If the love of your teenage life outs you to save himself from being outed and ostracized, would you ever be able to forgive him—even if he apologized over and over again, but never owned up publicly to what he did? That’s the question at the heart of Tenino’s second in the Theta Alpha Gamma series after Frat Boy and Toppy.
Caught in a high school locker room together, just as his baseball player boyfriend Trevor was about to give him a blow job, Paul is horrified to find Trevor turning on him and saying that Paul’s gay and has been pursuing him.
Consequently, even though afterward Trevor explains that he can’t be tagged gay and fulfill his life’s dream of playing professional baseball and apologizes to Paul, Paul is heartbroken, resentful, and plagued for the last month of their senior year by his homophobic classmates.
Nine years later, as a college humanities tutor Paul is given the assignment of tutoring the new women’s baseball coach’s players. The new coach? Trevor.
Trevor apologizes over and over, saying he outed himself and quit professional baseball because he missed Paul so much. Paul, however, having lived with his anger and resentment for so long, can’t believe in Trevor’s sincerity. When Trevor takes him on a romantic boat ride, Paul erupts like a lanced boil and spews hateful untruths.
Tenino’s story is a study in festering resentment and hurt. When apology isn’t enough, what else can one side use to convince the other side to forgive and forget?
Trevor’s attempts at erasing the past, then Paul’s at smoothing over the present are thin plots on which to build a book. However, Tenino manages this well enough in fewer than 100 pages to give readers both men’s point of view and an acceptable happily for now ending. Ever after? Debatable.
Paul is justifiably angry and betrayed. That he lets this fester makes him less likable, but more understandable, when Trevor reappears.
Trevor, on the other hand, is the more likable of the two. He has suffered his hell and is prepared to do anything to reach resolution and is faintly hoping for more than merely clearing the air. He’s willing to give up what he loves—playing pro ball—for whom he loves—Paul.
Tenino’s writing makes all the difference. She knows when to add humor to the situation so that it doesn’t bog down into a revenge plot. She knows how to blunt the sting of Trevor’s past actions and how to smooth the rough edges of Paul’s acerbic personality enough to make him ultimately likable.
In the end, Tenino makes readers believe that it’s possible for someone who committed an unpardonable wrong to be pardoned. And that, after all, is what we would like to believe is true.