Rating: 4 stars
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After being outed at his old school and kicked off the hockey team, Jock has come to Calapooya College for a fresh start. His brother Tank is a member of the Theta Alpha Gamma fraternity and the guys seem to accept him with open arms, especially since they have a few other gay members. But Tank and the fraternity guys may be just a bit too protective; Jock just wants to move on and enjoy being an out guy on campus.
Toby is friends with several guys from the fraternity and when he spots Jock at a party, he is immediately interested. But after a hot hookup between them, Jock doesn’t seem to want any more, much to Toby’s disappointment. Jock seems more interested in meeting new guys and hooking up than anything serious.
With the fraternity in temporary housing due to a fire, a small group decides to take the spring semester at the Calapooya campus in France. Toby ends up going along as the Resident Advisor, giving him some additional income while completing his master’s thesis. And is turns out, Jock decides to go as well, looking for an escape from the sensationalism that seems to have followed him once the racy picture of him on his knees from his old school surfaces, and suddenly everyone is talking about him once again.
With the guys all living together in the beautiful French countryside, sparks begin to fly again with Toby and Jock. It turns out much of Jock’s desire to play the field came from fear of a relationship, as well as the sexual expectations that may come from being in a relationship versus a hookup (namely an expectation to bottom at some point). But once Toby and Jock get together again, the heat flares back to life between them. As their relationship builds, the guys realize that there may be something long term here between them. But for that to work, they must deal with a house full of crazy fraternity brothers, move past Jock’s insecurities, and figure out if what works in France can still work when the guys return home.
Poster Boy is the fifth (and I believe final) book in Anne Tenino’s Theta Alpha Gamma series, all featuring the TAG guys and Calapooya College. This story collects threads from previous books, primarily the storyline from Sweet Young Thang where we first meet Jock and learn much of his back story, as well as where we see the fire that leads to the fraternity living in temporary housing (in fact I think parts of this story may overlap the SYT timeline). So while this book could be read as a standalone and most of the basics are covered, there is a lot of background in SYT that would enhance your reading of this story (not to mention recurring characters from other books in the series).
If you have been following along, when we start Poster Boy we have already met Jock and know about his very public outing. The fraternity knows about it as well, and as they have been going through a lot of issues surrounding their gay members, they are very open and supportive of Jock. But at times it is a little too much support. These guys are all in his business and making him a little crazy. And when the picture gets out publicly and things heat up even more, Jock jumps at the chance to escape to France.
Once there, the story focuses both on Jock and Toby’s developing relationship as well as on the rest of the fraternity gang who are in France with them. I did really enjoy Jock and Toby’s story, as it brings up some interesting issues. Jock is struggling with his views on what it means to be gay and manly and how that fits with his idea of himself as an aggressive athlete. He is freaking out about bottoming, not because he is scared of the act, but because what it might mean about his manliness. He has a lot of stereotypes about how he should behave and struggles with figuring out what he wants and should be. Given Jock’s age and the fact that he just came out, I think these struggles make perfect sense. And yes, at times he is a bit of a jerk and I wanted to yell at him. But this story is really about him figuring it all out, and with Toby’s help, he does. So I found these guys sweet and romantic and enjoyed them together.
The other major part of the storyline is the TAG brothers in France. As much as I enjoyed these guys in the others books, here I must say they were too much for me. Maybe because they played a much bigger role here, but rather than occasional comic relief, they were somewhat exhausting with their over-the-top behavior. So on one hand, these are sweet, sensitive guys who mean well. But they are like overgrown children with barely a functioning brain between them. They pout and get their feelings hurt over everything. They are practically childlike in their naiveté and stupidity. They refer to themselves as “the bros.” They are planning something called the Beer Terrorism Response Team (that I still barely understood even after the numerous times it’s explained), which involves in total seriousness practicing evasive maneuvers to protect their beer while visiting a historical site in the French countryside.
Now I won’t say they were without their charm. For the most part I liked these guys. But I was just exhausted by their unbelievable levels of immaturity. Not like normal college kid drinking too much immaturity, but more like childlike immaturity, if that makes sense. I guess part of the issue is that in this series we meet Brad, Collin, and now Jock, all of whom are fraternity members and in serious, mature relationships (all with older men). And then on the other hand, virtually every other guy we meet in the fraternity is basically an imbecile. If I am going to believe these guys are capable of the relationships we see them in, how is it possible the rest of them are such a mess? Ok, so yes, maybe I am just not having enough of a sense of humor about all this. I am guessing many people will find them charming, as I did in earlier books. So truly your milage may vary, they just didn’t work for me so well here.
I just want to mention one other thing I found kind of weird, and that is the description of Jock. He is described many times as blond with light eyes. But at one point it says “Jock had never been a black dude that Politically Correct White People pandered to…” which seems to imply he is black. So maybe he is just a blond, blue eyed, black man. And it doesn’t really mater in the end. But the descriptions were just confusing and seemed somewhat inconsistent and so I had a really hard time picturing him in my head. Not a huge deal, just sort of strange.
But there was more than enough in this book to enjoy that I would still definitely recommend it, especially to fans of the series. I liked Jock and Toby together and found their story very interesting. I also really liked the detour to the French countryside and the bits of history and culture incorporated in the book. So another enjoyable installation to the series, and one that I think is a must read for fans of the series.