This one was something unexpected for me. I have been a faithful follower of this series so I have gotten to know the world and the characters pretty well. I enjoy the college backdrop and the frat boy antics and their affairs of the heart. In this latest installment there were some changes, namely this one was longer and had more room to develop the story and characters. I liked where it went.
The book should definitely be read in order due to the fact that the recurring characters’ plot threads are continued in the background, there are many mentions of past events that would be confusing to read in isolation, and the main characters’ story lines began earlier.
Things begin when Toby comes to a party at Sebastian and Brad’s that included many from Brad’s frat, TAG, and Sebastian’s group of post-grad friends. Toby is at a bit of a loss when he sees all his friends are there with their partners and are in committed relationships. He’s both jealous of what they have, but at the same time convinced that commitment to someone is not for him. He has a certain disdain for the big, muscle-bound, non-intellectual jocks that are there until he sets eyes on Tank’s little brother, Jock. He knows Jock’s story and suspects that in spite of the outing he had at his old school, that Jock is virginal territory- his favorite.
Jock comes to the party, but isn’t really in the mood. He’s been on a short fuse and can’t even let his irritation fly because the very people who make him angry are good intentioned. He’s still bruised over his very public revealing through the picture that announced to the world that he is gay and now he’s stuck navigating this sudden change from closeted to openly gay status with his brother, Tank, and the other frat guys coming over super-sensitive on him making him feel like a freak. The trouble is that Jock is confused. He knows he’s gay, but that’s all he knows. He has no real experience with what that means physically, mentally or emotionally. He is fascinated by Toby and wouldn’t mind trying something with him, but he is conscious of others around them for his first fumbling efforts and he really doesn’t know how to get what he wants. Brad tries to help him, but some of what Brad explains about gay relationships makes Jock realize that he’s not sure he can ever do a relationship so he avoids Toby out of fear of what he thinks Toby will expect and sticks to those with no expectations at all. But still…his mind is always on Toby.
Toby isn’t sure what to make of his encounters with Jock. He can’t get a read on him. Jock advances and then pulls away. Toby is hurt when he felt a connection over their night together only to discover that Jock scratched his itch and moved on. For the first time, Toby wants something with another guy and that guy is interested, but not interested enough. Things get awkward and then come to a head when they end up in a small group and close quarters when they are part of a school abroad program. Hijinks happen when a group of frat boys do their own version of culture immersion, but in between adventures Jock must figure out what he really wants and what he really thinks before Toby decides enough is enough.
The plot on this one is fascinating in its way. There were so many things to grab my attention. Out of all the books in this series, I think this one developed the story and characters the most though I suppose being longer helped. I was startled by the change in tone and direction, but I liked it too.
Not to say that it didn’t have its lighter moments, because it did. Those zany TAG guys and their plans and training exercises all to combat the imaginary ‘beer terrorist plot’ just cracked me up. And the way their mental reasoning worked? They were off the hook.
The story is told from Toby and Jock taking turns with the narration. I admit that at first I wasn’t sold on the pairing of these two as the romantic interests. In the first few scenes, I just couldn’t see them together since they were in two very different places in their thinking and what they wanted. Some time after that, I warmed to the idea some what, but still felt even when all was said and done that it was a stretch for me.
Toby is the older more cynical sort with wry humor, but yet vulnerable feelings. I didn’t like Toby at first when he was being all smarmy and plotting with his seduction of Jock, but then I got to know him better. He was drifting in so many ways. However, when confronted with Jock, he was willing to take a chance on him. Toby was so patient and understanding which was new territory for the guy who flitted from guy to guy just enjoying the moment. He was a bit angsty, but it made sense the way he had to tiptoe around Jock’s ignorance, issues and fears.
For Jock’s part, it is a journey of sorts as he grows into who he is and accepting the changes that come with that. I wanted to be frustrated with him because of the way his learning through trial and error was affecting Toby, but there was something about him that made me sympathetic more than irritated. He really was struggling and lost. It gives me new appreciation for those who go through this struggle as they come into their own. He stumbled and bungled things, but he did grow and learn. I liked who he was at the end of it all.
I feel the need to mention especially how much I enjoyed this little jaunt into France. The description of the places, people, food, activities and just the feel made their little village in Provence almost its own character in the story. I was envious of fictional people to be a part of all that.
All in all, I liked this one that blended a strong character-driven romance and a light college age romp. Those who appreciate New Adult M/M Romance should give this series a try.
My thanks to Riptide for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.
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