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When talking fails, it’s time to break out the big guns.

Five years ago, Tom Worthington busted his ass to overcome the fear and paranoia that led him to withdraw from the world and nearly lose his boyfriend. He never thought he’d find himself right back there, shutting Reese out, keeping secrets again.

Reese Anders is ready to try anything to get Tom to talk: if he can’t seduce his boyfriend with food, he’ll get Tom to open up in bed. But even Tom’s confession that his dad is getting out of prison soon doesn’t clear the air between them. And as the holidays approach, intensive mentoring from a new British boss creates more distractions, until Reese is keeping secrets of his own.

At a company Christmas party, it only takes Tom one look at Reese’s new boss to figure out how much danger their relationship is in. But he’s not about to let the connection that started all those years ago at Carlisle come to an end. It’s time to deal with their problems like adults. Face to face. Or back to front. Starting in the bedroom.

Warning: This book contains two adorable guys with way too many secrets, conciliatory rigatoni, a bedroom lesson on the power of multitasking, and indisputable evidence on what makes the perfect holiday HEA.

175 pages, ebook

First published November 17, 2015

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About the author

Amy Jo Cousins

50 books621 followers
To get updates on Amy Jo's new releases, sign up for her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/YdVW1.

Amy Jo Cousins lives in Chicago, where she writes queer romance, tweets more than she ought, and sometimes runs way too far. She loves her boy and the Cubs, who taught her that being awesome doesn't necessarily have anything to do with winning.

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5 stars
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261 (43%)
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166 (27%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 125 reviews
Profile Image for Amy Cousins.
Author 50 books621 followers
September 23, 2015
When I finished writing OFF CAMPUS, I already knew I wanted to work REAL WORLD into the Bend or Break series somewhere down the line. We left Tom & Reese while they were still in college at the end of OC, and while I know several real life couples who met in college and are happily married, it still felt more like a HFN ending to me than HEA.

And, man, I really needed these two to get their forever HEA.

I also wanted to write about how the work on a relationship doesn't end just because you hit the "I love you" stage. And how the challenges you face five or six years in are different from those early days, although the root of the problems often remain the same, because we're human and we never really learn our lesson the first time around. :)

Also, there's rigatoni. Life-changing, friend-bonding, connection-reaffirming rigatoni. Those are some powerful noodles, I swear. I put the recipe in the back, and so far all of my early readers have headed to the kitchen after finishing the book, so I'm anticipating a run on pasta, parmeggiano, and canned tomatoes in November. Yum!

Subscribe here to get notified when REAL WORLD is out.
Profile Image for Mirjana **DTR - Down to Read**.
1,379 reviews648 followers
May 4, 2018

***4.5 Stars***

I loved this! I get VERY apprehensive when I hear that an author is revisiting an established couple...especially when it's more than just a bonus check in. A whole novella or book? I'm picking it up with shaky hands...if I pick it up at all.

Well here...I shouldn't have worried AT ALL. Amy Jo Cousin's has my trust 100%! This follow up novella made me fall in love with Tom and Reese even more!

Tom and Reese got a VERY solid HFN at the end of Off Campus, but it was clear there was still room for them to grow and evolve and become closer.

And that's exactly what we get here. A look 5 years later at where these two are...both in life and in their relationship. And as the title aptly describes...they're in the real world, with real world problems...and having to figure out how to continue making their relationship work.

But rest assured, no unnecessary drama is thrown in, no left field scenarios thrown in to cause havoc between these two.

It's an honest and relatable look at two guys who REALLY love each other and SERIOUSLY belong together working at their relationship. One quote in this book summarizes this perfectly....and is such an honest observation of what love truly means.

Could an entire life be made of such things? Of knowing intimate details about a partner, things that couldn't posssibly matter to anyone else in the universe, but that gave him a bedrock security that would get him through the rough spots?"

Automatically knowing that when a side of vegetables arrives at the restaurant, your partner will pick out the carrots so you automatically take them off their plate because you love them. It's the way Tom knows when Reese needs a haircut. Or how Reese is able to tell when Tom's anxiety is flaring up, and his coping mechanisms.

This book was just so raw and honest....and REAL.

