LGBT, New Adult, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: Top Secret: by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Publish Date: May 5th, 2019
Number of Pages: 280 Pages
Publisher: Tuxbury Publishing LLC
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

According to one of the authors herself, Elle Kennedy, she said to expect this to be like You’ve Got Mail, but instead of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, you’ve got two frat boys who get hot and heavy all thanks to an anonymous hookup app.

Hot frat boys

Secrets and Lies

Sexting in a frat house

Punctuation humor

Hilarious chat/actual conversations

Enemies to Lovers Trope

Hot sexy times

You can check all these off the list of what is all included in this standalone college romance. I really enjoyed this novel by my New Adult romance Queens, and thought it was such a trip reading how the relationship between the two main characters changed throughout the course of the story.

I can admit that maybe the Fraternity content isn’t for everyone, but I can say that it’s not as heavy of content within the story as I’m sure maybe some potential readers are concerned about. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say some people who like the “American Pie meets You’ve Got Mail meets Love, Simon” vibe will absolutely love it. I personally could care less about it, but it did add for some hilarious moments within the story. The two main characters start off as rivals who are both campaigning to become the new frat president, so of course there are a couple instances where they’re trying to one-up each other, but that’s about it.

The only thing I wish there was more of was I wish there were some more emotionally vulnerable moments with Luke later in the story. I totally get where he comes from with his toxic family and that causing him to close off and assume anyone who seeks him out just wants something from him, but even as him and Keaton made up, I wished for a little more from him.

Other than that, this was another M/M romance that absolutely slaps from the author duo of Sarina and Elle about two college-aged fraternity brothers who meet on an app. I think a lot of younger, new adult readers will also enjoy and really relate to this contemporary romance novel!

What It’s About:

Keaton is a college junior who comes from an extremely privileged background, and while he’s got a lot on his plate with winning football games, winning a campaign to be his frat’s president, and trying to figure out how to tell his father he doesn’t want to take over the business one day and is actually planning to go on a biology expedition next summer instead… his girlfriend of six years tells him that she wants a three-way for her birthday. Always a people pleaser, Keaton begins to open his eyes, broaden his horizons and downloads a fantasy app and meets “SinnerThree.”

Next there’s Luke, who comes from the completely opposite household. Also campaigning for his frat’s presidency (but only for the free rent), he struggles to keep up with school, his toxic family, and making enough money to afford rent and just about everything else. It’s made him turn to becoming a male stripper at a local joint in order to make a decent amount every weekend. Much more open with his sexuality, Luke likes both men and women, and has hooked up with couples in the past thanks to this app, and it’s there where he meets “LobsterShorts.”

The two meet each other online, not realizing who the other is, and begin to chat every day about just about everything. Keaton thinks he’s found the perfect person for his girlfriend’s wishes, but soon he’s discovering more about himself and what he likes, and this begins a love story in one of the most unlikeliest of ways!

What I Liked:

  1. The Chat Conversations! So Luke and Keaton begin chatting anonymously on a hookup app; at first its at the urging of Keaton’s girlfriend wanting a threesome and Keaton is on the search to fulfill that fantasy. They begin to talking about innocent enough conversations—if talking about slug penis jousting, and other animal sex facts is innocent enough—but then it turns much more heated as the girlfriend slowly leaves the conversation and it turns into them wanting to meet each other in person. Anyways, the conversations they share are absolutely amazing and makes you fall in love with them, and it makes it so much better that they have no idea who it is on the other side.
  2. The Enemies-to-Lovers Trope! It’s more rivals to lovers, because while they’re not sworn enemies, Luke and Keaton aren’t on the best of terms at the start of the story. They’re actually competing against each other to become Frat President and have challenges set ahead that they must fulfill. There’s tension between them, but slowly that tension shifts as they discover who they both are, in real life and through their anonymous chats on the app.
  3. Fraternity Hijinks! Like I mentioned earlier, there’s a definite American Pie vibe with the frat parties thrown by our two love interests. Luckily, even one of them stops a major hazing scheme that gets thrown into the mix as well, avoiding that sticky subject that has plagued the whole reputation of fraternities for such a long time. In fact, it paints frats in a mostly positive that they aren’t all just bro-y, toxic masculinity, and completely trashy d-bags. Even one of the brothers is openly gay.
  4. The Orca Expedition is Real! Keaton is at school seeking a degree in Biology, and throughout the story mentions an internship he really wants to partake on: going down the coast of Chile in search of a specific species of Orcas (Killer Whales). What I didn’t know until some reviewer on Goodreads pointed out, but this expedition actually happened in real life! HERE is an article I found on the trip a small group of scientists took in January 2019! Just the fact that this was a real thing added a lot to the story!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Cliché Character Backgrounds…While I absolutely adored both Luke and Keaton, I can admit they’re backgrounds/backstories were pretty cliché. Keaton comes from an extremely wealthy background with rich, socialite parents, and his dad has expectations for him to take over the family business one day, so he hovers over Keaton’s daily life at school and inserts himself when it’s not necessary. Luke is the exact opposite. He’s a towny and has a poor family; his mom is always asking for money and his delinquent brother just got released. They’re both toxic to him and only want extra money, and it’s led to Luke looking down on himself and closing himself off to others.
  2. The Possibility of Cheating…Now, this is a slippery subject, but I know it could be seen as triggering for certain readers. While I didn’t have a problem with this in the story, I know some others might. I’m talking about the chat conversations between “SinnerThree” and “LobsterShorts.” Basically, at a certain point it turns to what they want to do to each other once they meet, get pretty sexual, and some readers could view this as cheating since Keaton is still with his girlfriend when this all goes down. They never actually do anything physical with each other, but some do consider even a side conversation like this as cheating on one’s significant other. So, any sensitive readers should take this as a possible trigger warning!

Conclusion:

Another amazing M/M contemporary new adult romance from an amazing writing duo of Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen. Those who loved their other novels, especially the last book they wrote together: HIM. This time there’s less sports involved and more Fraternity dynamics, but the same aspects that made anyone enjoy their other titles will devour this one too.

I recommend this title to anyone who loves stories like Love, Simon (aka: Simon vs. The Homo Sapien’s Agenda in book form by Becky Albertalli), or the raunchy comedy of the American Pie movies, but of course you have to add an LGBT romance there too!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

1 thought on “My Review: Top Secret: by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy”

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