Review: Worth Waiting For – Wendy Qualls

Review: Worth Waiting For – Wendy QuallsWorth Waiting For
by Wendy Qualls
Series: Heart of the South #1
Also in this series: Worth Searching For, Worth Fighting For
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
Genres: Romance
Pages: 304
Reading Challenges: 2018 Romance Roundabout Challenge, January - March 2018 Quarterly Challenge, Title Hunt Quarterly Challenge: January - March 2018
Source: Purchased

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

A small-town in the Deep South isn’t where most gay men would choose to go looking for love. But open hearts will find a way…

Growing up in the Bible Belt, Paul Dunham learned from a young age to hide his sexuality. Now he’s teaching psychology at a conservative college in Georgia—and still hiding who he really is. If Paul hopes to get tenure, he needs to keep his desires on the down-low. But when an old college crush shows up on campus—looking more gorgeous than ever—Paul’s long-suppressed urges are just too big for one little closet to hold . . .

Brandon Mercer has come a long way since his freshman year fumbling's with Paul. Now he’s confident, accomplished, proudly out—and the sexiest IT consultant Paul’s ever seen. When Brandon asks Paul to grab some coffee and catch up, it leads to a steamy reunion that puts their first night of passion to shame. But when Paul’s longtime crush turns into a full-time romance, he receives an anonymous email threatening to expose their secret to the world. If Paul stays with Brandon, his teaching career is over. Yet if he caves under pressure, he risks losing the one true love he’s been

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4 stars icon contemporary icon categories_m_m romance icon

Content warning: homophobia (religiously motivated)

Wow, this was an angsty, all-the-feels read!  I cried angry tears, sad tears, and happy tears, all in the course of 300 pages!

“How did you …” Brandon seemed to be picking his words carefully. “How was it for you? Staying?”
“It wasn’t anything, really.” Confusing and frustrating, but that was nothing new. “I just went back to not doing that. Nobody thought anything of it. Plenty of students here don’t really date.”
Paul is securely in the closet.  While he doesn’t go out of the way to appear straight, he’s on the tenure track at St. Bernard’s, the same conservative Christian college he attended, and while they don’t require a statement of faith for the faculty, they also wouldn’t look kindly on an openly gay professor.  Brandon, on the other hand, is out of the closet and has spent a lot of time on the gay scene, but his romantic life has been a series of anonymous one night stands.  So Paul has that on him, at least, as he had a relationship with a guy for over a year, even though he was controlling and kept trying to push him out of his confront zone sexually.  Ten years ago, when they were both freshmen, they had a one night stand in the dorms before break, and shortly after Brandon transferred to another school, while Paul stayed.  When they meet again as part of a college IT project, it’s immediately obvious the attraction is still there.  While Brandon understands why Paul is still in the closet – he was terrified of coming out to his supportive family, so he can imagine how Paul feels – he’s still interested in a no-strings casual fling while he’s working with the college.
“My parents are pretty conservative—not as strict as some, I wasn’t homeschooled or anything, but they always did see the world in black and white. Still do. Even if I never told them why I wanted to transfer, I would have still had to wrestle with the idea that I was giving in to this compulsion for sin inside me. As long as I stayed at St. Benedict’s, as long as I kept all my lustful thoughts to myself and tried very hard to pray myself straight, I wasn’t a failure yet.”
It’s the south – where one of the first questions people ask when they meet you is where you go to church – and one of the things that haunts Paul is reconciling being a “good Christian” with being gay.  His family is quite conservative, and his POV is loaded with comments about bible studies, praying, and going to church on Sundays.  His twin sister, the person he’s probably closest to in the world, had a bad reaction to him coming out to her, and his parents would not react well at all to it.  While this may be off-putting for a secular reader, it’s just the normal cultural Southern Christian trappings, no Bible verses or “Jesus saves!” type content included.   On a weekend trip to Atlanta, Brandon takes him to his gay-friendly church, and this is when I think I finally really fell in love with the two as a couple.  I think it’s hard for people who aren’t coming from the Southern Christian perspective to realize how much it permeates everyday life, and to realize what a horrifyingly soul-crushing burden it’s been to Paul, to the point where he’s basically tried to “pray himself straight” multiple times.
“I don’t mind if tonight becomes your dirty little secret. I kind of expected that when I asked. I’m not going to go bragging about what you taste like or how you are in bed, and I wouldn’t know anyone here to tell even if I wanted to. But I’m not going to be the focus of some Jesus-hates-me meltdown where you can paint me as some rainbow Typhoid Mary spreading gay cooties in my wake. If you want this, you’ve got to own it. I’d rather sit alone in my hotel room than be some big ongoing source of guilt for you to rail against. You want me? Then say it.”
The tension was lovely and the sex was hot!  Despite his relationship, Paul is pretty inexperienced and, in some ways, prejudiced, and watching him break out of his shell was lovely.  It did feel a bit like a gay sex bucket list, but it fit in the overall relationship, so I wasn’t too bothered by it.
“We’re just going to have to solve this the old-fashioned way.”
“What’s that?”
Brandon grinned. “Copious amounts of data-tracking, electronic manipulation, cyber-spying, and you and me sleeping together whenever the opportunity presents itself.”
While I enjoyed the development of their relationship, I found the plot behind why Brandon was at the college predictable, and, honestly, not very interesting.  It also seemed a bit much that Paul, who’s been pretending to be straight for his entire life, would feel comfortable walking around Atlanta with Brandon while openly holding his hand and indulging in other light PDA.
Overall, despite needing a box of tissues, I enjoyed this book immensely!

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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