Review: Poster Boy (Theta Alpha Gamma #5) by Anne Tenino

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Poster BoyGavin Jacques Gervaise aka “Jock” was a talented college hockey player being scouted by NHL teams when one indiscretion at a party changed everything. Outed by a picture that caught Jock in the middle of a sex act, he was kicked off his college hockey team by his homophobic coach and hounded by flyers sent around campus,  Now Jock has transferred from Avalon College to Calapooya College in Oregon.  His older brother, Tank, is enrolled there and a member of a Theta Alpha Gamma fraternity.  Jock had hoped for anonymity on this campus, but those hopes were dashed when Tank outed his brother again during a frat party organized to announce their new gay friendly status.  What Jock wants is a chance to explore his new found sexuality without a spotlight focused on him.  The man he chooses to be his first is Toby Moore.  Toby and Jock’s first night together is everything and more Jock could hope for.  It is also the only night Jock expects them to have because he still has so much and so many hookups to explore.  But things never have a way of turning out exactly as planned as Jock should know.

Toby Moore is having one of those years and not in a good way.  Toby’s thesis is barely underway when it should be almost completed. And all of  Toby’s friends and former dates have found happiness and their significant others, leaving Toby as the permanent third wheel.  A new hope for someone to fill the void is broken when Jock decides he only wants a one-night stand with Toby. When Toby needs an extension on his thesis, his professor agrees with a stipulation.  Toby must act as a resident chaperone for the Theta Alpha Gamma Student Study trip to Provence, a place that should be perfect for Toby to work on his thesis and get over the pain of rejection from Jock.

But Jock’s problems at Avalon have followed him to Calpooya when that infamous flyer resurfaces at his new campus.  The solution is for Jock to go with his TAG frat boys to France and let everything smooth over in his absence.  Only Jock didn’t realize Toby was going.  Nor did Toby see Jock’s name on his students list.  Now that fate and Toby’s advisor has thrown them together, how will Toby and Jock handle their deep attraction to one another now that they live together in romantic Provence?

Anne Tenino has said that Poster Boy marks the end of the Theta Alpha Gamma series, a series about a group of men I have come to love over five stories.  While I am sad to see this wonderful series end, Poster Boy ushers them out  in a truly outrageous and wonderful manner.   I love the idea of taking this ragtag company of overage underachieving adolescents, confused jocks (literally) as well as a major player who is ready for a commitment and sending them together to France.  It’s such a pleasure to sit back and read all the comedic mayhem and sometimes surprising romantic entanglements that ensue in Anne Tenino’s absorbing plot.

As the final story, Tenino brings all her main characters out to play here.  Sebastian and Brad, Paul and Trevor, Collin and Eric, they are all here, although in varying degrees of importance to this story.  And so many of her great secondary frat characters are in play as well, like Tank, Kyle and Jules.  But her final story is saved for Toby Moore, a character we have seen in many of the preceding stories and Jock Gervaise, who was introduced at the end of book four.  I love these two men, both of whom are at such pivotal points in their lives.  Toby is having to reevaluate so many important issues at the moment.  Previously commitment phobic, now watching all his friends find love has made Toby aware that he is ready for a permanent relationship as well.  And there are no takers lining up for the job.  And its not just his love life that’s stalled but his academic one too.  Pushed onward into his current course of study by his parents, Toby’s thesis has languished under a lack of inspiration and ambition to finish as he realizes that he doesn’t know what he actually wants to do next with his life.  Stymied by his indecision, Toby is that terrific character at that stage in life that everyone can identify with and no idea how to go forward.  Tenino has taken a character that might have been less than simpatico and given him the depth and complexity that brings us totally into his corner.

Jock also has arrived at a place in his life where he has to make some major decisions for himself.  Up to now the choices he has made have been ones he has not owned up to or choices that have been made for him by others, well meaning or otherwise.  New school, new acquaintances, new frat house and an older brother he has always idolized in place to support him, a new start all around.  But the past never stays buried and Jock’s past arrives to force him to finally deal with a situation of his own making.  And all these colliding problems and issues make Jock one angry and bitter, albeit gorgeous, young man.  That state of mind is never a great launching pad for new starts or great decisions.  Tenino’s Jock is one frustrating, uncertain, and irritable young man.  His is a journey that some readers will find hard to completely empathize with because his actions will make him seem like a bit of a jerk.  I felt that way at the beginning too.  But the more I thought about his character and the background Tenino has established for him, the more his actions made sense.  How does a young boy break out of rigid preconceived notions about himself and his future?  And what does he  replace it with when all he knows is his family’s conservative background?  Jock has had his foundations broken and doesn’t have a playbook on how to establish new ones.  Even his beloved older brother has acted in a manner that Jock has not counted on.  Anyone would be angry or act like a jerk and Jock does.

Even more than his actions, something more problematic is Jock’s attitude towards topping and bottoming and how that choice might define what makes a man.  Jock’s near constant mulling over of this idea drove me to distraction.  Enough I wanted to say when it went on ad infinitum.  But again, upon more reflection, Anne Tenino has gotten it exactly right.  What Jock is obsessing over is nothing less than trying to figure out what being gay means to him and how he looks at himself (and others).  It’s that primal “who am I?” question and Jock doesn’t have the answers or have them just yet.  Brad among others try to help Jock discover the answer but really only Jock can do that and finally does.Any how, back to Jock and his fumbling about,  when you have this big a problem on the brain, then it follows that its all you think about.  So yes, Tenino having Jock work his way through the process this way is very realistic.  And our frustrations with him are authentic as well.

And while Toby and Jock  are slowly finding their way to each other, the rest of the Theta Alpha Gamma delayed adolescents or as Toby calls them, maturity challenged individuals, are scouring the french countryside for beer terrorists, scaring nuns, trying to learn french and totally cracking us up in the process.  How I adore Danny, Gomer, Ricky, Julian, Turbo, and Noah. Each is adorable in his own right.  Tenino takes the reader and the boys out to visit some wonderful sites as part of the TAG independent study abroad program.  The boys visit Les Baux and Barbegal, letting the reader in on their adventures and the wonder of those historic sites.  I loved the various locations visited, the descriptions are so vivid and precise it felt like being there.  But hilarity and communal hijinks are never far away with this group and just their appearance in a scene is enough to make the laughter bubble up in anticipation.

Poster Boy really can’t be read as a stand alone novel which might be its only drawback for some readers. Its full of characters and situations introduced in the previous stories.  So to fully appreciate the TAG fraternity, its frat brothers and the journey they have been on together, the novels should be read in the order they were written.  In Poster Boy, Anne Tenino gives them all a wonderful send off, Toby and Jock as well as Sebastian and Brad ,our foundation couple.  The author sees them all on their merry way, including an unexpected future for Danny that I loved.  The narrative flowed along pretty quickly for 375 pages and it ends where it should for this series, back in Calpooya College and the new frat house.  I had so much fun with the Theta Alpha Gamma guys and loved watching each and every one find love and a happy future.

Goodbye, boys.  It’s been a true pleasure.  And its one I absolutely recommend to  all readers to discover for themselves. Happy Reading.

Cover art by LC Chase.  Love this cover, perfect for the character and story.

Book Details:

ebook, 375 pages
Expected publication: April 21st 2014 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626491304
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/poster-boy
seriesTheta Alpha Gamma

Books in this Series are:

Frat Boy and Toppy (Theta Alpha Gamma, #1)
Love, Hypothetically (Theta Alpha Gamma, #2)
Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma, #3)
Good Boy (Theta Alpha Gamma, #4)
Poster Boy (Theta Alpha Gamma,#5) final story