Title: Diva and the Frat Boy (Men of Holsum College #2)
Author: Daisy Harris
Publisher: Siren Publishing
Buy Link: Amazon
Diva and the Frat Boy is the second of Harris’ Men of Holsum College series, picking up around the end of the first book, College Boys (see review), and featuring Nathaniel Reese and Greg Sanders, both of whom we meet in that first story. Here we find Nathaniel rushing Eta Omega Xi, the college’s gay fraternity where Greg is the outgoing president. The men met in College Boys, and when we catch up with them here, each has developed an attraction to the other. Yet both are a bit wary of acting on that attraction for different reasons. Greg doesn’t want to start something with Nathaniel because he is a potential pledge and he worries about an inappropriate dynamic between a fraternity leader and someone who is trying to join. Nathaniel, on the other hand, has some insecurities about what an attractive, popular guy like Greg sees in a flamboyant man like him. Nathaniel has hooked up with other men who he finds are not really interested in pursuing any kind of real relationship with him and he assumes Greg will be the same.
Once the issues with the fraternity are resolved, Greg wants to take things further with Nathaniel and the guys have some hookups, as well as spending time getting to know one another. But Nathaniel keeps Greg at a distance and at the end of the school year seems ready to put things aside between them. Greg, however, is determined to make things work with Nathaniel and is willing to step outside his comfort zone for a chance to show the man he really wants to be together.
I think this book highlights a really interesting dynamic, one about which I have heard a lot but rarely see in books – the discrimination against more femme gay men by other members of the gay community. Here we see that the other fraternity members are not interested in Nathaniel because of his more flamboyant, “over the top” behavior. Nathaniel often attracts attention in places where Greg and other guys would “pass” for straight and faces criticism and discrimination both from straights and other gays. So I found this dynamic really interesting and I loved seeing it explored in this story.
While I think the book introduces a lot of really interestig concepts, not everything totally came together for me. I feel like a lot of ideas are brought out, but not all are fully developed. The biggest is in regard to the fraternity. The first portion of the book focuses quite a lot on the rushing processes, Greg’s role, the discrimination Nathaniel faces, etc. But then after he finds out whether he gets in or not, the issue is basically dropped. There is no real fallout; we don’t see how Nathaniel reacts to their decision or how Greg handles the conflict between his fraternity and this guy he really likes. This seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity to really develop what I thought was a great concept. For me this was also complicated by the fact that I found it odd that Nathaniel was rushing in the first place. I have never heard of anyone rushing a fraternity at the end of their junior year. I don’t have a lot of experience with the Greek system but it seems almost unheard of that someone would join in essentially their senior year.
Another idea that was introduced but perhaps not fully developed was the issue of the class differences between Greg and Nathaniel. When Greg visits Nathaniel’s home, we see that Nathaniel is much less well off, working a fast food job over the summer. Greg’s family has a lot more money — he has his own fancy car and lives in the family pool house Again, this was a really interesting dynamic that was clearly set up, but we don’t really see it develop into anything.
One thing that I found a little confusing is the issue of Greg’s reaction to Nathaniel’s appearance and behavior. Harris does a great job making Greg’s attraction to Nathaniel clear, and we often see how drawn he is to Nathaniel’s body, to his outgoing demeanor, etc. And Greg clearly expresses his frustration with his fraternity brothers’ failure to really see and appreciate Nathaniel, and instead to judge him on his flamboyance. But yet when a reporter comes to interview Greg about the fraternity’s big party, Greg is afraid to let him talk to Nathaniel for fear of what Nathaniel will say or do. And later in a coffee house, Greg wants Nathaniel to stop crossing his legs a certain way that is apparently telegraphing that he is gay. So I didn’t really understand — is Greg accepting or embarrased? Or a little of both? In the end we see that Greg fully embraces Nathaniel and his personality, but I just found the lead up a bit muddled.
Overall I thought Diva and the Frat Boy introduces some really interesting issues which I enjoyed seeing incorporated in the story. And I really liked both the guys, especially Nathaniel with his vibrant personality, sparkly both inside and out. I think the story would have benefited from developing some of its ideas further, however. Despite this concern, I am really enjoying this series and am looking forward to future installments.