By Jason Collins
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Hoping to make some extra money, high school teacher Corey Elliot takes a summer job teaching a GED prep course at Indiana State Prison. He knows he will meet the notorious Dustin Sutton, a man who has almost completed serving a ten-year sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.
“From the moment I saw him within those prison walls, I knew he was off-limits, but there was a spark in his eyes that made me wonder…”
To save his mother’s beloved home, Dustin courageously agreed to take the fall for his ex-boyfriend’s drugs in exchange for a large quantity of cash. Behind bars from the tender age of eighteen, Dustin hopes to quietly transition back into a regular life but quickly realizes it may not be that simple with the label of ex-con weighing him down.
“It’s a risky move, but it might get us out of this place. It might give us a new life.”
Together, Corey and Dustin work to find a way to not only repair Dustin’s reputation but strengthen the fire that’s beginning to burn between them. But when Dustin’s ex appears with a tempting offer for Dustin to make some serious cash, Corey is forced to choose between walking the straight and narrow or crossing a dangerous line that could secure a future for him and the man he has grown to love.
Dustin has just finished serving 10 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit – his ex-boyfriend Clark planted drugs in his car and he ended up getting arrested when his car was searched after being pulled over for speeding. Dustin agreed to take the blame when Clark agreed to pay off his mom’s mortgage to save her from having her house foreclosed in return. This decade in prison took place during a formative time in Dustin’s life, from ages 17 to 27.
Committed is not a high drama story. The recipe for romance is pre-scripted into Corey’s DNA and psyche before he even sees/meets Dustin in the GED class he’s teaching at the prison to earn some extra money over his summer break from teaching school. Corey isn’t prepared for how smitten he becomes at first glance, and when Dustin reaches out to him shortly after being released from prison under the guise that he wants some extra help studying for his GED exam the following week, Corey tries to keep his fantasies of the ex-con in check. After all, Dustin’s intentions are likely exactly what he said they were: he wants help studying and he misinterpreted the heated looks the two shared in the prison classroom.
Dustin’s mom, a transparent, comical, and protectively maternal character, quickly dispels that notion from Corey’s head by confessing that her son is attracted to the teacher. The story seems to fall quickly into place – friendship, emotional and physical attraction and longing, acceptance, trust – over dinner, followed up by a rapid series of events that includes receiving an invitation – and keys – to spend a weekend together at a lakeside cabin, the ill-timed reappearance and cryptic offer from Clark, and packing up and heading off for the cabin together. The reader picks up clues on clues that all will not go as planned, especially since Dustin happened to mention his plans for the weekend to Clark and the cabin where they’re going to just happens to no longer be covered under property insurance.
This is, though, one of those books that you can pick up and read through easily: not a lot of deep-down, driven angst; likable characters in Dustin, his mom Carla, and Corey; easy to dislike antagonists in Principal Harper and Clark; and a smooth-flowing and easy to follow storyline. Some parts seem a bit unrealistic – the dollar amount for the fire damage, for instance, and how Principal Harper can get away with his bias, and then there are the repetitive thoughts, comments, and actions, and Dustin’s easygoing demeanor after 10 years in the pen. But heck, all stories don’t have to be angst-ridden or over-the-top realistic, do they? Corey and Dustin make each other happy, seem to bring out the best in one another, and found a way to solve their respective problems. Oh, and Clark got what he had coming to him. And for readers who want love but are timid about too many PDAs, this book would suit that audience well.
Original review posted on Amazon and Goodreads on February 11, 2017.