Nathan Kohn is a 40 something gay, Jewish, science professor at a Catholic college. He’s been teaching there about 15 years and is relatively happy with his job and his life. His mother is supportive and he has a circle of close friends. His love life is not all that active though after the breakup of a serious relationship. Nathan finds himself very much attracted to one of his star students, Isaac Wolf. One day after catching Isaac’s eye in class, Nathan realizes that Isaac knows he wants him. But any kind of hanky-panky between students and teachers is strictly forbidden.
Isaac Wolf is paying his way through college with no help from his parents who disowned him after he came out. He dances in a gay club and works the back room for extra cash to pay his student loans. Although he has no problem doing it, he’s not exactly advertising it either. He’s shocked to find that his next client is the sexy science professor he’s been crushing on.
Nathan is not usually inclined to frequent clubs but his long time friend has taken him out on the town and has decided it’s time for Nathan to shake off his former romance and get back out in the world so he gifts him with a little time in the backroom. Nathan is equally shocked to realize one of his most intelligent (and sexy) students is prostituting. But that doesn’t stop him from using his time in the backroom wisely. After their interlude, they both agree that although there is definitely a mutual attraction, they cannot see each other outside of the classroom environment. But the classroom environment happens to include a field trip where they get to know each other a little better.
I liked how Nathan, the older man was so smitten with his student and how knowing he was forbidden fruit seemed to make that attraction all that much sweeter. I admit I only read the first paragraph in the blurb so it came as a bit of a surprise to me that Isaac was a prostitute. I wasn’t exactly clutching my pearls when Isaac appeared in the backroom and serviced Nathan, but I was still surprised and had mixed feelings about it. Nathan seemed surprised as well but had no problem getting his (friend’s) moneys worth.
Early on, when their relationship was forbidden, there was some great chemistry and really fun flirting:
I found myself contemplating his face in the diffuse florescence of the lantern. “What attracted you to this field? There aren’t many of us in the environmental sciences.”
He glanced at me. “Gays?”
I blinked at him, realizing that in fifteen years I had never come out to a student. “That too. But I was thinking of Jews.”
He smiled. Clearly, his question had been a fishing expedition, and I’d been caught. With a grin, he proceeded to argue the Jewish point, listing environmental scientists with Jewish names.
I laughed and held up my hands in a gesture of surrender. “You win.”
He looked at me from under his long, dark lashes, his expression a little uncertain. “You are, though, right?”
I smiled. “Jewish?”
In the dim light it was hard to tell, but it looked like he blushed. “Gay.”
I loved the tension that was created by their self-imposed romantic distance and how this couple danced around their developing friendship with a promise of what was to come:
I took off my glove and reached out to touch a curl that sprang from beneath his cap. For a minute, I let my gaze roam his face, let him see the hunger. My fingers trailed down his smooth jaw. His eyes remained locked on mine. I dropped my hand and put back on my glove. “I already want to. If you weren’t a student, I would.”
He sat up. “I won’t always be your student.”
My heart pounded at the thought of it. “We can talk about that when and if the time comes. But you’re likely to find someone in the meantime. Someone younger, perhaps.”
He smiled slowly. “Maybe.”
We worked in silence for another hour. When our time was up, Isaac rowed us back to the dock, where another pair of students awaited.
“You go on up,” I told Isaac as we approached. “I’ll help get these guys going.”
He winked. “Yeah, I’ve got something to take care of myself. And I’ll be thinking of you.”
Unfortunately once Nathan and Isaac finally got together I thought their relationship actually lost some of its heat. The physical heat didn’t suffer, there were some very steamy (and imaginative) scenes, that I very much appreciated but the romance sort of plateaued at that point.
I had a hard time believing the easy acceptance of Isaac’s side job as a prostitute. While Isaac certainly had my sympathies and his reasons were actually quite logical, I had a hard time believing that everyone in Nathan’s life would be so open and supportive of his new relationship with a sex worker, especially knowing he was deeply hurt by his breakup with his unfaithful lover who was known to have unsafe sex. Nathan’s circle was very supportive, but I thought at least someone would say, “Hey, hold up, you do realize this boy is 20 years younger than you and is a prostitute right?”.
Learning From Isaac is a very sweet May December romance. I really enjoyed the flirting and romantic build up but the romance didn’t continue to develop as I’d hoped it would. I believed in the relationship, but wanted more romantic spark. Although I felt the family and friends acceptance of Nathan’s new lover was a bit unbelievable, it was nice to have a close, supportive circle of friends included in the story.
I’m not the first student to have a crush on a teacher.” He leaned forward until his face was inches from my own. “I came on to you because I find you very attractive. I sit in class listening to you, watching you lecture, and it turns me on. What can I say? I like smart guys.”