The Vincent Boys by Abbi Glines
I’ve sat on this for a few days because I have to admit to being a little stumped by this one. I’m not quite sure what to make of it really – it’s not my usual cup of tea, but then, I’m not just reviewing for me. I’m reviewing books which I can see some worth in. So, without further ado, I give you The Vincent Boys…
Publisher: Hot Key Books
For those readers who would prefer it, here’s a note to say that this book does include first-time teenage sex. Contains possible spoilers.
In the Southern US state of Alabama, preacher’s daughter Ashton has it all. A gorgeous, kind gentleman boyfriend, looks, a loving family – she’s the perfect daughter and the epitome of a Good Influence. However, this wasn’t always so, and when boyfriend Sawyer is away, Ashton finds herself drawing closer once again to her old childhood friend and all around Bad Boy, Beau. Soon both she and Beau are caught in a love triangle, unable to deny themselves but equally hating to hurt the one person they both care about – Sawyer.
If you’ve been watching Twitter or GoodReads lately you’ll know one thing about this book already – it has Sexy Times in it. Contrary to impressions I’d got though, it is NOT Fifty Shades for teenagers and is in fact a rather cleverly crafted classic love triangle which passed the ultimate test in that I, a committed anti-romance reader, didn’t chuck it against the wall in frustration. Honest, that’s what usually happens with love story books, they walk a fine line with me until they reach the point where they’re chuckable. Tis a bad habit I know, and I am training myself to read romance without feeling the urge to try out my overarm, but…
Anyhoo, so, we have a love triangle story that doesn’t make BooKa behave like a toddler. How has the author managed this do you say? Well, for a start she’s very cleverly balanced out all the characters. At the start, I did find myself growing a little irritated by both Ashton and Beau. Both of them have gorgeous bodies, they’re attractive, people want their attention – something about that just started to grate with me, they were too perfect. I did start to wonder if they were going to be all beauty and no character. Ashton in particular seemed very all-American teen to me, the kind that never comes across that well, too good to be true. However, in hindsight that’s the whole point, because Ashton has been living a lie for several years, playing the part of the perfect preacher’s daughter and the perfect girlfriend for her all-round good guy boyfriend Sawyer. The image of Ashton as this innocent beautiful teen should grate, because it’s not her at all, which of course is the crux of the whole love triangle; Beau loves Ashton for who she really is, Sawyer loves her as the all-American girl she pretends to be.
Beau on the other hand never pretended to be anything that he wasn’t, but he’s got his own insecurities. He’s intimidated by the Good Guys his friends have become, and embarassed by his own behaviour and background, and as such sleeps around and hangs out with such ‘delightful’ individuals as Nicole, who I can only describe as the girl no parent ever wants their teenage son to go out with. Classic as the character of Bad Boy Who’s Really a Good Guy may be, Gline still makes Beau readable and ultimately very likeable and sympathetic.
So, we have characters that have more to them than just being perfect, but why elese is this a great love triangle story BooKa? I think because although there is sex in this story, it’s not just about that. It’s not a story about Ash’s first time or Beau’s lust, it’s a story about three people caught in an impossible situation and it is beautifully written. Some of the scenes where Ash is turning the whole siuation over and over in her head were some of the most engaging pieces of moral crossroads I’ve read for some time and I found myself actually wanting to know how on Earth this all got solved. This never happens with me, I never want to know what happens in a love triangle, I get frustrated with moral crossroads and weighing up one person over another. And yet with Ash, Beau and Swayer, I didn’t. I wanted to find out whether Ash would put her feelings first or her reputation, would she give up her not-quite-real relationship with Sawyer for her bad-boy-but-honest Beau, or would she play the preacher’s daughter, spare Sawyer’s feelings and tell Beau she had her new life now? Really, there were some cracking introspective scenes in this book, for both Beau and Ash.
Another point to the authors’w riting is that even though Sawyer is the injured party in this book and that logically you should really feel disgust for both Ash and Beau sneaking about behind his back, you don’t. The more you read, the more you sympathise with Ash and Beau as it becomes clearer and clearer that neither wants to hurt Swayer, their best friend since childhood (let alone boyfriend), and yet there increasingly seems to be no way to be happy themselves without hurting him. You end up feeling as much sympathy for them as you do for Sawyer and that seems almost impossible to me. I take my hat off to Glines for that, that was impressive!
I especially like the background setting of Alabama. Across the Pond, I think you tend to get a lot of stereotypes of the Deep South over here and it’s hard to find something that really gives an insight into a real Southern society. This book does, and it’s interesting to see how the reputation that Ash finds herself having to uphold is linked in with her home and what’s expected of her. It’s all about whether Ash is a good preacher’s daughter, whether she can afford to be seen in the company of Beau, what it’ll mean if she breaks up with town darling Sawyer and what her standing will be. It almost reminds me of the rigid rules of society you find in shows like Downton Abbey, where everyone has to play along to the same rules of society and woe betide you and your reputation if you don’t play by those rules. Not quite the same perhaps and it’s all very subtle, but it was a nice change to read a story set in the South that I didn’t find myself wondering if it was a stereotype or not.
The one thing I would say is that I got the impression that there were two separate tones for the book. One was the slow build up to Ash and Beau finally making love, where everything was very passionate and full of lust. Then, as soon as they’d got there, the tone changed in the next chapter and things became much more tense and angsty, more introspective and I think this change in tone threw me a bit at first. It’s what’s kept me sitting on this review for a little while, I was trying to make sense of it in my head and make sure I’d got my review right. I think it’s because well written and certainly a tad steamy as the sex and lust scenes were, I’m not sure they were entirely necessary, especially when nothing quite as steamy as the scene happens in the rest fo the book. I think the scenes perhaps painted a picture or gave this book an image it didn’t really need – remember, I’d got the impression it was Fifty Shades for teenagers. However, since I’ve not noticed anyone else mentioning this in their reviews, this could well just be me, so feel free to ignore!
And what about that sex anyway? Well, to be honest, I thought it was going to be a lot more graphic than it actually was. Certainly the link I had to Fifty Shades was entirely undeserved. As for what you’re really thinking, whether it was good sex or not, I couldn’t possibly say….
To round off then, a book set in the South about three teenagers cuaght in an epic love triangle. Forced to choose friend over firend and disocver who they really are along the way, this book juggles moral decisions with reputation and society effortlessly, with some first-time sex to add spice. Worth a peek for the characters and the ending (which I really didn’t see coming), and because I’m fairly sure this will be secretly on a lot of teenage girls’ To Read lists this year!
Find it here