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Onyx Lee Publications Debuts with “Hot For Teacher”

Hot for Teacher by Aunt Georgia Lee is the first novel from Onyx Lee Publications, a company aiming to tell stories about LGBT+ women of color. You can order it here.

The story revolves around a guidance counselor with a troubled past and the parent of one of her students, who is exhibiting uncharacteristic behavior. Together they must discover what is ailing the boy. Along the way, they find more in common than just their concern for him.

Synopsis

In Teacher, this takes the shape of high school guidance counselor Evelyn Hargrove and Danielle Rivers, guardian to Colin, one of her troubled students. Both feel a mutual and immediate attraction to each other. Evelyn hesitates to entertain her attraction to Danielle. It is her job but also her past that holds her back. Danielle is eager to engage in a relationship but finds Evelyn initially antagonistic. Evelyn and Danielle will eventually succumb to their mutual attraction.

Colin, Danielle’s nephew (whom she is the legal guardian of), has been exhibiting uncharacteristic behavior. Neither her nor her gay best friend and co-parent, Roderick, were aware of his behavior. Evelyn attempts to help the family through counseling, which prompts the surrogate parents to open up about their pasts. Given Colin’s gentle nature, the mystery remains why he has been acting out.

On the other hand, Danielle grapples with a new work opportunity with Ben, the owner of the club she manages. She finds obstacles in her employee’s erratic behavior and in Ben’s sister’s class bias against her. Struggling to contain her work crisis leads to problems in her personal life. Then her, Evelyn and Roderick together figure out what’s up with Colin.

Review

Hot for Teacher is an Erotica novel, undoubtedly. This is not the kind of literature I typically read or am familiar with, so I must admit I find it hard to talk about “certain scenes” without going into the plot as a reflex. Before I get into the intricacies, I will say this: This is wish-fulfillment narrative, and that’s great! The book is written for a specific public that enjoys certain things. If you consider yourself as part of that readership, this book may very well be for you! What follows is a review of the story reading it like any other genre. So take this with a grain of salt.

Despite its suggestive title and cover page, most of the story is comprised of things happening to the characters or characters doing something other than “rumpy-pumpy”, as Charles Dance would put it. That said, there is an abundance of sexual thoughts by Danielle and Evelyn throughout the novel, and a handful of sex scenes.

Hot for Teacher is unfortunately titled. A title is both a presentation and a promise. Student-teacher relationships carry with them unfortunate implications, and in this case, the too-common phrase misrepresents the story. You quickly discover it is in fact not a teacher but a guidance counselor, not a student but a parent. And yet, the narration does allude to the student-teacher relationship fantasy on a handful of occasions. I think this is perhaps my biggest sticking point of the novel.

Plot-wise, there are three main storylines, and they are only momentarily interwoven or connected. Threads are handled separately and when not focused on, placed on a back burner.

The premise of the book promises to explore Colin and his bad behavior, which is what brings the main gals together in the first place. A mystery is opened: Colin has a motivation, but he’s keeping it a secret. The first few chapters focus on this. Then the entire thing is mostly dropped to deal with Danielle’s work and her love life with Evelyn.  The counselor’s life and past issues are very briefly addressed. For about half the story, Colin is in the background, being a wonderful kid. He doesn’t keep misbehaving, and he keeps his secret. This hardly causes any trouble in the family while they’re not in session. The mystery only pops back up once almost everything else is resolved.

Obstacles arise and are dealt with immediately. There is hardly a tension or ugly moment that lasts more than a chapter. The resolutions to all conflicts are also clean and happy despite their dark subject matter; substance abuse, emotional and physical abuse, racism and classism.

The characters are the best part of the story. With few exceptions, they are vibrant and fun. However, none of them are allowed any uncomfortable flaws, except the villain, who turns up very late in the story. Most of them remain uncomplex, especially Danielle. This leads to conflict and angst between them feeling forced.

The prose is more explanatory than literary. The narrator uses an omniscient, informative approach, and the point of view goes back and forth with whoever is in the room.

A big part of storytelling is information management. Lee chooses to give us all of it right out the gate. The first few pages explain Evelyn’s curriculum vitae and relationship status matter-of-factly. Danielle walks in and we find out her story. Very little information is concealed from the reader. There is narrow room for wondering about Danielle’s explosive personality or Evelyn’s fear of vulnerability. It steals an opportunity for the reader to want to know. Arguably, it also takes away from emotional scenes when the characters share with each other. The narrator often describes situations by telling us the impressions the characters have about them instead of describing what happens in the scene.

Ultimately, the reader’s engagement with the book hinges on Danielle and Evelyn’s relationship. Either you’re on board and interested, or not at all. Lee takes for granted that you will be, though their interactions without the added sexual commentary don’t show that chemistry.

There are enjoyable moments with the characters separately. Evelyn especially, being the dark loner, has a surprising friendship with the spunkiest character. Any time they are together, Danielle and Evelyn have sexual thoughts about each other, no matter the context. It does get tiresome, and it begs the question of whether their connection really extends beyond that. Other characters like Rod and Evelyn’s best friend Tori often comment on their undeniable connection, which is only on display about a hundred pages in.

There are moments in Hot for Teacher that read like a bit like a fanfic, coming across as over-explained narrative driven by constant sexual innuendo. Everyone is great, and they easily win after minor hurdles. As I mentioned before, it is a story that exists for very specific wish-fulfillment, which, again, is completely valid! Except you must share those wishes for it to have its desired effect. As a literary experience beyond that, it doesn’t hold up, however, I completely understand why people from minority communities sometimes just want to have those easy read, easy win stories. Life is hard enough as it is.

Going in, I wanted to like this book. I am all for increasing the representation of LGBT+ women of color, and a publishing house dedicated to that is an amazing idea. Ultimately, it just wasn’t for me.

But hey, if the characters and situations (plus some “rumpy-pumpy”) sound like they’d float your boat, definitely go for it. You can buy it here and you can find additional content from the author and specific characters here.

Image courtesy of Onyx Lee Publications

Alejandra
Written By

Alejandra is a Mexican screenwriter who spends too much time thinking about television.

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