When high school teacher Tom Smith meets Kevin Bannerman at a gay club, he violates his own rule: one-night stands only. But when the weekend is over, he walks away, reminding himself that he lives a deeply closeted life for painful, compelling reasons. He keeps his secrets, his heart, and the cause of his crippled arm to himself, but almost immediately he bitterly regrets leaving Kevin.
Months later, while Tom serves as reluctant assistant director for his school's production of Rent, he fears that the show's same-sex love angle will somehow out him. Protests against the play begin, one of the student actors is harassed, and during a parents' meeting, Tom encounters Kevin again.
This time Tom can't fight the attraction between them, and he and Kevin begin a tentative relationship. Within Rent's message of acceptance and support, and as local churches oppose the play, Tom struggles to find the strength to admit one man into his heart.
This was a wonderful male/male romance between a damaged history teacher and the banker who showed him how to embrace life again. The characters are richly detailed and never stereotypical while the plot provides enough drama and angst to keep things interesting. The romance is a nice balance between sweet and spicy and works perfectly for the two heroes.
Tom Smith is a teacher in a small town in Texas who hides his sexuality from everyone. He does this in order to keep his job (which he loves) and to avoid any judgment from the uber-conservative townspeople. Tom is an interesting and sometimes depressing character. Despite his love for his students, he is very unhappy and only seems to come to life when he takes his irregular trips into the city for one night stands. It should be noted that Tom has good reasons to be as closed off as he is so watching him slowly come out of his shell throughout the book is a satisfying experience.
The man who helps Tom realize how dark his life had gotten is banker, Kevin Bannerman, who was supposed to just be another fling in the city. But, Kevin quickly disputes Tom's efforts to keep emotions out of their relationship and manages to dig his way into his heart. I really liked how Sinclair depicted Kevin and showed how different he was from Tom. Unlike Tom who has known about his sexuality for ages, Kevin has recently come out of the closet and even has a teenaged daughter from an earlier marriage. I really admired Kevin's determination to stick with Tom despite all the darkness that comes along.
There are many side characters in Admit One and none of them is lacking in detail. Sinclair provides readers with a great feeling for the town by providing information about everyone from the high school students to the other teachers to the townspeople. My personal favorites were the students especially Robbie. They are written very realistically and devolve into classic high school stereotypes. Readers can tell why Tom cares so much about these kids which is very important for his character.
As a couple, Tom and Kevin are full of drama and romance. Their initial meetings are mostly physical, but show hints of emotional ties early on. After meeting up again in Tom's hometown, these two men continue to circle around each other despite Tom's hesitations. The chemistry between them is obvious and very well-written. One of my favorite parts of the book was the development of their relationship. It felt very real and rarely rushed which is rare in romances today.
I will say that the plot of Admit One is not light-hearted in the least. There are some darker aspects particularly related to Tom's past, but it is balanced with some of the antics of the high schoolers. I found it interesting to have the protagonists live in a small town in Texas that is ultra conservative and I think it gave the relationship some great obstacles. Another aspect that I enjoyed was the use of the musical Rent as a parallel to Tom's story. It also doesn't hurt that it is one of my all-time favorite shows ever!
All in all, I found this to be an entertaining though emotionally draining read. Tom and Kevin both have to overcome quite a few obstacles to get their happily ever after, but it all feels worth it by the end. This was my introduction to Jenna Hilary Sinclair and I am definitely going to look for more of her work soon.