*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
Mason Hayes has no filter. He says just what he’s thinking, no matter how inappropriate, where he happens to be, or who he might be with—especially if it has to do with sex. This was a tendency his poor mother struggled with even when Mason was a child…
“How come [Dane] can touch his pee-pee outside and I can’t touch mine in my pants?”
“Because he’s three, Mason. Three. And you were in school, and all pee-pee touching needs to be done in private.”
“But what if another boy wants to touch my penis? How will I know?”
“Oh dear God.”
“But Mom, God doesn’t like it when we touch our penises. That gross girl in school said that in front of the entire class! Why would you bring him into it?”
“Mason, would you like some Kool-Aid?”
Mason smiled at his mother, distracted and happy about it. “Yeah. Do we have cherry?”
If you read Winter Ball, you no doubt remember Mason as Skipper’s “gentlemen caller”, an executive of their company who could have rightly been sued for sexual harassment when he asked Skip to watch gay porn with him at work. Seriously. No. Filter.
“I’m sort of a social nightmare, but I’d love to play a sport.” He’d played soccer as a kid—until he’d told Tommy Perkins that the nylon soccer shorts made his penis get large if he forgot to wear his jock, and suddenly nobody invited him to their birthday parties anymore.
If Mace is a social nightmare, Terry Jefferson is an unwitting mama’s boy. He lives with his mother and supports her and puts up with her controlling act…because he doesn’t know anything else, and she’s convinced him he’s unworthy, owes her for his very existence. He has such personality and vibrance of life, yet he’s used to just folding when it comes to his harpy-tongued mother. Makes things a little tough for Mason, who came from a whole, loving home and found success early in his life.
For a moment Mason’s future was poised on a knife-edge: absolutely lose his shit about how wolves would have done a better job at raising Jefferson than his mother apparently had and lose any chance of having sex for maybe the next year, or….
Be quiet and accept Jefferson for who he was and the limitations in his life, and maybe, week by week, show him how to reach for more.
Where Mason is classy (even if he tends to speak frankly and inappropriately), Terry is a little rough around the edges. He’s a working class guy who doesn’t see his own worth. He also LOVES sex and has no qualms about trying new things or making a lot of noise, so in that respect he’s pretty much the perfect partner for the very horny Mason.
“You are kind when you don’t need to be, and funny because you like to laugh, and you don’t humor me in bed, you just take what you want and give back.”
This story is a little heart breaking. It chronicles the relationships of two couples (although Mason and Terry are front and center), and in both relationships one of the guys is learning how to be an independent adult. That learning and growing process many people go through in college is a whole lot harder once you’re out in the real world, dealing with real problems and a real partner.
There were a lot of things I loved about this story—Mason’s good heart and patient soul, his relationship with his brother and all the happiness and heartache it brings, his unlikely circle of soccer buddies who support each other no matter what—but Terry was a tough character to read. He’s young and immature enough to come off as self-centered for most of the book. Contrasted against Mason’s giving spirit, I found it very frustrating that Mason kept gravitating to him. His speech is reminiscent of Ritchie’s from Winter Ball (so, working class), but I found him far less likable.
Even so, I really enjoyed this story. In Amy Lane’s signature style, Summer Lessons has humor, class, heart, and characters who feel REAL, like you could walk out your front door and meet them at the mailbox—and be glad to see them! Mental illness is a thread throughout the story, and Ms. Lane has beautifully captured the highs, lows, joy, stress, and fear that come along with bipolar disorder.
Readers new to the series should start with Winter Ball (read my GoodReads review here) to get the full introduction to Mason and his awesome secretary. It also helps to have already met the guys on the soccer team since they interchange first and last names so freely. Fans of Winter Ball will enjoy exploring the relationships featured in Summer Lessons, and probably laugh and cry a little too.
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