In this reunited-lovers story, theater-geek-turned-theater-manager Callie Carpenter comes home to Lakeside, New Jersey, to take care of her recuperating parents. To cover the bills, she takes a substitute theater teacher gig at Lakeside’s high school, where her high school boyfriend Garrett Daniels is the history teacher and godlike football coach. Callie and Garrett quickly pick up where they left off, but with Callie’s return to San Diego looming, what’s the point of falling back in love? Hot, funny, and occasionally quite touching, Getting Schooled is a fast-paced and entertaining read. The biggest flaw is its uneven tone, but I still really enjoyed it.
The humor in the book is usually over-the-top slapstick. Callie’s parents crashed their car because her mother was giving her dad road head. Teachers shout, at a staff meeting, that there must be lube in the Janitor’s closet because “Ray the maintenance guy hangs out in there way too long not to be whacking it!” Garrett helps a students sneak out past school security because he needs to, well, poop, before a game, and he says he can only poop at his own house. I actually laughed out loud at this scene because a) teenage athletes actually do have this level of neurosis and b) I’m totally immature.
The author is skilled at writing serious scenes as well, which gives the story and romance more heft. Ordinary moments like walks by the lake are nicely captured. Garrett and Callie handle students with significant emotional and behavioral issues. A character loses a pet. Callie and Garrett’s reason for separating in the past is revealed to be sad and personal. At times, though, it felt awkward to bounce between both types of scenes in the same book. I also felt disoriented when I couldn’t figure out if I was in a comedy scene or not. Garrett’s angry brother, fighting with an unfaithful wife, grabs a chainsaw and starts sawing apart their four-poster bed. In the pooping-football-player book, this scene is hilariously over-the-top slapstick. In the book about managing kids’ emotions, it’s a serious sign of an adult breakdown, especially given that the brother’s sons are present. I couldn’t tell how the author meant for me to react.
This book is narrated in alternating first-person scenes. Emma Chase bills herself as someone who effectively writes from the hero’s point of view, and I agree with her. She captures Garrett’s personality very well, showing him as someone liked by his students, connected to his family, and truly in love with Callie. I liked that Garrett didn’t have any of the go-to male commitment-phobias; Callie’s The One for him and he’s all in for her. It’s just that pesky geographic conundrum in their way. The sex scenes are hot and personal, and I also felt their chemistry in non-bedroom settings.
Flashbacks are handled deftly, adding depth and history to Callie and Garrett’s relationship without being redundant. The explanation for why the two separated in the past is one of the most believable I’ve ever read. It makes their reunion satisfying – I really believed that these two were lucky enough to have found the right person in high school, but unlucky enough for it not to work out at that time, and I was happy that they got a second chance. The believable separation also gave me faith in their HEA, since life events and not character flaws or incompatibility pushed them apart.
Be ready for lots of profanity, which I felt was overused. I’m related to a secondary football coach, and he would be horrified at the amount of swearing and ‘pussy’ slurs used by the coaches in this book (though not, generally, by Garrett). According to a text search, the word ‘fuck’ and its various derivations occurs 147 times. In a first-person narrated book, it made me feel like the characters needed to expand their vocabularies.
I had some realism issues with the educational setting, but I don’t think people who haven’t spent time working in schools would notice them. That was also balanced by moments of hilarious accuracy (as a Grand Gesture, Garrett invites certain students to add him on Facebook; one perplexed student replies, “Coach Daniels… no one’s on Facebook anymore except our parents.”)
If you’re a fan of the modern fast-paced contemporary, with its first-person narrators, hot and frequent sex scenes, and earthy humor, this is your book. I’ve never read Emma Chase before, but I most certainly will again.