Book Club time is here again! For this installment, we want to examine a romance novel that takes a fresh look at the subject of length. One of Romance’s most notable traits is the long (painfully sometimes) slow burn of the love interests as they work through their bullshit to hopefully come together as the big climax. But what if the factor of time was of the essence? Maybe we don’t have 300 pages to fall in love, we’re busy people in 2019 after all. Today’s author is up to the challenge, so let’s find out if a lean’n’mean romance can still satisfy our fantasies. Dig in.
Class is in Session by Laura Westbrook pairs us with Kara, a student in college who is having a bit of trouble in her history class. This doesn’t seem to be the usual issue with curriculum or text, it turns out Kara’s got more of an issue with the professor. Professor Jack Howard is a fine instructor…maybe a little too fine actually, as Kara’s got a terminal case of the CRUSH. The rest of Kara’ college experience appears to be lacking whenever she’s not sitting front row center in his class. With a surprise test and a paper due, Kara’s going loco trying to keep everything together. But thankfully Jack, as he insists she call her, needs to consult Kara on something in his office. Apparently the student isn’t the only one with something other than history class on their mind, as Jack looking to risk it all in the name of love.
The setup and execution of the story is most interesting due to its length. Clocking in at around 13,000 words, there’s an inherent challenge to tell a complete love/romance story in such a fairly limited amount of space. I like to think of it as the “explanation from a friend” style of story telling. It’s still told in present tense, and you’re not getting every particular detail, but all the important pieces in Kara and Jack’s journey to love are included. Maybe it’s a lean towards fast-forward speed, but you never feel rushed. Trim the fat, pour some coffee to talk with an old friend about their love life and the story framing still works.
Another challenge of efficiently told romance is the characterization of sex. Certainly, sex has a place in romance, but it typically needs to come from a place of meaning. Kara enters the story a virgin, and as you might expect by its conclusion is a new and different woman in that regard. Those special moments in between are explained tastefully, but still produce steam when it counts. Instead of ill-advised or guilty pleasure relations, the intensity of a student and teacher’s semi forbidden moment builds the dynamic between our main characters. Each interaction, sexual or otherwise adds another layer of challenge, but more importantly adds a layer of love as well. Jack knows exactly what he wants, and all of Kara’s dreams are about to come true. Nothing out of bounds, we get our HEA, and we still get challenged along the way. Hard to argue with that.
Verdict: Class is in Session by Laura Westbrook produces a satisfying romance in a nice, tight format. The author tells a full story with a happy ending which isn’t harmed by its novella-like structure. Kara and Jack make a great pair, and their efficient chemistry makes a lot of sense. Without all the fluff and expositions of character backgrounds or neurousis, some of the character design will be on you as a reader, and that can be a lot of fun. It’s a truncated curriculum, but I still think Westbrook passes the test.