Brandon Mills is finally settling in at Prescott College. It’s his sophomore year, and after some trouble with the original fraternity he pledged as a freshman, he is now a member of Phi Sigma Kappa and slowly starting to make friends and fit in. It is not always easy; after some traumatic events in his past Brandon is still not comfortable being touched and can’t always handle being around people. But he is making friends in his fraternity and has the support of his outgoing best friend, Mark Cooper.
When an adorably geeky freshman runs into Brandon at a party, Brandon is pretty freaked out. Even more so when Brandon comes to realize the cute pledge is definitely interested in him.
Alex Kekoa is excited about joining Phi Sigma Kappa. It is just the kind of place he feels he can fit in, with his geeky personality, high intellect, and love of dinosaurs. When he meets Brandon, things seem even better. Alex would love to have a boyfriend and lose his virginity, and Brandon seems to be the perfect guy for him. But Brandon is definitely reserved. Even as the two join the fraternity quiz team together and an attraction grows, Brandon is still clearly holding back. When Alex learns about Brandon’s past, he is determined to be patient and support Brandon however he needs. And as Brandon gains more confidence and learns how to deal with his past, the young men may find a future together.
Brandon Mills Versus the V-Card is the second in Rock and Henry’s Prescott College series and follows the fabulous Mark Cooper Versus America. We met Brandon in that first book as one of Mark’s fellow pledges, and learn a bit about his backstory. Brandon’s history of abuse, combined with a horrible pledge master, made him drop out of his original fraternity, but he has now found a good place with the Phi Sigma Kappas. They share his academic focus and he has made new friends. Even with therapy as a child, Brandon still has a lot of issues however. He is not comfortable being touched, even platonically. He is anxious around people and can’t deal with crowds. And his relationship with his parents is still very complicated. So although he has found a good place, Brandon is still struggling.
When he meets Alex, Brandon is pretty freaked out because Alex is clearly into him and Brandon is in no way ready for that. I really enjoyed the way the authors built this relationship between two men who are not only virgins, but pretty much clueless about sex and relationships. They take things appropriately slowly and figure it out along the way. Brandon gets counseling to help him deal with his past rather than love magically curing all. After the (fabulous) kink-fest that was the first book in this series, I am impressed how the authors handled such a different approach with these two fuzzy bunnies here in this story. And seriously, the scene where the guys have anal for the first time and pretty much have no idea what they are doing cracked me up and I loved the realism there.
Along with Brandon and Mark, many of the other Prescott gang make an appearance here. We also see Mark’s boyfriend (and Alex’s pledge “big brother”) Deacon, as well as familiar fraternity brothers in both houses, including football playing dude Blake. For me this was the most fun part of the book and I really enjoyed the interaction with these characters again. Deacon, Mark, and Blake play pretty major roles in the story as they are friends and/or fraternity brothers with both Alex and Brandon. I will be honest though, Mark pretty much steals the show here for me. I absolutely adored him in Mark Cooper and I adored him here. He is crazy and irreverent and does whatever random thing flits into his mind. He projects confidence and a lack of concern about what others think, and that makes him the perfect contrast to Brandon. Mark helps bring Brandon out of his shell and I loved them as best friends.
So that brings me to one of the small issues I had, and that is I felt like the side characters kind of stole the show here. Let’s face it, Mark is a giant attention whore, even he would admit it. He is so charismatic, so fun and entertaining, that I felt like Brandon and Alex got a little lost in his shadow. I found myself eagerly awaiting Mark’s next appearance and the MCs fell out of the limelight a little bit for me. At times I found myself even interchanging them in my head. Not that they aren’t presented as distinct characters, but there are so many similarities in terms of their interests and friends I got confused on occasion.
Blake also has a major subplot where he joins the Gay-Straight Alliance in order to help Brandon (Blake thinks Brandon is homophobic, not terrified, so he joins the GSA to get information for him). Blake is so clueless that he doesn’t realize everyone thinks he has joined because he is gay. Blake is super entertaining as this lovable but dim football player who keeps getting himself locked in bathrooms and I really enjoyed him here. I will say, however, that I didn’t totally love how everyone (including Alex who is also in the GSA) lets Blake continue to blunder on not realizing that he is making national news as an “out” football player. Not that there is anything wrong with people incorrectly thinking you are gay, but it seemed a little mean spirited that they keep it from him because they were entertained by the fact he was too dumb to realize it. But I get that this side plot is really for some comic relief, and I just adored Blake so I can let it go. So I really did like both Brandon and Alex, but I think I just needed more from them and their plot line to compete better with the side characters and get myself fully invested in them.
Overall I found this one a lot of fun. I am so impressed by the way these authors can write dark and intense in one book, and then light and comedic in others. It is such a skill to be able to move back and forth between these two styles and they do it so well. Brandon Mill Versus the V-Card is a great follow up to Mark Cooper and a really entertaining story.
P.S. How cute is this cover? Especially with Brandon holding his little plastic dinosaur? [ETA: The covers have been updated upon re-release]