry, a quarterback with two left feet, a first date with far too many participants, and two boys who are each terrified of coming out…right up until the moment that they finally manage to do it.
Every Stella Starling romance takes place in the same interconnected, contemporary world.
First Time is a prequel to Cody and Simon’s present-day love story, which will be told in the novel Second Chance.
I was a little leery of a coming out in high school story. I’ve heard too many disastrous tales to know it always ends well. Or even sometimes. No one in my high school came out although later some did. Turns out my prom date was gay. I probably knew it but didn’t understand. Beyond my realm of experience.
That was the early 1990s. Have things gotten better? Today, perhaps, but 2007? I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope.
Simon is a young man who has been hurt a lot. Those tasked with caring for him haven’t done a great job. His mother tries, but consistency isn’t her strong suit and Simon’s in his sixth high school in four years. I moved twice and that was traumatic enough, but six schools? Almost too much to bear. He’s learned his lesson, though, and he has no intentions of making friends. Safer that way.
Cody is the quarterback in a football town. In a football state. Hell, in a football nation. The NFL is still the be-all and end-all for some many young men. For some, it’s a way out of poverty. For others, it’s all about the fame. For still others, like Cody, it’s about making people proud – people of the town, to be sure, but his father in particular. And if he were to disappoint everyone? Almost too much to bear.
I liked this story. I liked that both young men had plenty to lose but were still, in the end, willing to take the risk. I loved that they got support from the most unlikely of places. I was thrilled that the book had such a positive tone.
What I’m really excited about is seeing where this high school romance lands the two young men. The synopsis gives a few hints – this is a prequel novella and the book takes place ten years later. Part of me aches suspecting these two don’t spend those ten years together, but how realistic is that anyway? Sure some marry their high school sweethearts right out of school, but often people’s paths veer significantly from their intended goal. Does Simon get to study science at university? Does Cody make it all the way to the NFL? Needless to say, I’m looking forward to finding out.
I really enjoy Michael Fell’s narration of the story. These are two young men and Michael nails both characters really well. He did a great job and I hope if the next book gets narrated that he’s brought back. So if you’re looking for a coming of age story with some interesting twists and two great protagonists, this is your book.
10/10 Pots of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
Stella Starling debuted as the storytelling team of two M/M contemporary romance authors–Aubrey Cullens and Emma Alcott–who joined forces back in 2016 to write a sweet Christmas story together (All I Want). They had so much fun with the collaboration that they decided to follow it up with a few more books (At Last, The Beloved Series), after which they planned on wrapping up the Stella Starling pen name and getting back to other writing projects that they each had in the works.
But then Gabe Byrne happened… *grin*
Emma was already committed to other adventures, so Aubrey took over sole authorship for the Stella Starling name and wrote a story for Gabe (Ready for Love)… which became an entire series (Semper Fi)… which spawned more spin-off titles… and before she knew it, Aubrey realized that she’d planned more Stella Starling stories than she could ever possibly write.
(But that won’t stop her from trying!)
All Stella Starling stories exist in an interconnected, contemporary world that Aubrey warmly invites you to visit. Although she splits her writing time between more pen names than she knows what to do with, the Stella Starling stories are especially close to her heart, and the world they encompass is pretty darn close to the one Aubrey would like to live in: a place where love always wins.