by Stephanie Fournet
A depressed English professor finds love in the most unlikely place in Stephanie Fournet's emotional debut novel, Fall Semester.
Despite his stunning good looks, Dr. Malcolm Vashal is perhaps the most detested professor on campus. A floundering career and the aftershocks of a painful divorce have left the thirty-four-year-old with more than a little self-loathing, which only grows when he meets Maren Gardner. The graduate student with the loyal heart and searching eyes is much too good for him. She is off-limits for more reasons than one, but Malcolm can’t seem to resist her.
Maren is facing the greatest loss of her life, and her family needs her now more than ever. Between caring for them and building her future, Maren doesn’t have time for a social life, much less a relationship, but she can’t push a certain green-eyed professor from her mind. She sees in him a goodness that others don’t, but that might not be enough.
As the two discover each other, their blossoming friendship soon turns into something more, but self-doubts, family tragedy, and personal demons stand in their way.
Can they overcome these odds and share a love that each desperately needs? Or will the end of the semester find them heartbroken?
Dr. Vashal had seated himself at the dinette, but he stood when she entered, and he immediately frowned.
“Your hair is still wet,” he reproached. “That won’t do.”
“It’s alright,” she brushed off his concern. “Shall we sit in the living room?”
“It is not alright,” he upbraided, his frown deepening. “You have a fever and a cough, and it’s drafty in here. You’ll catch pneumonia like that.”
At his scolding tone, the last of her energy drained out of her, and Maren sunk into a kitchen chair, laying her forehead in her hands and her elbows on the table.
Why is he so angry?
“Dr. Vashal,...I just don’t have it in me to dry my hair right now. Please. I need to sit down.”
Maren was sure that she, in fact, needed to lie down. She couldn’t even bring herself to look up at him, so it was the appearance of his black Steve Madden Oxfords entering her field of vision that told her he approached. She felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Let me help you,” he said softly, all scolding gone. “Come.”
He took her arm and gently guided her until she was on her feet again, and he plucked up her chair in his other hand and led them into the bathroom. Even though this was the strangest thing to ever happen in her life, Maren was too bemused to resist. She allowed him to seat her in front of the sink, and, without a word, he took down her hair dryer from the caddy above the toilet and turned it on. Maren noticed that he tested its heat and force against his own hand before aiming it at her.
Warm air caressed her, and when he grabbed the hairbrush from the same caddy and began carefully pulling it through her hair, Maren thought her bones had gone liquid. She resumed her slumped posture, elbows on the sink and head in hands, and she closed her eyes.
Oh my God.
He was deliberate and gentle, catching her hair in the brush at the roots and following it down to the ends. The fine hairs on her neck stood on end, and goose bumps erupted down her arms. Maren’s scalp tingled every time the bristles of the brush stroked against it. She drowned in a sea of sensation.
A moan escaped her throat before she could catch herself.
She couldn’t help it— she could only hope that he had not heard her over the hair dryer. Maren could not remember feeling so carefully and intimately attended. It was heavenly.
I have to give this 4 stars. I have never seen a professor go to the lengths that Dr. Malcolm Vashal does for one of his students when she is sick. He has always come across as gruff and one that likes things his way. However one student has caught his eye and has made him start moving back in the right direction to how he felt before the person that he loved left which sent him into this downward spiral.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Stephanie Fournet lives in Lafayette, Louisiana—not far from the Saint Streets where her novels are set. She shares her home with her husband John and her daughter Hannah, their needy dogs Gladys and Mabel, and an immortal blue finch named Baby Blue. When she isn’t writing romance novels, she is usually helping students get into college, teaching AP English, or running. She loves hearing from fans, so you can follow her on Facebook, message her on Goodreads, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.