Alright, I gotta stop or I'll be gushing about these two forever. All that's left to say is...Tom and Reese, welcome to my "favorite couples" list.
Profile Image for Aerin.
595 reviews1 follower
November 15, 2015
I see lots of people gave 4 and 5 stars to this one, actually all of them so far it seems. I'm going to be an exception, and my review will be definitely different from the other ones out there so far, and that's because I barely tolerated this book. In fact, if it wasn't for Tom's redemption in the last part of this book, I would've rated this 2 stars. However, I really liked the part couple of chapters, it was exactly what I hoped this whole book will be like, and my rating for that is 4 stars. Therefore, my final rating is 3 stars. I feel the need for the first time ever, to break down my rating, because not all of it was bad, so here it goes.

Characters: 4 stars

*Tom gets a big fat 2 stars (and that's with all the improvement he did towards the end. Honestly, I hated him the whole entire time. He was undeserving of Reese and I was hoping they'd break up. It's very rarely that I root against the main couple, and when I do, it's because of an intense dislike towards one of the main characters.
* Reese was adorable, and I was genuinely outraged that he had to spend the majority of this book unsure of his relationship with Tom. He deserved better, and I was hoping his chemistry and attraction towards his co-worker would take off and become more than just some harmless flirting. Reese gets 5 stars for the patience and consideration he showed Tom, the undeserving asshole.
* The secondary characters were mostly the ones we met in previous books, and I loved catching up with them. There were also some new characters, Reese's co-workers mostly.

Plot: 3 stars

Is it bad that I'm not sure whether the plot was actually the plot? That sounds confusing, doesn't it? That's because I feel confused as well. Is Tom's father getting out of prison, the root of all the drama during this book, the plot? Maybe not. Maybe it was Tom being a secretive, uncommunicative, closed-off asshole. Or maybe it was Reese bonding and flirting with his boss. I'm not exactly sure, but you know what? Most of the book was about Tom and his moodiness. He literally ignored Reese for most of the book, threw himself a constant pity party, refused to communicate and let Reese in, you know all the stuff that makes for a frustrating book.

This is supposed to be an established couple, they've been together for 5 years at this point, for fuck's sake, where is all the communication and support? If you can't trust your partner to have your back and if you refuse to let him be part of your life, be it good or bad, then you don't need to be together. Tom repeatedly pushed Reese away and refused to accept any plea for communication. Reese tried, he really did, to the point where I was tired of seeing him suffer for being ignored and unappreciated. I'm not gonna lie, I was about ready to throw this book out the window, except that I'm reading the electronic version, and I love my iPad too much to do that.

And after all this bullshit, we're talking over 150 pages of it people, Tom has the nerve to be jealous. Ugh!!!

Story Flow: 2 stars

I am wondering now if I missed the flow completely, because to me, the story seemed extremely repetitive. I got tired of hearing about Tom's pity party.

What saved this book was definitely the last few chapters. The way Tom made up to Reese for being a total dick was sweet and heartfelt. I know that this book wasn't all bad, but it's definitely not what I wanted or expected from an established couple 5 years down the road. Except for the last part. I totally expected the last part.
Profile Image for Elena.
825 reviews83 followers
September 13, 2018
3.5 stars

I read Off Campus three years ago and remembered the story and characters in general, but I thought I'd miss some references in this book so I tried to reread the first one.
I say I tried because I didn’t get past the first 15%. I liked the book the first time I read it, but apparently my taste changed or maybe I would have liked it if it was my first time reading it but it didn’t live up to a rereading. Anyway, I didn’t want to force myself to reread it only to have to drop the rating after I finished, so I gave up on it and tried Real World instead, expecting to dnf.
This is to say that my reaction to this book isn’t probably indicative of how a true fan of Tom and Reese might feel about their second book.

