Professor Stephen Worthington’s life makes perfect sense. He teaches classes on Tuesdays and Fridays. He has dinners with his parents on the weekend. He goes to the gym with his comically crass stepbrother, Matt, a few days each week. And every night, he heads home at a reasonable hour, alone. There’s only one thorn in Stephen’s perfectly organized side: Ms. Julia Wilde. Never has Stephen dealt with a more unruly student. She’s rude, provocative, infuriating—and she dresses in a way that is completely unbecoming for a lady. Stephen can’t wait for the semester to be over, and then he’ll never have to see her again. That is, until Stephen finds himself out of the classroom and in Julia’s apartment. Suddenly, the student/teacher roles are reversed, and the professor receives a much-needed lesson between the sheets. Stephen thought his life made sense, but after his tryst with Julia, he finds himself changed in more ways than one. Maybe he’s coming down with something.
Or maybe, something a little out of the ordinary is exactly what this stuffy professor needs to really live.
Dr. Stephen Worthington has a very ordered and organized life. He has a tenured position teaching American Literature, he has a home he owns and loves, he has a step-brother who drives him slightly crazy with his wantonness, and he has that one student who is going to push him over the edge into total and complete madness if the semester doesn’t end soon. That student upsets his order, his perfect organization, and makes him twitch every single time he encounters her.
Julia, that is Ms. Wilde is exactly that, wild! She come into Stephen’s class each and every day in the most outrageous and revealing outfits, she speaks out of turn on a regular basis, she calls Stephen by his first name no matter how many times he corrects her, and she is frustratingly intelligent and confident. As far as Stephen is concerned, Ms. Wilde is the complete antithesis of the type of woman he needs in his life and the semester simply can’t end soon enough. Me thinks the good professor doth protest too much. His step-brother, Matt thinks the so too. As Matt so brashly points out, Stephen spends an awful lot of time talking about a woman he has absolutely, positively no interest in. As always, Stephen ignores Matt.
And then, one night in a bar . . . .
Don’t all good stories start out with “one night in a bar?” That’s exactly how Stephen’s life gets turned upside down and Ms. Wilde becomes inextricably linked to his unravelling. Turns out, all Matt’s comments about the lovely Ms. Wilde have been rolling around in the back of Stephen’s brilliant mind and when he finds her stranded outside a bar, he simply can’t help himself. All Stephen intends to do is drop Ms. Wilde at her apartment and return to his calm and ordered life. He certainly never intended to go into her apartment and dear Lord, kissing her was never, ever, not ever in the cards but wowsa is she a good kisser. As these things often go, one thing leads to another and before Stephen can think with both heads, he has crossed a serious line and slept with one of his students.
Julia is very clear about her arrangement with Stephen, it is sex and only sex and no one will know of their affair. Stephen simply can’t believe his good fortune. He has never had a serious girlfriend/relationship, he is relatively inexperienced sexually speaking yet Ms. Wilde wants to be with him. Not only does she want to be with Stephen, she revels in his inexperience and delights in teaching him new things. As an added bonus, Stephen is a sweet and caring lover as well as a most willing student. For Stephen’s part, the sex is beyond amazing (so are the sandwiches J) but the real surprise is how much he genuinely enjoys Julia’s company. She is intelligent, confident, brash, strong, often crude, and quickly becoming someone Stephen doesn’t want to be without. If only Julia felt the same way and there wasn’t that nasty little issue of her being one of his students.
The Bottom Line: After seeing the overall star rating for this read on Goodreads, I find myself somewhat confused. Absolute Beginners isn’t just a well-written read, it is also full of good characters, an interesting dynamic between Stephen and Julia, some fine naughty bits and, just the right amount of drama. I very much enjoyed the total role reversal of Julia being the sexually experienced character and Stephen being the older yet far less experienced partner. This role reversal is a fine example of the student becoming the teacher. Furthermore, both Stephen and Julia are totally engrossing characters. Stephen’s naiveté is both refreshing and humorous and Julia’s strength and confidence are refreshing. Finally, I was thrilled to discover the author didn’t throw in the drama I would have expected to find in this read. I don’t want to say there is a cliffhanger to this book but it is clear the by reads’ end that it is meant to continue. And so it does, in Absolute Lovers.