REVIEW: Unwrapping Hank by Eli Easton
Sloane loves a good mystery. He grew up as the son of two psychiatrists, so he finds most people tediously easy to figure out. He finds his way to Pennsylvania State University, longing for a rural experience, and ends up being lured into joining a frat by Micah Springfield, the hippest guy on campus.
Nothing in Sloane’s classes is as intriguing as Hank Springfield, Micah’s brother and fellow frat house member. Hank looks like a tough guy—big muscles, tatts, and a beard—but his eyes are soft and sweet. He acts dumb, but he’s a philosophy major. He’s presumably straight, but then why does Sloane feel such crazy chemistry whenever Hank is around? And why does Hank hate Sloane so much?
When Sloane ends up stuck on campus over Christmas, Micah invites him to spend the holidays at their family farm in Amish country. It’s a chance to experience a true Americana Christmas–and further investigate the mystery that is Hank Springfield. Can Sloane unlock the secrets of this family and unwrap the heart hidden inside the beefcake?
Dear Eli Easton, my friend Raine recommended this holiday novella few weeks ago and I’ve already reread it three or four times. This story is a good example of how a tried and true plot can still grab me. It is a holiday college romance between a nerd and a jock, though Hank does not exactly fit jock stereotype as described in many romance novels, but the writing is very funny and engaging and there are some interesting differences from the college romances I have read before.
Greg Sloane (mostly called Sloane as the story goes along) is a new member of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity. The story opens when the president of the fraternity, Micah asks Sloane to go to the kitchen and fill his glass with more sangria. Sloane does not mind because Micah and all other fraternity members had been nice to him so far.
“When I and four other freshmen rushed, there were no illegal pranks, panty-on-head wearing, belly-crawling through urine, or naked spanking. Which was good, because I would have laughed, ho ho ho, at least at everything except possibly the naked spanking. Then I’d have made a beeline for the exit”.
When Sloane goes into the kitchen, it is quite clear that Micah sent him there because he wants Sloane to meet the guy who is washing dishes, and Sloane is intrigued right away even though it appears that the guy does not like him. Of course Sloane, being a child of two psychologists and a mystery lover, thinks that all people are open books. This young man is *very* smart, but considering that he is eighteen, I giggled more than once when I read what he has to say.
“I loved a good mystery. In fact, I found it boring how unmysterious life was most of the time. Study the material, get correct answers on tests, get a good grade, eventually get lots of good grades to get a good job. Point A to B to C. And people? Growing up the son of two psychologists, and furthermore being a huge fan of murder mysteries, I had a tendency to analyze people and put them in boxes fairly quickly. For example, the pinch of my mother’s mouth could indicate long-suffering, irritated, or secretly pleased, depending on its exact tension. There’s a look a guy gets in his eye when he’s attracted to you and a different look when he finds out you’re gay and he’s disgusted by that. Most people were open books”.
Amusingly Sloane realizes that he cannot put Hank into a box right away and he decides to put time and his attention into solving the mystery of who Hank is (of course he does not like him at all, since Sloane assumes Hank is straight and possibly homophobe). Of course.
“I would, I promised myself. Soon. He’d just engaged my curiosity was all. Hank was a puzzle piece I had yet to fit. Once I had, I’d lose all interest in him. I was pretty sure.”
Micah decides that Sloane and Hank are just the best candidates to put together the plan for Fraternity Christmas Party – because Micah has a vision for Delta, you see. Neither Sloane nor Hank is super excited to be working together and they butt heads, but this story has a low angst level. Very quickly both guys realize that they are having fun snapping at each other and soon there is a frenemy vibe going between them.
Because it is a romance, of course there is something else happening between them although I am really not sure how to describe it. Is it gay for you storyline? I actually do not think so; I think what Hank had been going through is better described as “coming out of age” – although his searching for his spiritual identity and fully realizing who he is sexually is done, as I said before, with a very low angst level.
Both Sloane and Hank have parents- related issues, although none of them are as predictable as I was worried they could have been. Sloane’s parents love him, they just seem to love their intellectual pursuits more, Hank’s parents are awesome. But something happened years ago that caused Hank to lose faith in them, as his mother tells Sloane when he comes to their house for Christmas. Hank never stopped loving them, he just pulled away and become less open as a child and teenager than he was before – it made complete sense to me.
I liked that Hank has an actual character arc, although it felt that the resolution was a bit too easy. I am not sure if Sloane grows and changes apart from finally figuring out who Hank was, but because he was such an endearing character in the first place and because he got an insight into Hank, it was enough for me.
I have to note that even though both Sloan and Hank narrate the story in turns in the past tense, their voices seemed kind of similar to me. If the beginning of the chapters did not have their names, I think I could have confused them.
I have to do something with my grade. Those who read my reviews know that I often give two grades when I cannot decide which one to choose, however here I am going to give two grades for different reason. I just have to separate the emotional component, because it would be unfair otherwise. It satisfied me so much, that I can see this novella becoming one of my all times favorite comfort reads, but I do not think that everything else merits this grade.
A for emotional satisfaction.
B- for the story in general
I really liked this one as well. Her holiday story from last year was good too.
I know we are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I find that cover very creepy/cheesy. It does not make me want to buy the book.
I really enjoyed this one. It was light and it didn’t stay with me, but it was a lot of fun to read. I particularly liked their frenemy vibe – and bonding over liking the same type of mystery shows.
@Lammie: I agree – the cover is horrible. And not at all indicative of the story.
@Lammie: I’m with you: that dude is creepy and I would not want to buy this solely based on cover art. He reminds me way too much of my mom’s old neighbor, the repo man/ex-bank-robber/karate studio owner/Dog the Bounty Hunter guy.
Jennifer, Lammie I completely understand about the cover, but as Cleo said , cover is not indicative of this story. Definitely a case of ” not judge a book by its cover” in my opinion. But yeah, I wish for a different one too.
Loved this so much. It was the perfect Christmas story with all my favourite tropes done right. I think so far I have only dislike one series from Eli Easton. It’s simple but with enough depth :)
Kim, our tastes run close again :). What was the title of her last year Christmas story?
I didn’t like the cover either. It gives me a mullet vibe… It was my first read by this author and had heard great things. I didn’t love it, but it was pretty good.
Any recs for eli easton?
@Kim W. What was her holiday story from last year? I can look it up of course :-)
@Sirius, great minds and all that LOL. I just asked the same question LOLOLOL
Longtime reader/lurker. Just adding my 2 cents that the cover kept me from even trying this book for months (despite amazon pushing it at me in the “recommended for you”). So glad I caught this review and gave it a chance bec I really enjoyed it.
@Sandra: I thought her “Trouble with Tony” was very cute.
@Shannon: I am very glad to hear it :). I mean, I would have loved different model on the cover for sure, but I guess it was the attempt to actually reflect on the cover what was in the story. “We will always have Christmas” LOL.