The first half was really frustrating, very realistic in how Tom and Reese acted as a couple reaching a stumbling block, but frustrating nonetheless for me as a reader. I think not being really invested in them worked in my favor in this case, because if I’d cared about them I would have been ten times more frustrated.
Tom fell back on old patterns of behavior when faced with a stressful situation, retreating into himself and lying to Reese, convinced he had to solve everything by himself and that leaning on Reese would put a strain on their relationship in the end, failing to see that the only strain between them came from his own behavior.
I can relate to Tom, I really can, much more than I’d like, to be honest. I share some of his patterns of behavior, so I know how difficult it can be to just open your mouth and ask for help when you’re in over your head, how your brain keeps telling you you’re an adult and you’re supposed to fix your problems by yourself and not burden anyone else.
What Tom doesn’t seem to understand, though, is that he’s in a relationship, he chose to share his life with Reese and shutting him out means hurting him. You can solve your own problems without sharing details with friends and family if you want, but you can't do that to your partner and expect your relationship to survive in the long run, which I would have expected Tom to know already after four years together. Instead, he seems to be still figuring that out.

As a somehow uninterested party, I wasn’t pulling on my hair in frustration, though. I only found it annoying when they acted like idiots, Tom lying and Reese , while avoiding talking about it with Tom. You’re right, Reese, open communication is the way to go to make a relationship last, but it’s not a one-way street.
They made up for it in the second half, though. Tom pulled his head from under the sand and they handled everything like adults, without drama and stupid misunderstandings, finally talking. I really liked that part.

So, almost 3 stars for the first part, because frustrating as it was it was still pretty realistic, and 4 for the second. Rounded up for the writing.
Profile Image for ☾ Dαɴιyα ☽.
446 reviews73 followers
November 23, 2015

3.5 stars.

“I’m your rock. And you’re mine.”

It's been five years since Tom & Reese met in Off Campus. They're still together, of course. They no longer live off campus; now they're out in the real world, and seem to be doing much, much better now than they did back then.


Tom's dad is back in the news, and Tom is back to his old habit of shutting everyone out when he's troubled, and avoiding conversation at all cost.
He's not being honest not even with Reese. Now, I could criticize him for not talking with the people who are closest to him, and who would be there for him no matter what, but that would make me a hypocrite, and I wouldn't want that. Poor Tom, that's all I can say. Keeping everything bottled up is hard, but, fortunately, he's made significant steps in opening up and actually talking to the most important person in his life, and that was worth waiting for. I can safely say this novella made a true Tom's fan out of me.

This is where Tome won me over, yes, but Reese's POV was more than welcome. I was glad to see how much he's able to now with Tom without feeling trapped and freaking out. Tom may have for a bit reverted to his college self, but Reese seems to have come a long way. However, if I'm being completely honest, Reese's POV was a welcome change because it was a break from Tom's anxious thoughts.

The plot... Hmmmm... I don't have much to say here. It seemed rather scattered. I've had some issues with it in Off Campus too. At least, Real World is only half as long.

All in all, this was a nice follow-up story to Tom & Reese's book, with an even nicer -- and more happy than the one in Off Campus -- ending. Anyone who read the first book and liked them will want to read this as well.

***ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***
Profile Image for .Lili. .
1,162 reviews260 followers
October 17, 2015
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Real World by Amy Jo Cousins is probably one of the best- if not the best portrayals of an established couple. This story takes place five years after the first book, and Tom and Reese are living together and working towards their future. At the beginning of the book, Tom is stressing about work and his dad 's imminent release from prison. These events cause him to not realize how much danger his relationship is in.

"This was the ground crumbling under his feet at the cliff's edge as he flung himself backward and hoped not to fall. This was an emergency and Tom was done fucking up. Was done putting his relationship in jeopardy because he was ashamed and fearful and hiding under the shaky leaf of his own lies as if they were rocks."

What I loved about this book was how real and heartfelt it was. When the book began- it felt like years had passed like the characters had matured. It also showed us that relationships aren't perfect and they take work. Above all, though, I love how committed they were to each other and making it work.

This was 5 Stars all the way and for Tom and Reese fans this one is not to be missed!

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**ARC kindly provided by the publisher for an honest review.**
**This review has been cross-posted at Gay Book Reviews.**
Author 1 book9 followers
August 2, 2016
Relationships are made of the little things: tiny discoveries that happen everyday; infinitesimal events that gain significance only with and for the lovers; small concessions that build habit and history. The only thing that is huge within the relationship--and outside of its historical and political context--is the labour that is needed to sustain it.

