Title: Professor’s Keeper
Author: Nicole Dennis
Length: 16,282 words, 86 pages
Genre: m/m contemporary romance
Blurb: Professor Alistair Tarrellton knows everything about algorithms but little about relationships. After ex-Marine Rhys Blackwood rescues him from a botched robbery and a panic attack, Alistair finds himself with a new keeper, but can he afford the distraction?
Child prodigy, scientist, and, professor Alistair Tarrellton knows research, not people. Hiding behind glasses and an overstated vocabulary, he faces panic attacks and headaches if situations become too uncomfortable. As head of the college’s bioinformatics area of study, he teaches classes and runs two labs, but he prefers to hide in his private one at home.
A stop at the grocery store on his way home one night puts Alistair in the middle of a botched robbery. While a panic attack freezes him, he watches former Marine Rhys Blackwood take command with ease, and one touch from this powerful man pushes away Alistair’s fear. Rhys quickly invites himself into Alistair’s home and life, and while part of Alistair doesn’t believe he can afford the distraction of a relationship, the rest of him wants the other man to never leave.
Review: Alistair, who is simply called “The Professor”, is definitely absent-minded and quite mad, though his constant time in the safety of his lab is not to brew up crazy experiments, but some very important chemical research for several world governments. After a very difficult day of having to stand up in front of his students and teach, where he feels the most uncomfortable, The Professor stops at a nearby store he frequently visits on his way home to get some ingredients for that night’s dinner. Only, just as he is greeted by a very handsome Marine, the store is robbed and gunpoint. The very forward and competent veteran quickly takes care of the situation, leading The Professor into another anxiety attack. To his surprise, the close proximity of the sexy Marine named Rhys does much more to calm his nerves than the tension ball he constantly squeezes in his pocket. The real problem, though, is that apparently Rhys has taking a liking to The Professor and sees that he needs a keeper, thus inviting himself over for dinner and into his very structured life.
Though the heart of this story is quite cute, I had several problems with the writing that took most of the joy for me. First, I didn’t quite understand what Rhys saw in The Professor. He is completely socially inept and has no clue how to have a personal relationship with anyone. Therefore, the relationship is completely one-sided. While I could see Rhys maybe being a masochist and taking care of The Professor without anything in return for a while, I just couldn’t see it happening in the long-run. After all, his behavior isn’t just something he can turn off on a dime, it is the fundamental way he was raised and his very early and established behavior of deflection. Something like that just doesn’t change overnight.
Secondly, I had a huge problem with much of the writing. Much of this should have been caught during editing, because I really felt like the writing choices didn’t serve the purpose they were obviously meant to have. There’s a very specific way that the author writes The Professor’s speech when he is nervous (which is most of the time, honestly.) The best way to describe it is that he speaks just like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Here, in response to Sam’s (the shopkeeper) inquiry into his health after the robbery and his panic attack:
I’m reaching an acceptable level of normalization. I find myself rather embarrassed for my reactions,’ Alistair said.
Where this overly stilted dialogue works well in a comedy, I felt like it fell a little bit flat here. That’s pretty much how he talks about… 50% of the time. I felt like the author wanted to show through the writing how The Professor’s nervousness alienates him from the world, because he erects his wall of intelligence in front of everyone else. The problem I found with that is that it is really the only way we’re shown his behavior through the writing. If this were written in first person with The Professor as the narrator and some other behavioral things thrown in to make a unique voice, it would have worked, but as it is, I felt like it alienated me from the story. Not only did the strange way of speaking throw me out of the flow of the story, but I often found that the words just didn’t seem well chosen, in the dialogue and the narration. “…slipping back into scientist mode at the sight of his beloved laboratory lighting up with his presence in the room”, and “…you lit all the right buttons inside me.” Now, I know that I got picky as soon as the dialogue started bothering me, but little things like awkward word choices (buttons lighting up instead of being pushed, and the personification of the laboratory) and Rhys’ voice bleeding into a quasi-Professor tone at times become much more visible when something else drew my critical eye.
I hate saying “I really wanted to like this book because…”. Most of the time that doesn’t make much sense, but here I think it does. I felt like this story had a lot of potential, but unfortunately I couldn’t get past the writing and never really felt the connection between the couple. Therefore, I have to grade this one lower than I wanted to. D
Professor’s Keeper is to be released on April 28th.