To Professor, with Love - Linda Kage
1 STAR

"To Professor with Love" had a really unique premise, a student-teacher romance that offered something new: the teacher is a woman. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that this is the only thing positive about this story.

Early on, a number of stereotypes are identifiable in the awful character development : on one hand you have, Noel Gamble, the star quarterback, someone who comes across as a man-whore and a dick but, wait, let’s not forget that he has three siblings to feed – the whole reason he plays football – a sob story to make him more likeable and responsible.

Then we have Aspen Kavanaugh, a 23-year old, serious, tough college professor, who has a genius IQ, a PhD and is someone who went through a terrible experience: a rape - a serious subject that was,once again, approached in an ignorant and irresponsible way, but we'll get to that.
Aspen has low self-esteem, never had a friend in her life (not even a stuffed animal!?)

As one of the secondary characters you have Tanning, Noel’s team mate , who provides this book's first cringe-worthy moment (page 2):

"Another C. I swear Kavanagh is afraid of handing out an A.”
“I got an A.” Sidney Chin, the ultimate teacher’s pet, twisted in her seat to wave her paper merrily in our faces.
Tenning snorted. “That’s because you have tits, honey. I swear to God, Kavanagh must be a dyke. She doesn’t give an A to anyone with a dick, especially if he’s on the football team.”


At first, Noel disapproves of his friend offensive comment but that doesn't mean he doesn't do the same in this moment of pure dumbassery:

"Kavanagh was tiny, and probably too rounded for my taste. Or at least I figured she had chub rolls she wanted to hide. Why else would she wear clothes three sizes too large for her?
(…) She had the sensuality of a nun, and she didn’t seem to like guys at all. Not that I believed she was a dyke as Tenning had suggested. I just viewed her as an anti-sexual being. Genderless. At least, I wanted to."


Am I supposed to like or care for these characters?

Then there's an absence of the taboo element associated with teacher-student romances – the story is set in college and -believe it or not- there is only a 3 year old age difference between them (since she’s a 23 year-old college professor and he’s a 20 year-old junior), but these attenuating circumstances are common in NA/teacher-student romances, it’s rare when the author takes a real risk, even so, this could’ve worked if they had something that resembled a normal interaction between a teacher and a student. The student-teacher relationship dynamics between them is surreal, to me they never felt like a student and a teacher, I guess that they are not aware of that either because once they start the affair, they don’t even try to hide it. This, in my opinion, completely obliterates the forbidden element.

Also, the connection between them never felt believable and it gets even worse when the major turning point for their relationship happens when she’s drunk and practically spills all her feelings to him, along with her entire life story; After this, she goes from “serious professor” to a naive girl with no self-worth whatsoever, pining for the star quarterback:

He could have any girl on campus - prettier, younger, and more fashionable with a personality much more lively than mine.
Wait. Noel Gamble could have any girl he wanted. So why had he chosen me? I wasn't all that and a bag of potato chips.


From this point on, it’s a freaking train wreck: misunderstandings, immaturity, stupid decisions, drama, cliches. But, as you recall I mentioned that the MC was raped when she was younger and as if this wasn’t bad enough, towards the end there’s a scene that is atrocious:



"As soon as our lips lost contact with each other,she'd start in. She’d try to push me away. But I wouldn’t let that happen.

I spun us until I propped her spine against the wall and there I dry humped her through our clothes. The warmth between her legs spread through the layers of cloth and hugged my dick with a dirty tease. When she whimpered and ground back against me, I groaned.Her head slammed back, making me lose contact with her lips.

“Stop,” she breathed, even as her body rubbed against mine.

“Never.” I kissed her throat and peeled down the collar of her shirt.

She shoved at my shoulder, but I kept licking and nibbling, determined to change her mind.

“Noel. I said stop.” When she sucked in a breath, I glanced up. She’d closed her eyes and was biting her bottom lip. I knew her release was coming, so I pushed my hips harder against her, knowing I was hitting her sweet spot, dead on target. In mere seconds, she’d be breaking apart in my arms.

“No,” she moaned, even as she started to come.

“Yes,” I hissed right back, watching her face as she fell apart in my arms. She fought it, thrashing her head back and forth. But I could tell just how hard it hit her when she cried out and strained against me, seeking what she knew I could give her. She took it all, and was left panting and limp when she came back down from her peak. Finally cracking her lashes open, she gazed at me from glassy, dazed eyes.

“You. Are. Mine,” I told her. “I don’t care how many times you break up with me or how many other men you try to take on a date. I don’t care how wrong we are for each other. I don’t care that I’ll never be good enough for you or that we’re risking everything to be together. Your mother would never approve. Whatever. Fuck it all. You are fucking mine. And I’m yours. And we belong together.”

“No,” she whispered.

“Damn it.” Fisting my hand, I pounded the wall next to us. “Yes!”

She jumped, and a tear slid down her cheek. “Noel, stop. Please. Stop. I don’t want this. I don’t want this.”

She wasn’t shoving at my shoulders anymore, but the glazed loss and defeat in her watery eyes undid me.

“Fuck,” I whispered. I stopped pinning her hips to the wall and pressed my forehead to hers.
(...)

“I’m sorry,” I croaked. “Jesus, God, I’m so sorry. I know I crossed the line. So many lines. I know I went way past guy-fighting-for-his-girl and straight into harassment territory last night when I text bombed you, even though I’m still pissed at you for going anywhere with him. How I responded was uncalled for and just...fucked up. (...) Cold hard dread settled in me as I realized what I’d actually done just now. “I forced you to—”
I couldn’t even admit it aloud. But oh, God. I was no better than Zach was. The very idea made me sick.

Scared as fuck of what I was capable of, I stumbled away from her. She must’ve sensed how close I was to completely losing my shit, because she looked at me, and even with her lashes clogged with tears that I’d made fall, she still had the compassion to reassure me. “You didn’t force me, Noel. Not at all.




Am I supposed to close my eyes to this for the sake of entertainment?

This whole scene is fucking disturbing and unacceptable, approaching sexual violence in a gratuitous, superficial way, just for the sake of drama, is wrong.

It should not be used as a cheap plot device.


For all the reasons I mentioned, I give 1 star to this book.