I'm so happy Amy Jo Cousins returned to Tom and Reese after their HEA to show them going through these everyday steps that look so small to us, and feel so overwhelming in the moment.

Moments of delicate poignancy add such nuance to the mainstays of the romance genre.

Because we, the readers, already know Tom and Reese, as well as they do themselves, this book brings a meta-critique that rarely emerges in romance. It comments on what romance--genre and ritual--means, because it has the luxury of a leisurely pace. We know the characters, we're guaranteed an HEA, so AJC serves us the good stuff. Like the deep meditation on what a relationship is
"Could an entire life be made of such things? Of knowing intimate details about a partner, things that couldn't possibly matter to anyone else in the universe, but that gave him a bedrock security that would get him through the rough spots?"
If you're really, really lucky, and work very hard at it, yes. Yes, it will. And what it takes is just on the next page:
"He pushed past the fatigue at how much work he had to do to get even close to good communication and other relationship stuff."

Throw open the curtains, and nothing more spectacular comes out than tiny things and tons of work amounting to the very best thing: a working relationship.

One more thing: I love it when the structure of a narrative mirrors its content, as it does in the very best of fiction, imho. As it does here. Things take their time to unfold. It's everyday, but far from tedious.

It makes you stop and think.

I know no better reason to pick up a book.


Profile Image for 1-Click Addict Support Group.
3,749 reviews441 followers
November 17, 2015
I’m going to do my best to not make this review seem like a love letter to Amy Jo Cousins, but let's be real here. That's exactly what this is. Because I have a well of love inside for this author and her words, and this fifth book in the Bend or Break series is the perfect example of why.

It's been five years since Tom Worthington and Reese Anders sorted out their respective issues and started down the toward happily ever after. But that doesn't mean things are perfect. Far from, in fact.

Tom’s still keeping his secrets deep inside, including the impending release of his jail-bird father. And with a change in his role at work, Reese is getting more and more intrigued by his new boss—a man with a sexy accent, no less. Nope, things are most definitely not perfect.

But neither Tom nor Reese are willing to let their hard-fought connection fizzle without a fight. It's time to face the reality of life and figure their shit out. Just in time for Christmas.

Okay, so I really liked Tom and Reese in Off Campus, the book that started this series—and made me a fangirl for this author. But here? Here I LOVE them. They're struggling, no doubt, but their story is realistic, sexy and more than a little frustrating—in the best way, of course. These men…argh, I wanted Tom to open up and I wanted to Reese to open his eyes, but really, what I wanted most of all was for this story to never end.

It was a lot of fun to be back with the couple who started it all. To catch up with them and see them get a final HEA, which was wrapped up in an ending that just made me so happy I couldn't contain my girlish glee. Mad props, BTW, to Mr. Anders, who had my favorite line in this book, which may or may not made me cry a little.

“You’re my boy too, you know.”

Oh, who am I kidding? It totally did. Because it was so perfect. For the moment, for the book and for Tom, who needed those words so bad. *Sigh* Ms. Cousins’ words get to me every time, whether it’s dirty, funny banter between friends (and how marvelous to see Cash and Steph, and Rafi and Denny pop up in Real World), harsh-but-necessary words between lovers who are having communication issues, or sweet, loving moments that prove that happy for now can become happy forever, if you're just willing to give it a chance and fight.

This book was perfect. This series is an absolute favorite. And this author? Oh, man, I LOVE her. Sorry for the love letter, but that's just how I feel. ~ Beth, 5 stars
Profile Image for Elspeth.
836 reviews130 followers
January 13, 2016

This was just what my marshmallow heart wanted.

Less angst than what the synopsis lead you to believe.

Just a sweet, sweet follow up on our boys from book one.

Oh...and the ending...evil.

So evil...

I hate crying!

Thank you Netgalley for letting me read this book in trade for an honest review.

P.S. I think it's cute that the author thought a pint of cream is scary. Come to Maine deah...we can swap recipes!

Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 73 books2,496 followers
May 27, 2016
This book returns to the couple that began the series - Reese and Tom are several years into their relationship, and still working on it. I loved the fact that their problems hadn't gone away, and their natures remained the same. Reese still has issues, despite his progress. Tom still hoards his pain and guilt away to not burden his friends. This was warm, a little painful, then very sweet. A pleasure to see all these characters again.
Profile Image for MaDoReader.
1,365 reviews148 followers
Shelved as 'nope-por-una-buena-razón'
March 12, 2018
Quito reseña y rating
Profile Image for Kirsten.
984 reviews41 followers
March 29, 2022
After HEA,
the real work begins. These are
my favorite boys.
Profile Image for Ellie.
811 reviews162 followers
November 24, 2015
4.5 Stars
"Oh, you boys. You're my favorites." <3

Anyone who enjoyed Tom and Reese's story in Off Campus, you will LOVE this. It's so good!

This is book 5 in Ms Cousins' Bend or Break series and it's a sequel to the first book, Off Campus, bring us back to Tom and Reese, now an established couple, a few years after graduation.

I find Ms Cousins has the uncanny ability to steal some of my thoughts and give them to her characters. It was Rafi in Level Hands who could be my twin in so many ways and here I felt deeply connected with Tom, so much that it felt surreal at times.

This is not just a sweet follow up story. Both Tom and Reese had a lot of issues to deal before they came together and we see them still struggling with the hurt/burden of their pasts. Things get especially difficult for Tom and because he is the quieter, more introverted of the two, he reacts rather badly the situation, at least initially. He finds himself under so much pressure, most of which he places on himself and refusing to talk about it with his partner. He comes really close to losing everything and this possibility becomes his wake-up call.

I loved everything about this story, it felt real and natural and there were some sweet romantic moments that brought happy tears to my eyes.

I could relate to Tom's anxiety and nerves about everything happening in his life. His reaction to shut everybody out, to solve every problem on his own so as not to be a burden to the people who love him, his fear he might be a burden to Reese/or any of his friends came so very close to some of my own fears.

I got deeply immersed in his struggles, felt bad for him, rooted for his HEA!

Reese was great as well, more mature than in Off Campus, yet still vibrant, full of life and emotions. His enthusiasm was truly infectious. We see him doing everything he can think of to help support Tom and to save their relationship. Seeing how they made mistakes, yet never gave up on each other was inspiring. they were aware of the difficulties in their relationship and tried to work things out. I loved that they manage to speak openly, despite it being so difficult for Tom to open up.

As much as I liked Reese and Tom, I also loved seeing Cash and Steph again, even a glimpse of Denny and Rafi and their happy, healthy relationships all made my heart full.

And we gets bits of Cash (and Steph) and they were such fun!

This story has the perfect perfect romance HEA and to avoid spoilers I will just say that it was so sweet and romantic, yet never sappy, just real for these two guys.

Fans of the series should not miss this book! It's a sweet and sexy holiday romance, engaging and real, in this magical of Ms Cousins creating a story and characters that stay with you long after you finish reading the book.
Profile Image for Pjm12.
1,852 reviews41 followers
November 18, 2015
Tom is very hard to like here. His inability to trust his partner, Reece, his reluctance to step up and ask for help seems unlike the strong loving person we've come to know.

While Reece only offers love, a safe space and glorious release (& relief) from Tom's thoughts and fears, Tom still can't succumb.

It's maddening.

Of course, eventually he does. And this journey is of course the reason for the book, but yeah, no. It doesn't really work.

Good to see the other two couples that have made up the series. And it was all happy happy at the end, but if you are not fond of seemingly contrived ways to tear couples apart, you might not like this.

I was okay with it. I accepted Tom still had a lot to learn. A LOT!!

Copy provided by Netgalley. Real World will be published on November 17th.
Profile Image for Alisa.
1,766 reviews174 followers
November 17, 2015
Tom and Reese have been together five years now and overall things have been good. Christmas is coming, the guys are living together and they're involved in their careers. Everything should be great but there's one big problem. Tom's dad is getting released from prison and it throws Tom back to how he was when he and Reese first met. And while Tom is locked inside his own head again, worrying about his problems, he misses the fact that Reese has a gorgeous new boss. One who is willing to give Reese all the attention he needs.

