Recommended Read, Review

Review: A Graduate Education by Phoebe Thorpe (2021)

Heat Factor: Oh, my.

Character Chemistry: Well, it’s a good thing these guys hang out with academics, because someone needs to study the chemical reaction that happens every time they’re in the same general breathing space.

Plot: Mia is a grad student recovering from a really crappy relationship when she strikes up a heated romance with Brett—who is, as it turns out, her professor. 

Overall: This book is a big boundary pusher, but it’s HOT. So some people are going to hate it, but it’s also pretty darn good.

Calling all Hot for Teacher fans!! If you like that push/pull feeling of “if this is wrong, why does it feel so right”, look no further.

Basically, Mia and Brett don’t KNOW that they’re in a bad spot ethically until just before the semester begins—but they go into the semester knowing, and they do it anyway. To be fair, I kind of respect them more for just admitting they won’t be able to behave themselves. I think a lot of readers might have felt a little better if they at least tried to resist, but at this point we’ve established that this book isn’t going to be about two very squeaky clean people. And, to their credit, both Mia and Brett are admirably good at spotting feelings as they arise and dealing with them, so their choices end up looking like unfortunate risks and not a lack of character. Mia at various points reacts to the dynamic of secrecy and sneaking around (she willingly chose) in kind of a knee-jerk/irrational way, and immediately admits she’s struggling with feeling like a fling and adjusts. So while they aren’t shiny, perfect characters, they’re really relatable.

Another interesting mess is Mia’s relationship with her friends. When Mia and Brett first meet, she’s about to attend a disastrous party at her ex’s house, where she’s secretly kissed by her ex—who is dating her friend, Sasha. Throughout the book, Mia seems to move the goalposts for what’s appropriate based on what is most comfortable for her. For example, she stands on moral high ground when analyzing her friend’s relationship with an undergrad the friend had previously taught, but doesn’t really hesitate to pursue a relationship with Brett once she knows who he is. And, of course, there’s the drama with her ex-fling, Danny. Mia withholds information from Sasha, her friend and Danny’s new girlfriend, that directly impacts Sasha’s relationship because Mia isn’t ready yet. However, when Brett withholds information about a previous relationship from Mia because HE isn’t ready yet? She’s irate. So sticklers for non-hypocrisy will not love that aspect of Mia’s personality—but I’m holding out hope this is something that will be ironed out, because she’s also really self-aware and open/responsible with her feelings, and I kind of loved that about her.

Ok, so let’s chat about the steam factor. It’s very steamy. There’s “business” that’s “seen to” in nearly every chapter, and there are a lot of chapters. Even when Brett and Mia aren’t together, steamy things happen. It’s…very hot and heavy. Also, this book was in the present tense! Which, I’ll be honest, totally threw me off (and continued to throw me off periodically throughout the book, just unusual for the genre), but my new theory is that present tense in steamy scenes might actually contribute to creating extra tension. 

This book is marketed as a thriller, but I flat out disagree with that characterization. While it’s certainly a drama, the tension stems almost exclusively from Brett and Mia’s secret relationship for most of the book. It’s only nearer the end that the characters end up facing some unexpected consequences from their choices, but at no point does it really feel like there is any threat to life or limb—just the threat of professional consequences to the risks they willingly took. There are moments of slight situational tension, but by far the biggest driver of the plot is the secret relationship. 

I won’t even hint at what happens because spoilers stink, but if you’re the kind of person who requires a squeaky clean, morally just ending, you won’t like this one. Furthermore, this novel is NOT a standalone romance—it ends on a cliffhanger and I refuse to believe there won’t be a book two. Which is great, because I really think Mia is a character with a lot of potential and I would be very curious to see where the author goes with her.

 I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

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