Bethany reviews ‘Bully & Exit’ (The Midwest Series Book 1) self-published on July 9th 2015. 172 pages.
Why I read this book: Well after reading the blurb and discovering that one of the MCs was a theater major I know I had to read it. I took theater all 4 years in high school and almost majored in it in college. That and I had not read anything by this author and my friends have raved about her ‘Equals’ series.
We were provided a review copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
Check out Marc’s reviews for the ‘Equals’ series here:
Check out Marc’s review of ‘Equals’ (Equals 1) with audio excerpt read by the author.
Check out Marc’s review of ‘Partners’ (Equals 2) with a guest post about series.
Check out Marc’s review of ‘Family: A Holiday Novella’ (Equals 3)
Check out Marc’s review of ‘The French Toast Emergencies’
Check out Marc’s review of ‘Sunburns and Sunsets’
Check out Marc’s Interview with Brigham Vaughn
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Theater student Caleb Stockwell is ready to leave college behind. Too bad his past isn’t ready to let him go.
With less than a month to go until graduation, Caleb runs into Nathan Rhodes at a house party. Nathan is a star hockey player for Western Michigan University and finally ready to step out of the closet. He’s also the guy who broke Caleb’s heart in high school.
Nathan’s determined to make amends for what he did four years ago, but Caleb isn’t willing to risk getting his heart stomped on again. With only a few weeks left before they go their separate ways, it’ll take all of Nathan’s creativity and help from some interfering friends to convince Caleb to give him a second chance.
Nathan’s voice was soft when he spoke, gentle as it’d always been. “Caleb Stockwell. I’ve been looking for you.”
Caleb cleared his throat and ignored him, tipping the bottle up for another long drink. He licked the spiciness from his lips as he debated making another run for it. There was a shrub blocking his way in one direction and a hockey player in the other. Even if he hadn’t been drinking, the odds weren’t in his favor. “Nathan Rhodes,” he managed.
“Damn, I can’t believe it’s you!” Nathan leaned in, and Caleb pulled back, uncomfortable with him being so close.
Caleb laughed bitterly. “It’s me. Now that you’ve satisfied your curiosity, you can run along.” He motioned with his hand, encouraging Nathan to leave.
“It’s really good to see you,” Nathan said, ignoring him. He took a seat on the pile of discarded construction materials, his knees brushing Caleb’s as he lowered himself down. Caleb pulled away as if scorched.
“Yeah? Too bad I can’t say the same,” he muttered, his head swimming as the alcohol began to hit him. He eyed Nathan’s long, long legs and the way he was pinned in by them, remembering the way they’d felt tangled with his as they came, panting shallowly against each other’s skin. It brought it all back: the scent of Nathan’s cologne, the taste of his skin, the way Caleb’s heart raced in his chest when Nathan held him close. It brought back the memories, the ones he’d worked so hard to run from. The good and the bad. The sharp, intense happiness of falling for Nathan. The aching, crushing hurt that paralyzed Caleb for months after Nathan was no longer in his life. Everything he’d buried four years ago and vowed never to touch again.
He caught the first glimpse of doubt on Nathan’s face. “Are you okay, Caleb?”
“Oh, I’m motherfucking peachy,” he snarked and took another long drink. “I’ve made it through four fucking years trying to ignore the fact we’re on the same campus, and with barely a month left in my senior year, I thought maybe I’d managed to pull it off. But, no, Lowell had to drag me to this goddamn party, and, of course, you showed up too. Just my luck.”
He raised the bottle again, but Nathan wrapped a hand around the neck and tugged. He was stronger than Caleb, so Caleb let go, afraid he’d end up getting pulled onto Nathan’s lap if he didn’t. Nathan took a drink and passed the bottle back, licking the taste of rum off his lips before he spoke. “You’re so angry at me.”
“Ya think?” Caleb snarled. “Didn’t it ever occur to you I would be? What the hell makes you think you can waltz in here and pretend like all the shit that went down between us didn’t happen?” He tried to stand, but Nathan’s dark denim-clad knees were on either side of his, pinning him in place. The bottle was pried from his suddenly limp fingers and set aside.
“I don’t think that,” Nathan protested. “I was just glad to see you, and I… I wanted a chance to apologize. I didn’t … I wanted …”
Caleb’s lips parted in surprise as cool fingers framed his face, and for the first time in four long years, Nathan’s lips were pressed to his again. Involuntarily, Caleb’s eyes closed, feeling a rush of heat wash over him, taking him right back to the first time. Before Nathan broke his heart.
Ok you know the saying don’t judge a book by the cover? Yea well the same applies for this title. When I first saw it, my mind atomatically went to a kid being bullied in school, and oh my that is the farthest thing from the truth for this book.
A call to start or restart play in ice hockey
Stage direction. The action of leaving the stage.
Like I stated above I was in the theater department all four years of high school and after reading the blurb I thought that I would connect the most with Caleb. But I was shocked to find myself falling hard and fast for Nate. Don’t get me wrong I adore Caleb, but there was something about Nate that drew me in. I think it was how much he wanted to apologize for what happened in the past. He was determined to prove to Caleb that he felt nothing but remorse that one fateful night, four years ago. He never gave up trying to show Caleb that he still loved him and he could be the man that Caleb fell in love with as well.
But we all know what they say about “the best laid plans” and sometimes they just don’t work out like we thought. Convinced that when Caleb saw him and heard him out, they would be able to start over, this time finally out of the closet. But Caleb is far from ready to let Nate back in. He has carried that pain with him for four years and instead of lessening, it just intensifies the more Nate tries to explain. As much as my heart hurt for Caleb, it was shredded for Nate.
I look back to a time when I was in high school and I laugh because something that felt so monumental then, seems so small now. But back then all I felt was pain so I know that its not always easy to see it from the outside. And this is what Caleb is doing, he lets what happen four years ago, when it felt horrific, cloud his thoughts. He refuses to see that there might have been more to the story. And oh my goodness there was. A LOT. I can not imagine being Nate and the intense pressure he was under, from his father, team, but mostly himself. Cause lets face it, a gay athlete out in high school, yea not really the norm.
This is a beautiful story about forgiveness, and learning to trust again. Caleb must learn to forgive and learn how to trust again, not just Nate but in himself as well. And just like Caleb has to learn to trust, Nate needs to learn to forgive as well. Because just like Caleb carrying around all this anger for the last four years, Nate has been carrying around massive amounts of guilt. And neither is easy to bare. Watching these two get to the point of not necessarily where they were four years ago, but to something new was fantastic to be witness to. Letting go and moving forward was were they needed to be and watching them get there left me in tears. But don’t worry, they were the good tears.
This book is wonderful and was exactly what I needed, it is a book that I know I will be rereading many times. This is my first book by Brigham Vaughn and it will most definitely not be my last. I highly recommend this book.
Brigham Vaughn has always been a voracious reader with her own stories to tell. After many years of abandoned plots, something finally clicked. Now she’s eating, sleeping, and breathing writing and is excited to have finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. In the little time that isn’t spent writing or reading, she loves cooking, yoga, photography, and remodeling her ninety-year-old home. Brigham lives in Michigan with her four cats and an amazing husband who has always been her biggest champion.