This book both hurt my heart and filled it with joy. I happen to love this couple so I was really excited to revisit them down the road. Both characters were much the same as they were in the first book but they're all grown up now. They're going through a really hard time in their relationship which was the painful part of the story. They have some very brutally honest conversations with each other. Some conversations that hurt a little to read. But never fear. This is a Christmas story so it all works out in the end. It works out so well that I found myself teary-eyed at one point.

This was another great installation in this series and I was so happy to get this happily ever after with these two. There are appearances from most of the couples from the previous books and one of the characters from a future book. There were funny moments, sexy moments and some really beautiful ones.

This book should not be read as a stand alone. You need to have read Off Campus first. You can skip the other books in the series (but you shouldn't because they're all made of awesome) and still follow this with no problem. The author includes a rigatoni recipe at the end because it's a big part of the story. Do yourself a favor and try the recipe. It was fabulous. Actually do yourself a favor. Make the rigatoni first, pour yourself a glass of wine and read this while indulging. A must read for fans of this series.
Profile Image for K.
1,608 reviews70 followers
May 7, 2017
It was really nice to return to Tom and Reese, now an established couple of 5 years. Things start to go wrong when Tom learns his father is getting out of jail - which makes him return to old habits of hiding things. Added to that a problem with the accounts at work finds him working hard enough to get a stress ulcer trying to solve the problem so no one thinks he's like his father. Reese meanwhile is picked out of his boring receptionist job to help Niall with a new project- though that's maybe not all Niall wants.

Tom and Reese navigate through a rough patch to end up closer together with a real feel good ending to the story.

Nice to see the characters from previous books are also all there.
Profile Image for Sonja.
417 reviews28 followers
February 19, 2018
I liked this a lot. I loved checking in with Reese and Tom, and the ending of this story was the stuff of dreams. I loved that Steph and Cash also heavily featured in this and was glad to get glimpses of Rafi and Denny who seem truly solid. But yeah, I love Reese and Tom a lot and am glad they are figuring stuff out as a couple, and that this was pretty low on the drama and just focused on them becoming stronger as a pair.
Profile Image for Melissa.
1,220 reviews75 followers
August 21, 2017
This is a great installment in the Bend or Break series, and in Reese and Tom's relationship from book 1 Off Campus. I love these two and was so happy to see them again. This is a shorter story than Off Campus, but still great. It's Christmas time and Reese is feeling a little frustrated and cut off from Tom and when Reese's boss shows him a little attention, things kind of explode. THERE IS NO CHEATING.

It was good to see the gang again, and lots of news for these couples. :) Highly recommend, and once again the narration was wonderful!
Profile Image for Vallie.
684 reviews68 followers
November 22, 2015
Could a title be any more perfect for a book?!

This was about Tom and Reese from Off Campus (Bend or Break #1), which is one of my favourite books by the way, 5 years after they got together, living life, and getting on with the programme. I absolutely loved loved loved the sequel to their story. I have a soft spot about established couples, maybe because sometimes the characters in books take way too damn long to get together properly and I always feel like I didn’t experience them enough. When it comes to established couples though, we get to see all the day-to-day little things, the routine, the mundane tasks, the fights, the things couples don’t say to one another, and I love it!

I appreciated greatly that the author didn’t magically cure any of the issues that Tom faced before. He was still slow to open up to Reese, often withdrawing from his partner, and bottling everything up. Tom was still not coping with the insecurities his father’s criminal activities created for him. He was still a little paranoid that everyone suspected him of fraud. He still thought that people stared. All of that caused him to distance himself from Reese and more importantly, to not support Reese the way a partner should.

Reese was honestly amazing about all of it. He didn’t make excuses for Tom but he did try to be there for him as much as possible. And when things started derailing, they were honest with each other. They gave each other the truth, no matter how painful or scary it might seem.

“I count on our relationship to be my rock, Tom. It’s the thing that makes the shitty days less shitty and the good ones fabulous. But sometimes I think you spend half your time waiting for the illusion to crack because you’ve never believed any of this is real.”

