Sunday, 12 July 2015

BULLY & EXIT by Brigham Vaughn

BULLY & EXIT by Brigham Vaughn
Pages: 172
Date: July 11, 2015
Details: No. 1 The Midwest Series
            Copy received from the author

The blurb:

“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.”

My thoughts:

Bully: A call used to start or restart play in ice hockey,
Exit: Stage direction. The action of leaving the stage.

Is any break-up harder to recover from than the very first one? Not for Caleb Stockwell, that’s for sure. Four years after Nathan Rhodes broke his heart, Caleb still isn’t completely over it. And while that isn’t an issue as long as he doesn’t have to spend time around Nathan, it becomes increasingly painful once Nathan re-enters Caleb’s life and insists he wants the opportunity to make up for the hurt he caused all those years ago.

Thus starts a story told both from a present day perspective and through flashbacks to Nathan and Caleb’s last few months in high school. The transitions from past to present are fluent and fit perfectly in the context of the present day narrative. Nathan’s return into Caleb’s life and his persistence when it comes to trying to woe Caleb, revive memories Caleb has been trying to suppress for four years. It is through these memories we get to see first the sweet and beautiful coming together of young Nathan and Caleb and later the brutal and heartbreaking end of the their fledgling relationship.

While I adored this entire story, I found myself more fascinated with the flashbacks than the present for most of it. The author conveyed beautifully how intense and all-consuming emotions are when we are that young and in the throes of first love and lust. No love has ever been stronger than the one a teenager experiences, nor has any heartbreak ever been more devastating. It is hardly surprising Caleb still feels the pain four years later, and it is both understandable and recognisable.

Brigham Vaughn has a special gift when it comes to making her (this) reader connect with her charactersThey are real people rather than ideal and perfect caricatures. I found myself falling for Nathan and Caleb, wanting to slap them occasionally and desperate to hug them at other times. Neither man is perfect, which made them all the more endearing, and both of them tug at your heartstrings.

In fact, Brigham Vaughn is an amazing writer in every possible way; she writes gripping stories about characters who will come alive for the reader, using beautiful, sparse yet descriptive language that will place you right in the middle of the action. I really can’t recommend her books highly enough. And that’s the reason I’m very glad this is the first book in a series. I can’t wait for what I imagine will be the story of Lowell and Brent’s coming together. And who knows, there may even be a happy ending for Micah in the making. All I can do is wait and see what might come next.

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Please don’t forget to join me here on Tuesday, July 14 when Brigham Vaughn will visit with a quest post and an excerpt.

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