Learned Reactions (Higher Education #2) by Jayce Ellis
Reviewed by Cardyn Brooks
Reclusive Deion Jones and playboy Carlton Monroe have been best friends since their sophomore year of college when fate assigned them as dorm roommates. Their smoldering chemistry ignited once. In the 20 years following that random luck of the draw, preserving their friendship has become the priority over exploring romantic possibilities. Time and distance—with Deion as a college professor in Chicago and Carlton as a financial aid advisor in Washington, D.C.—have made resolving their unsettled feelings grow more complicated. That is until the simultaneous collision of a professional sabbatical, family drama, and personal crossroads force Deion and Carlton to confront all of the issues they’ve been avoiding as individuals and as friends.
Learned Reactions works as a stand-alone and offers complex layers of character-driven storytelling that transcends genre. A nuanced cast of primary and secondary characters who are mostly male embodies emotional range in ways that are atypical, refreshing, and resonate as authentic. Female and gender neutral and non-binary characters are rendered with the same multifaceted humanity. Steady narrative pacing reveals the details of Deion and Carlton's relationship at well-placed intervals. Add the organic integration of generational conflicts, the politics of academia, HBCU cultural touchstones, and the impact of government bureaucracy on children's welfare to dialogue that's amusing, serious, and provocative, and readers get an irresistible love story that celebrates families created through conscious, intentional choices as much as it focuses on romance.
Carina Press, March 9, 2021