I wanna hug this book and hold onto it foreverrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!! *big smiley face*

The side characters were funny and served their purpose very well. It was nice to see that Tom and Reese moved on from college into adulthood and that they both retained an identity outside of the relationship.

The romance was there, obviously, in an emotional and sometimes gut-wrenching way, because their relationship became rocky for a while. But I never ever doubted the love and the emotions or that these two would make it. That last scene...I don’t care, I will fan-girl like a 12 year old over this. OMG THAT PARTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I will encourage everyone who hasn’t discovered the magic that is Tom and Reese to pick up Off Campus (Bend or Break #1) and then go straight to this. It is a truly great follow-up to one of my favourite couples.

Highly recommend!

ARC of Real World provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. This review has been cross-posted at Gay Book Reviews.
Profile Image for Veronica of V's Reads.
1,528 reviews41 followers
December 2, 2015
This is the fifth book in the Bend or Break series, but it's a sequel to OFF CAMPUS, and should be read after that one, for sure. Other characters in the series show up here, and that's cool, but you don't have to know their stories for their involvement to make sense.

4.5 stars.
Tom and Reese met in college and have been an exclusive couple for five years. They graduated a few years back and both work full-time in Boston. Tom's working in finance, and doing part-time school for an MBA and Reese is a receptionist/office gopher for a clothing concept company. Things have been going pretty well for these two, but with work and school, they are a bit on relationship autopilot, and their connection is beginning to unravel slightly.

There is a bit problem brewing for Tom, the imminent release of his overbearing and unrepentant Ponzi-schemer father from prison. He's freaked, and decides to keep that to himself. It causes a strain that Reese immediately senses. Tom's ringer is often off, and he's begging off from their usual social outings. Reese has a very firm hand, and soft mouth, when it comes to opening Tom's vault, but it's pretty unfair that Reese has to do all the heavy lifting. When accounting irregularities begin popping up at his work, Tom's putting in extra hours to clear any suspicion that might be directed at himself, being the son of a financial crook.

Meanwhile, Reese's job is getting way more involved and intense as he's called in to some creative meetings with the Marketing director, a suave Brit man named Niall. Niall thinks Reese's ideas are great, and really admires his tenacity. As their work relationship grows, it becomes clear that Niall has designs on Reese, and not in a creepy way.

With Tom virtually ignoring him, it's hard for Reese to confide the way his professional life is shifting, but Tom gets the hint at Reece's company Christmas party, and he's kicking himself for turning down all Reese's invites to hang out with his work colleagues.

This is really a great established relationship read. Adult life is messy. There will always be people who wish to insert themselves into the personal relationships of others. Niall isn't malicious, he's ignorant of Reese's partnership. That said, there's a chemistry there, one that's lacking with absentee-brooding Tom. I will assure readers that this book is all about the HEA. I hadn't realized there was a Christmas theme here, but it comes across loud and clear. Tom reverted to his same self-isolation tactics as in OFF CAMPUS, and Reese took care of him now, as he did back then. There are a lot of steamy scenes in REAL WORLD. Because Tom is such a poor talker, he and Reese spend a LOT of time in sexytimes. Hooray for that! I was emotionally invested the entire time, and it really got to me when Tom didn't trust Reese enough to confide. His grand gestures in the end, however, were a great sign that he'd turned that corner.

I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.
Profile Image for JB.
411 reviews
February 3, 2016
4.5 stars. I was happy to see the Off Campus sequel for Tom & Reese. The title really does describe what it's all about for them once they get out of college and into the "real world" - all the issues and problems don't magically fall away. The story does not fully resolve Tom's issues with his Dad- not sure that ever will happen; however, they work through their relationship issues and its a nice ending with Tom finally being smacked in the face and realizing how special what he and Reese have together. It got a little tense with Tom still being so incredibly hard on himself and keeping everything inside but it was believable. I just love Reese... and they really are perfect together. Like hearing both POV's. This was well written with some good sexiness to their story.
Profile Image for Kate McMurray.
Author 48 books343 followers
May 19, 2016
Now that I've read the whole series, I can say this was definitely my favorite book in it, which was a surprise to me because I dragged my feet so much—I did not want to read about bad things happening to Tom and Reese—but the internal conflict here feels tangible and the story feels tight, with nothing extraneous. Tom still struggles to break his old habit of keeping everything bottled up, not realizing that Reese wants to share his burdens. The happy ending feels earned.
Profile Image for DaisyGirl.
1,201 reviews64 followers
January 1, 2016
3.5 (3.0) Stars

