Tue
Sep 20 2016 2:00pm

First Look: Tamsen Parker’s School Ties (September 20, 2016)

School Ties by Tamsen Parker

Tamsen Parker
School Ties
InterMix/ September 20, 2016/ $2.99 digital

Much like Tamsen Parker's Craving Flight, School Ties  reads more like literary fiction tied with romance.  Parker works well with the affluent boarding school setting, Hawthorn Hill as well as the trope of a young student in love with a teacher. What's interesting is that the first half of the novel is really a build of sexual tension between Zach Shepard and Erin Brewster. Erin's not too much older than Zach, but there is the boundary that she is the teacher and Zach's the student. Individuals would argue that there is a great emotional gap between a teacher who is 24 and a student who is 18. However, Zach has to take on more than his share of adult issues including working to help support himself and his family. The maturity is what attracts Erin to Zach although to be honest, Zach's attractiveness doesn't hurt either.

Tamsen Parker fans will be familiar with the kink that runs through the latter half of the book. However, compared to Personal Geography or Craving Flight, the kink is toned down in terms of how much Erin and Zach go into the kink aspect. It's more of a submissive's trust Erin places in Zach and Zach takes care of Erin in the way a dominant might. However, there's not much in terms of toys or the utilization of objects such as rope, paddles, etc. Instead, there is more of a physical dominance at play including spanking and more of Zach dominating Erin through intensity and physical presence. 

The boarding school setting is very much a major part of the book. Not only is it the place where Erin and Zach meet, it's also the place where the two grow as characters. Erin has been burnt from a previous relationship that started in the insular nature of the school and that grew toxic. For Zach, the school is a way of getting away from the complications of his family life. Both Erin and Zach have an attachment to Hawthorn Hill, it makes sense that the school that they love is also the place that brings the two together in an adult relationship. Parker walks a fine line with Zach's status as a student. It's very much a look but cannot touch, we don't see Erin breaking the rules either, instead it's a finite line of sexual tension that builds and culimates in a first kiss when Zach has graduated and is of age. I also appreciated that even in Erin's pre-Zach relationships she acknowledged her attraction to Zach, but never used her want for him to supplement or imagine him during a sex scene or intimate moment with her partner at the time. 

Instead, Erin acknowledges that her relationship before Zach didn't have the same spark or passion. I see this a lot in romance novels where a previous relationship with a partner is explained away as having a less passionate relationship or not being able to invoke the same “spark” for the hero or heroine. In Erin's case, her previous relationship is not explained away on the lack of a spark of passion, but as the result of two people who don't fit together trying to make something work. I also appreciated that Zach, while jealous of Erin's previous partner, did not try to shame Erin or force her into saying Zach is better. Instead, the jealousy was self-centered in a good way where it was projected internally and Erin was never shamed for her choice of partners.

Zach and Erin find love at an institution they love and a student-teacher romance later becomes a teacher-teacher romance. If you're looking for a romance novel that will engross you as well as leave you with something to dissect afterwards, School Ties is for you.

***

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Sahara Hoshi reviews for Wicked Lil Pixie and is a lifelong reader of romance. Favorite genres include new adult, paranormal romance, contemporary romance and erotica.

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