Joint Review: Learning from Isaac by Dev Bentham

Publisher: Loose-id
Where did you get the book: e-ARC from author
Release date: Out now

Nathan Kohn has been teaching Aquatic Science at St. Genevieve College for 15 years. It’s not a perfect situation, but he’s resigned to being a gay man in a straight culture, a Jew among Catholics and single in a world of couples. Until the stunningly attractive Isaac Wolf appears in his classroom. Isaac is a few years older than his fellow students, brilliant, self-composed and Jewish. Wouldn’t Nathan’s mother be pleased? Except, of course, relationships between faculty and students are forbidden, especially those not sanctioned by the Church.

Isaac has his own secrets, which Nathan finds out when he visits the racy new club downtown where boys can be bought in the back room. Behind the beaded curtain, the man on his knees turns out to be Isaac. What happens in the club stays there, right? Except Nathan’s mind isn’t the only thing Isaac blows, and Nathan can’t stop thinking about that night. But what kind of future can there be for a college professor and a rent boy?

*blurb taken from Goodreads*

Lou: MinnChica and I didn’t have enough good things to say about Moving in Rhythm. So it’s with sadness that I’m writing this negative review about Learning from Isaac. I first want to say that this author is a very talented writer and has a great author voice, but the plot of Isaac and the character, Nathan, left me with a distasteful feeling which I’ll get to later on in the review. Firstly, there is not much pace in this book. It’s very slow and nothing seems to happen, and it was also weak in character development. Nathan is a 40 year something college professor who keeps fantasising about his student, Isaac, who is in his mid 20’s. Isaac returns Nathan’s attraction, but nothing can happen because they are student and teacher. This is where things turned sour for me because of what happens in the club, when Nathan sees that Isaac is a prostitute. Knowing he’s his professor, Nathan still lets his friend pay for a backroom blowjob with Isaac. And from there, the story went downhill fast for me.

MinnChica: I absolutely adored Moving in Rhythm, everything about it was wonderfully done, so when we got the chance to review Bentham’s newest release, I jumped on the chance to joint review it with Lou. I have to admit I was a little leary based off the blurb. There have been very few books in which theme works for me: professor/student. Maybe it’s just because I had older professors, but there is something about the age gap and the their roles that can occasionally set me off. While I wanted to love this book, it just didn’t work out that way for me. I had a hard time connecting with both Nathan and Isaac, and I had an especially hard time once Isaac’s secret for paying for school was revealed.

Lou: Yes, that’s what my major issue was with the book. How Nathan interacted with Isaac just seemed to be too creepy for my taste. In that club scene, knowing that Isaac was terrified, knowing that he had been beaten black and blue not long ago, knowing that he was selling himself which must have caused Isaac agony, Nathan went and had his encounter with Isaac, and afterwards claimed to his creepy friend, Kenny, that it was the most astonishing encounter of his life. It just left me feeling horrible for Isaac’s behalf, and I didn’t understand what Isaac saw in Nathan.

MinnChica: I agree, that scene was not an easy one to read. For me, adding the fact that Nathan was sooooo adamant about them not having any kind of relationship until Isaac graduated, it seemed sleazy to me. I wanted to be able to cheer these two on, to see them overcome and have a decent relationship, but pretty much from the club scene and forward, I had a really hard time believing in them. Like Lou said, I didn’t know what Isaac saw in Nathan, and I didn’t see how Nathan had or ever would come to grips with Isaac’s past. Especially since it seemed as if they never really dealt with it.

Lou: I kind of felt that Isaac was more mature that Nathan. Isaac kept telling Nathan, are you going to be able to deal with what I did if we’re together. Nathan said yes, it’s your past, you can move on. Then what does Nathan go and do? He goes and throws a tantrum towards Isaac, and is incredibly cruel when people recognise Isaac from the club and makes inappropriate comments. I was like, dude, what’s the matter with you. But Nathan wasn’t the only aspect of the book I didn’t get. Some of the descriptions left me gagging because they were really unsexy. The spit dripping down to the knuckles, lips stained greasy from steak, sour morning breath — and the cucumber scene where Isaac jokes if it breaks in half, Nathan can shit it out…I really really wanted to stop reading there and then.

MinnChica: Yeah, the sexy scenes in this book didn’t really work for me, and thankfully, haven’t stuck with me either. I almost forgot about the cucumber scene until you brought it up (Thanks for nothing…). I think the only thing I did like about this book was Nathan’s mother. She was spunky and loved her son regardless of his faults. She also accepted Isaac with open arms, even after he admitted bits and pieces of his past. She pushed for them to move and start over fresh in someplace where they could both have a clean slate and nothing in their pasts following them. Other than that, this book really just didn’t work very well for me.

Lou: Yeah, Nathan’s mom was pretty cool. I liked how she pushed her son, because it was obvious to see Nathan wasn’t very pro-active. I just didn’t buy their HEA. Nathan apologies to Isaac, and it’s all happy ever after. I didn’t see Isaac coming to terms with what he did because it was obvious in the book that it affected him. I also think the age gap in this novel didn’t work for me. Nathan came off as way too slimy for my liking, and I do think Isaac was taken advantage of in that club scene. Nathan is a college professor, and I find it incredibly hard to believe that he would act like he did without any thought or care about the moral repercussions afterwards. All he thought about was ‘sexy’ Isaac. For me, this novel didn’t work, though I’ll definitely read more novels from this author in future. I give Learning from Isaac a D-

MinnChica: All in all while I wanted to like this book, it really fell short for me. I didn’t like the way that Nathan treated Isaac throughout the course of their friendship and relationship. I felt as if Isaac didn’t stand up for himself enough against Nathan, and that the two just didn’t seem to have a really loving and solid relationship. However, I will definitely be willing to try more books by Bentham in the future, given how incredible Moving in Rhythm was.
I give Learning from Isaac a D+

Kindle eBook

11 thoughts on “Joint Review: Learning from Isaac by Dev Bentham”

  1. Thanks you two for reading this. I had reservations from the blurb as well so I had decided to give it pass. It’s great to get a clearer picture of book though so this review means a lot! Dev will continue to remain on my radar because I adored Moving in Rhythm so much but this book is not for me.

  2. I was so bored by this one I quit halfway through. 🙁

    But because I loved Moving in Rhythm so much I def want to try more from this author

  3. I liked this one a lot better than you gals did 🙂 I ended up hovering between a B/B+. Horses for course I guess. I actually preferred this one to Moving in Rhythm. T

  4. Gotta say I’m with Kaetrin on this–loved the realism of how attraction actually works, regardless of age or position. Loved the hope for a possible future regardless of past. I couldn’t decide between a B/B+ either. More, please.

  5. @lj: I’m glad it worked better for you!! People seem to either love or hate this one. 🙂

  6. @Heller: Yeah, I was a little sad about this book, but I loved MIR so much that this author stays firmly on my reading radar :).

    @Mandi: I nearly quit, but I wanted to see how it would end. And for me, I don’t believe in their HEA.

    @Kaetrin: I find it great that we all have individual takes on the same books we read. Makes things much more interesting 🙂

    @lj: I think the major obstacle in their HEA, for me, was Nathan himself. I’m glad you came away happy with this book though :).

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