I was a little peeved with this installment of the Bend or Break series. Why? Reese believed he and Tom should talk about anything they did that they're uncomfortable telling each other about. Um, helllooooo! It's a little late in the game, don't ya think since you did it already, dumbass! Why didn't these guys try talking and working shit out so they wouldn't DO stupid stuff?!? End rant.

Bottom line: Entertaining but frustrating.
Profile Image for Carnell.
23 reviews
May 4, 2016
I really liked that this book was from both Reese and Tom's POV; I actually missed not being in Reese's head in Off Campus. And I didn't get confused at all in this one because the different POVs and scenes were well separated.
Loved that Christmas party and Tom finally realizing he had to fight to keep Reese. Actually they both know they have to constantly work on their relationship if they want to make each other happy. Just like every couple in the real world.
Profile Image for JD Crittendon.
1,118 reviews10 followers
May 14, 2019
Love trump Angst!

Next installment in the Reese & Tom story. Tom is still my least favorite MC. However, it takes more angst and shutting down but he finally redeems himself somewhat. The written is good, the co-characters are great. Rating: a real 3⭐️⭐️⭐️!
Profile Image for Lotta.
1,040 reviews18 followers
January 22, 2018
To follow up on Off Campus, I listened to Real World. Cooper North does an excellent job! This is a check in with Tom and Reese four or five years after the first book.
Profile Image for UltraMeital.
1,208 reviews49 followers
November 21, 2015
This one was everything I could have hoped for and more. I can't express how happy I am with the way this one turned out. I LOVED both Tom and Reese in the 1st installment in the series, and yeah, it was obvious that their problems won't just disappear when they are finally committed to one another but here we got to see them 4 years later and though there's much of the same (no one changes over night..), it's different, their relationship is stronger, their connection is beautiful and even when they are both making mistakes it's obvious where their heart are.

Tom's father is about to be released which puts Tom in the worst possible mood but Tom would be Tom and so he can't actually talk to Reese and express his feelings, his fears. Reese knows Tom better than Tom can imagine and so though Reese doesn't know WHAT is happening in Tom's head, he knows he is suffering. Instead of trying to pry it out of him, he tries giving him time, giving him an accepting place and yet it doesn't really work, especially when there is a problem with the money reports in the company Tom works in - another reason for Tom to stress out - after all it's quite obvious he would be the first to blame when money disappears..

Reese has other things on his mind besides the secrets Tom is keeping from him, he is actually getting to DO something in the company he works at, not just as a secretary, but a fun job at marketing he can't believe he got involved in. He is happy, he is appreciated but when he comes home, Tom, his partner, isn't to be found.. there's just this carcass of a guy who sits and either studies or works with his earphones plugged to his ears.

Even though they both were inside their heads, each with his own problems it was SO SO beautiful hearing, from each of their POVs, how much they cared about one another. Yeah it's not perfect and yet they are "it" for one another and it was obvious in the most prominent way - how they looked and thought of one another.

Reese and Tom NEEDS to talk, but it takes Tom the realization he might be losing Reese to make himself sit in front of Reese on their bed, lights out and actually talk about how messed up he is. Seeing the two of them together is beautiful beyond words. These guys love each other SO MUCH and yet it's not easy. It never is, which is what makes this story so beautiful, heart clenching and REAL. This is life.

After their long overdue conversation things start to change, also we get glimpses of past couples - Cash and Steph, Rafi and Denny - coming to enjoy the holidays with their close friends. It was simply a joy. What both these men went through on their own, together, the whole journey, they deserved to have this HEA, true HEA where I could totally imagine them growing old together.

I don't want to say more because this novel is quite short and yet it packs everything in it and closes the love story perfectly. Be advised NOT to read this one without reading the 1st installment in the series AT LEAST or you wouldn't understand the significance of the whole relationship.


I kindly received this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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