Title: Love, Hypothetically (Theta Alpha Gamma #2)
Author: Anne Tenino
Length: 30k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex Ratio
Keywords/Tags: Series, Second Chances, HEA, Jocks/Athletes, College, Frat Boys, Flashbacks
Rating: Me Like
Hypothetical love can be a real pain in the ass.
Paul’s been called many things—graduate student, humanities tutor, jock-hater, even broke—but “forgiving” isn’t one of them. When the new women’s softball coach at Calapooya College specifically requests Paul to tutor his athletes, Paul’s forced to put aside his strict “no athletes” policy for the sake of his paycheck.
Enter Trevor Gardiner, former Major League Baseball player and Paul’s high school boyfriend. Yeah, that one—the guy who sacrificed Paul for the safety of his closet and his future career. But Trevor’s come out and retired from baseball, and now he’s looking for forgiveness and a second chance.
There’s no earthly reason Paul should give him one, but he keeps letting the man state his case. And touch him. And take him sailing. The waters are far from smooth, though, and Paul says awful things to Trevor he isn’t sure he means. Now Paul has to decide: apologize and forgive Trevor for everything, or chalk it up as revenge and move on.
I was very eager to read this follow up to Frat Boy and Toppy when I saw that the author was carrying on into a series. Not simply because I liked that book so much, because I really did, but also because I was really eager to see how Anne Tenino would redeem Paul. In Frat Boy, Paul was the bastard friend of Sebastian, who was livid that his friend was falling for a brainless jock and frat boy. No matter where their relationship led, every time Paul found himself around Brad (the frat boy jock Sebastian was falling in love with), he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. It was obvious that there was more to Paul, other than being stuck up, snobbish, elitist. You could tell that there was a real aversion to jocks, just that he’s too proud to say why. Love, Hypothetically gives us that story, plunked straight into the middle of Paul’s neuroses, and showing the way he looks at the world around him.
Paul uses dark humor, elitism, and arrogance to cover the depth of the hurt that his one real relationship caused him. His first love, Trevor, chose his promising baseball career over their relationship in the most humiliating and sacrificial way — a pain he never dealt with, and consequently altered him into the jaded and untrusting graduate student he currently is. Now, Trevor is back and Paul doesn’t know what to do about it. He can’t face his own feelings honestly, and the friends he once had who could have done it for him he has pushed away. Trevor is asking for forgiveness and a chance to see if they can rekindle their old relationship, but Paul doesn’t know if he can trust him again.
Though shorter, this story definitely lived up to my hopes, having really enjoyed the first book about Brad and Sebastian. Paul is an interesting character himself, and I think that the reason he’s compelling is that we get to know him first through Brad’s POV, in the first book. Paul doesn’t treat him well, and for most of the book comes off as a bitter bastard. Now, sinking into Paul’s own point of view gives us a chance to understand him better. I expected a different character, honestly. I thought Paul would be a little more lost, but what we see here is a character who, while he might have a skewed perception about some things, is very frankly real about his own shortcomings. He knows that he’s bitter, that he keeps his friends at an arm’s length. The real problem is that he doesn’t know if he can change that, or even if he wants to. Getting close to people is what got him in trouble in the first place.
For the most part, I’m not a fan of flashbacks, and I was worried when Chapter 2 went back to Paul’s high school days with Trevor. That doesn’t last, for those of you who, like me, aren’t fans of going back and forth in time. It’s a personal choice that, unless done supremely well, seems to aggravate me endlessly, so I was happy to see that that wasn’t the case here. I liked Trevor. He comes off as a stock romance character at first. He’s almost perfect (well, at least in in the present time). He’s making up for misdeeds and comes in to try to sweep Paul off his feet. In fact, this plot line isn’t that original. But still, it becomes it’s own story. Paul and Trevor push past the usual plot of relationship failing in the past, to meeting again, to getting to know each other, to having a small problem to work out, to HEA. When they actually get down to talking about how they feel, the author allows Paul to be Paul. In doing so, Paul uses those old defense mechanisms like he really means them. Allowing the character not to hold their punches, to be realistic and not always perfectly understanding gave the story what it needed to come to a successful resolution.