This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Contemporary Romance, M/M Romance, New Adult Romance
Published by Riptide
Released on June 13, 2016
I started back with this series for the second time as they release on audio. This second installment of the Theta Alpha Gamma (TAG) series was interesting. The main character was an absolute jerk in the first book and so I was oh so curious to see him get his own book. This was a quick novella, but it was packed with quite an emotional punch along with some deeper considerations.
The book is the second in a series and works best in order so the hero and surrounding cast of characters make more sense.
Paul has been a snarky, uptight, judgmental prick and now he’s reaping the repercussions of it. He is forced to live in the dorms with his former roommates and friends pushed to a distance. Only Paul knows what set him off when Sebastian started dating Brad the jock, but he’s not telling. He will bear his scars and past hurts alone and he wants it that way.
But now, he is forced to go meet the new girls’ softball coach to discuss tutoring for some of the team. Paul has nearly a physical allergy to jocks, but he needs the money that tutoring brings him. Only, when he meets the coach, his past and his present collide because ‘coach’ is Trevor Gardiner. Trevor was the guy in high school that he was with ‘secretly’. Neither were out until in one nightmare moment, Trevor threw Paul under the bus and went on pretending to be straight and going on with his professional baseball career.
Trevor wants forgiveness and a do over. Paul wants to make Trevor pay for the past and get out of his life. At least that is what he tells himself and tells others, who, oddly, don’t believe him. But can he really let the past go?
Alright, first of all, the author writes really great characters. The first book was light-hearted even while touching on deeper elements. This one was not. Oh, it wasn’t overly angsty, but it was not full of humor- though humor is there. Paul is still fundamentally the same from what he was in the first book and there are reasons for his reaction to Brad and Sebastian together, but this story doesn’t try to paint him in a rosy glow. He’s still tough to like and get on with. The story is told from Paul’s point of view and it is a tough, hard second chance.
Now, as I said in the opening, this wasn’t my first encounter with this story. I honestly can’t remember more than my general impression the first time. This time, I was disturbed and got a little upset about the way the whole situation was written. I still think it was a good story, but I didn’t like that Paul was the put upon party and that Trevor was put in the position of being the lone guy who screwed up in the past. In the present, the author does a great job of balancing the pair and allowing Paul to grow and learn. But it is that whole past situation that bugs me.
I felt that both parties screwed up as high schoolers. The book seems to place the past mess squarely on Trevor’s shoulders and I don’t see it that way. Here’s why: In this story, the Paul of the past decided he didn’t want to be the dirty little secret. Understandable, but instead of walking away from the situation with Trevor, he chose to force this issue. Now, I get it, Paul was the wounded party here and the story paints it that way. But- I have a problem with the idea of forcing a guy into the open like that and forcing him to choose you or his career especially when Paul didn’t like sports and didn’t take Trevor’s career seriously. Nothing is on the line here for Paul and he was too young to see that everything was on the line for Trevor.
Trevor had been upfront with Paul all along back in high school- he didn’t want to be out, baseball was his dream, and he could only have something with Paul on the side.
Yes, Trevor ended up not pushing Paul away when his friend walked into the shower room, but Paul still forced the situation to happen when and where it did- a public place- the school shower- and planned to seduce Trevor where others might see. And his end game was to force Trevor out of the closet.
Paul and his friends all blame Trevor and feel that he is the one who screwed up, but for me, I felt Paul was the catalyst and screwed up as badly as Trevor so his decade long snit about jocks and being ugly and superior with the people who needed his tutoring left me feeling pretty cold toward him particularly through much of the story.
I was glad Paul figured out his issues and even started making strides to restore things with Sebastian and Brad along with Trevor. His smart-mouthed, cutting words that he vomits on people is called Paul in a melt down. I can appreciate that we all have flaws, but this guy hurt people and intended to all because of his own issues. Tough sell.
So did the author sell me on this hard to like and definitely hard to love character? Actually she did to a certain extent. I don’t think Paul will be a favorite, but blended in with his group of friends, he is an essential ingredient that adds flavor and something different.
The narrator, Nick Russo, told this story well. He performed Paul, Toby, Sebastian, Brad, and Trevor and all their moods like a champ. I could see all of them clearly in my mind. From Paul’s clipped and snitty voice to Toby’s really laid back one, it was all good.
All in all, this was a story of a guy who desperately needed to come to terms with his past and heal before he could ever be happy. I loved being along of this this. The change in focus and feel between the stories in this series to match the characters’ personalities and situations was fantastic and I look forward to what comes next. I heartily recommend this quirky, heartwarming, and passionate M/M New Adult Romance book/series.
My thanks to Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to listen to the book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #229 NA