Title: Under The Peaches
Series: Teaching Love #1
Author: Shana Vanterpool
Genre: NA Romance
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Unwanted. A word eighteen-year-old Kaelyn Jefferies knows better than most. Given up at birth, she knows nothing of love. Now she navigates this world blind, worrying only about her present to survive. And sometimes when you’re the only guide you have, you don’t always do what’s best for yourself. After another confrontation with her bully, Kaelyn flees to her hiding spot to be alone and nurse her wounds. Instead, she finds Julian Ean, the gorgeous twenty-four-year-old calculus teacher the other girls whisper about, nursing a few of his own. Until that moment, Mr. Ean was simply a man she passed in the halls. Afterwards, he is impossible to ignore … to forget. Mr. Ean only wanted to help Kaelyn. Patch her up and show her she was worth so much more than she was giving herself. He didn’t mean to fall in love with a student. It’s wrong, he knows it, but he can’t help himself around her. Not when her pain feels like his. Kaelyn didn’t mean to fall in love with a teacher. It’s wrong, she knows it, but after Mr. Ean shows her what a real smile feels like, there’s no going back after that … Book one in the Teaching Love Series, comes a poignant coming-of-age novel showcasing the beauty of strength and the delicious lure of forbidden love by Shana Vanterpool.
“A beautiful romance. I cried. I laughed. I swooned (a lot!). I added Mr. Ean to my book boyfriend list for sure (*wink*)!” - Reader Review
“This book is the BOMB!!!YOU HAVE TO READ IT!!” - Bookish_Affair
“This Book, this book!! Is there anything Shana Vanterpool can't write??” - MillsyLovesBooks
“This book has easily been my favorite for this year. Shana has a way of bringing out the tears from me but also putting smiles and feeling happy for the characters.” -A Bibliophile's World
Under the Peaches by Shana Vanterpool is a teacher/student romance, but it is unlike any I have read before. Usually I find these type of romances to be heavy on the lust and sex and light on the emotion. That isn’t the case here. While there is definitely plenty of steam, the emotion in this story is what, days later, I remember most about it.
Kaelyn Jeffries is an eighteen year old senior in high school that is bullied relentlessly. She looks forward to her lunch break where she can avoid the other students and go sit outside in her spot, a cement bench on the side of the school where she can be left completely alone with her emotions. Imagine her surprise when one day someone else is sitting in her special place. Needless to say, she is not happy about having her space encroached upon.
Julian Ean, a twenty four year old calculus teacher, is sitting outside dealing with some problems of his own when a red-haired girl with a busted lip appears looking less than thrilled to see him there. He offers her a seat and immediately tries to find out what happened to her. Kaelyn isn’t used to anyone caring about her. Her birth parents didn’t care about her, none of her foster parents ever cared about her, the kids at school certainly don’t care about her, and up until this point, her teachers have practically ignored her. After some persuasion, she reluctantly allows Julian to clean up her face and give her some of his lunch.
Though their relationship begins innocently enough with Julian trying to help out a student in need, as they spend more and more time together, it becomes apparent that they have feelings for each other that go beyond what is appropriate for a student/teacher relationship. Both of them are going through difficult times in their lives, and they provide support and comfort to one another when they need it most.
Kaelyn is a heroine that I felt for, but that also frustrated me. Abandoned, abused, and neglected, she has been shown repeatedly by others that she is unwanted her whole life. Throughout the book, she says and does things that are self destructive, immature, and aggravating, but when I really thought about it, I realized that it made sense for her to behave that way. She hasn't had any real relationships in her entire life. The closest thing she had to one was with a boy that used her to cheat off of, for sex, and to boost his self esteem. How can I expect her to know how she should behave in any type of relationship? How can I expect her to not be riddled with self doubt over every little thing? Why would she know the right things to do when all she has ever been shown is the opposite? She is bound to make a lot of mistakes. Even if she didn't have such a terrible childhood, we all make mistakes, but especially in our young life. Kaelyn is only eighteen, and I had to remind myself of that.
Julian is also a character that I wasn't 100 percent in love with. From what I have seen, most people seem to be, so maybe it's just me. Julian may be more mature than Kaelyn, but he often seemed younger than he was supposed to be. It was weird how he immediately started telling her about his personal life in the way that he did. That was pretty unprofessional and inappropriate right off the bat. Then, he would compare the things she said to him to what his ex-fiancé used to say to him. Again, it felt odd to me. Not to mention, anytime a boy or man showed any interest in Kaelyn, he got upset and behaved like a child. Then, she would get all worried and freak out over it. The whole thing was ridiculous. Another issue that bothered me was his insistence that she look for her birth parents or that she deal with her feelings about it right away. Sadly, I know a large number of people that have been abandoned by their parents, and the way he was handling it rubbed me the wrong way. In fact, he seemed downright pushy and manipulative about a lot of things even though his heart may have been in the right place.
Despite the problems I had with him, he genuinely cared for Kaelyn. He took care of her, comforted her, made her feel wanted, stood up for her, and most of all, he loved her. Julian's main concern was always Kaelyn. It's clear that he is devoted to her and that he only wants what is best for her. That's what redeemed him to me. He showed her that she was worth something, and that she deserved to be loved and treated well.
Though Kaelyn and Julian drove me crazy at times, they are just people. People are not perfect. They are full of flaws, imperfections, and insecurities. That's what makes us human. These characters felt real, the emotions felt real, and the story was touching. I wasn't thrilled with the way the book ended, but I am hoping/thinking that we are going to get another book about these characters which allowed me to forgive that for the most part.
Under the Peaches was a forbidden romance with more depth than I expected. The author's writing style immediately drew me into the story and allowed me to feel all of the emotions along with the characters. If you are looking for a student/teacher romance between two flawed individuals, you might want to give this one a try!
In my current state, between ignoring and hanging on every word, I admit that’s what he is to me too. A shield between the hurt and me. I know exactly what he means. When I am around him, I forget to hurt, and it isn’t fair because he’s hurting too. But I can’t help it. No one warned me about him either. “Julian.” “It’s like,” he whispers. “Like and attraction doesn’t mean love.” What did mean love?