Friday, April 21, 2017

Book Review: STARTING FROM SCRATCH by Jay Northcote (Housemates #5)

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Length: 57,000 words

The Housemates Series is a collection of standalone stories set around a student house in Britain. Each book focuses on new characters, with themes of self-discovery and sexual awakening.

Helping Hand (Book #1) Amazon US | Amazon UK

Like A Lover (Book #2) Amazon US | Amazon UK

Practice Makes Perfect (Book #3) Amazon US | Amazon UK

Watching and Wanting (Book #4) Amazon US | Amazon UK


Starting over isn't easy, but Ben is ready to live his life as the man he was always meant to be.

Ben is transgender and back at university after hormone treatment and chest surgery. His new housemates have no idea about his history and Ben would prefer to keep it that way. He's starting from scratch and his life is finally on track, except in the romance department. The idea of dating guys as a guy is exhilarating but terrifying, because if Ben wants a boyfriend he'll have to disclose his secret.

Sid is drawn to Ben from the moment they meet. He normally gets what he wants-in the short term at least. Ben's guarded at first, and Sid's not used to guys rejecting his advances. He eventually charms his way through Ben's defences and helps Ben on his journey of sexual awakening.

It doesn't matter to Sid that Ben is trans. He's attracted to the whole person, and isn't worried about what is-or isn't-in Ben's pants. They're good together, and both of them are falling hard and fast, but Ben's insecurities keep getting in the way. If Sid can convince Ben he's committed, will Ben finally be able to put his heart on the line?

Although this book is part of the Housemates series, it has new main characters, a satisfying happy ending, and can be read as a standalone.

Carra's Review

I’ve been a fan of Jay Northcote for a while now, and I’ve loved all of the books in his Housemates series so far.  When I found out Starting from Scratch would be featuring a transgender lead character, I was intrigued as there are not many transgender gay romances out there.  I found this one to be not only an entertaining read, but also quite informative without feeling like a tutorial.  The story is very low angst, with the small amount of drama coming from Ben’s internal conflicts from being transgender and how that impacts his interactions and relationships with others.

Ben is wonderful—a bit nervous and quiet as he begins his journey of living life as a man, but also craving a relationship with someone.  But to start any intimate relationship means telling his secret, something that terrifies him since letting someone in also opens him up for rejection just based on who he is.  Sid is easygoing and accepts people for who they are, and I found him to be tremendously supportive and accepting of Ben.  He’s the kind of person you wish everyone could emulate when it comes to acceptance of others, and I loved him for it.  Ben and Sid work quite well as a couple, both navigating this new kind of relationship for the first time and doing a great job of it.  

There was a lot of everyday life in the story, as much of it revolved around Ben being trans and how he and Sid both deal with that.  I found it to be a good learning experience as a reader, and I’m sure it was probably quite cathartic to write as an author.  While I wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more conflict to create more drama, I still enjoyed watching Ben and Sid’s romance unfold as it was a sweet exploration, peppered with nice shots of steam and passion.

Starting from Scratch is a great addition to the Housemates series, and for me was a 4.5-star read.  I definitely recommend this story to M/M romance fans, and if you’re on the fence about reading a book with a transgender main character, I will push to toward the side of giving it a try, because it really was enlightening while also being a very good read.  This book is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and M/M sexual content.  I can’t wait to see what comes next in the series, hopefully Ryan’s story!

Author Bio

Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story-just to see if he could-and found it rather addictive. He hasn't stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her. 

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