Reviewed: September 11, 2012
Genres: LGBT-M/M Contemporary Romance
Series: Theta Alpha Gamma, Book 2
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 100 Pages
Disclosures: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Riptide Publishing via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
Calapooya College grad student and tutor Paul is an intellectual elitist and a cynical bastard who loathes jocks on principle and is no more fond of frat boys. It's a wonder the guy ever gets laid.
Booted from his old apartment for treating his former roommate's new boyfriend like the jock boy toy he is, Paul is stuck tutoring lunkheads all summer long. He needs the money to get out of the dorms and into his own place before fall session starts. Then he gets a specific request for his tutoring services from the new head coach of the Calapooya woman's softball team.
No. Absolutely not. Paul has a strict "no athletes" policy, and he has no qualms about meeting with the coach and explaining that to the man. At least he doesn't until he actually gets into the guy's office. Then there's all sorts of qualms. And maybe an emotional meltdown or ten.
Calapooya's new softball coach is former Major League Baseball player Trevor Gardiner, the man who betrayed and humiliated Paul back in high school, back when they were boys...and earnest boyfriends...until he and Trevor were caught in an incriminating position and Trevor threw Paul under the bus and out of the closet to save himself.
Everything, absolutely everything Paul had hoped and dreamed about Trevor died a horrifically disillusioned, brutal death that afternoon. And now he's at Paul's school. Retired from baseball and out of the closet, Trevor claims to want nothing more than to make up for the mistake he made nine years ago. He claims to want to try for something real between them again. And he claims to be so very, very sorry.
Yeah, well, there's no way that Paul is going to fall for that line, no matter the hoops Trevor is willing to jump through. It would be emotional suicide. The only way he would be insane enough to even consider risking it would be for love...hypothetically.
This followup to Tenino's charming Frat Boy and Toppy isn't a perfect read. Beyond some pretty extensive editing issues that I hope are polished out in the final version, it's also got some story issues that caused some problems for me. The story is short, even for a novella, and there were a few scenes that I felt could have better served the tale had they been focused elsewhere. Like on character development.
Paul's character is pretty limited in nature to the prick he's always been, but at least he felt familiar to me from his introduction in the first book. Trevor isn't even that lucky. There is almost no page time given to fleshing out or defining his character at all. Readers who prefer depth in character should be warned. There is little to be found here.
It was impossible for me to even consider Trevor a main character, actually. He wasn't in as many of the scenes as I was expecting. Unfortunately, that limited the relationship development between him and Paul quite a lot. I also thought the end of the story was a little rough and too abrupt, and felt the frat house tie-in seemed a bit awkward and forced.
Thing is, though, this story still worked for me. I was not a fan of Paul in the first book, and I don't particularly care about the reason given in this one to explain his prickish behavior and attitude. I don't think just knowing his caustic, bitter personality is born from pain and betrayal redeemed his character. It explained it, yes, and I certainly felt for the boy he used to be. It didn't redeemed the man he is now, though. Not for me.
Something else did that. And that's when I started to notice how much I was enjoying this read. Tenino has this gift for capturing awkwardness in her characters and making it endearing. She did it with Brad throughout the first book, Sebastian towards the end of it, and when Paul's not being an utter ass (which is, admittedly, often), she manages to flush out his tender little underbelly here, too.
Paul's scene with Toby in the bar, that whole hypothetical situation they discussed as Paul battles ice cubes and citrus garnish, was flat-out cute. The scene that really put it away for me, though, was the one in Sebastian and Brad's apartment. It wasn't just the conversation between the three men that appealed, though that was stellar, but also the internal goings on in Paul's head, the thoughts and feelings he's having while they're conversing. I absolutely adored that whole scene to the point that it elevated my overall appreciation for the entire read.
Keeping in mind the length of the tale and accepting the story for what it is helped me enjoy this one. I am really starting to dig Tenino's writing style and her sharp, sardonic wit. Her characters aren't quite the most individual I've ever read (Sebastian and Paul seem pretty interchangeable in a lot of ways), but there is something very appealing about them. And their stories. It helps that Tenino is absolutely no slouch in the yummy sex department, too. So...any chance we'll see Collin's story? I'm still waiting on that one.
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