Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Review: The Vincent Brothers by Abbi Glines

After giving The Vincent Boys a 3 heart review, I was equal parts thrilled and terrified to start The Vincent Brothers. When I did my review of the first book, I pointed out that Sawyer had been used as a device by the author, and said that I hoped when she gave him his own book and we got to see his perspective that things would seem more real, relatable and able to stay within my ability to suspend disbelief.

I honestly didn't think I would read this as soon after The Vincent Boys as I did. I don't usually read sequels close together, trying to give as many authors "face time" on this blog as possible. But the nagging little voice inside of my head just wouldn't let me go. I *couldn't* leave Sawyer the heartbroken mess he was at the end of The Vincent Boys. He *did* make or contribute to mistakes in that book, but I didn't feel that meant that he deserved to suffer. I also read a few posts with people discussing which of the Vincent brothers they liked better, and I was curious to see which side I fell on.

Are you curious to find out? Then keep reading. I assure you, by the end of my review my stance will be very apparent.

(Summary from GoodReads)
Getting a boy to fall head-over-heels in love with you isn’t easy. Especially when he’s been in love with your cousin for as long as you can remember.

Lana has lived her life in her cousin’s shadow. Ashton always made perfect grades, had tons of friends, and looks model-perfect. And she’s always had Sawyer Vincent—the only boy Lana’s ever wanted—wrapped around her finger. But now things are different. Lana has a chance to make Sawyer see her, and she’s taking it. If only he’d get over Ashton—because Lana is sick of second-best.

Sawyer’s heart is broken. He’s lost his best girl to his best friend. And then Lana comes to town. Ashton’s cousin has always been sweet and soft-spoken, but now she’s drop-dead gorgeous as well. Sawyer doesn’t know if Lana can heal his broken heart, but spending time with her might at least make Ashton jealous.

What starts as a carefree fling becomes a lusty game of seduction. Sawyer and Lana may have different motives, but their scintillating hookups are the same kind of steamy. . . .

In romance novels, there are generally two plots going on. There is an external plot, which (in, say, a paranormal book) is the outside force that is driving the book forward. Can hero and heroine prevent heroine's death at the hands of a crazed psychopath. Then there is the internal plot, the larger, longer and more complex plot that is generally the major *lasting* reason the characters cannot or will not be together. This plot comes from the characters themselves, and this is the first place where we see a tremendous departure between The Vincent Boys and The Vincent Brothers.

The Vincent Brothers is better in every conceivable way, at least in my opinion. Why? 

The Vincent Boys plot relied heavily on what the characters thought other characters thought about them. I had a heck of a time really getting behind the characters, especially Ashton, and cheering her on because she was more concerned with what "people" thought then what she or Beau actually "felt". I want my HEA when I read a romance, but I want to feel the characters I'm cheering for deserved that. After really questioning it in the first book, especially with it being my first book read by Abbi Glines, I must confess that I was leery about whether I would feel this way about The Vincent Brothers.

That's a definite no. The plot here, especially on the internal front, is rock solid. Lana has seen Ashton and Sawyer together most of her life. And Sawyer is having a hell of a time getting over Ashton. The interactions this caused between the two, and the ways it made them behave, were believable and made sense. They had problems, and there were some outside forces that had roots in those problems, but the actual current situation and how it was dealt with was strictly between Sawyer and Lana, regardless of what anyone else in the story might have liked. They didn't always make the best decisions, but at least they tried to make decisions of some sort. I loved seeing them together, seeing them struggle and rise above their struggling, and seeing them slowly come to really see, love, and understand each other.

I don't understand the point of Lana's Ugly Duckling themed transformation from The Vincent Boys to The Vincent Brothers. I could get behind her growing a backbone and having the courage to go after what she wants (and not tolerating it when she wasn't treated in a way she found acceptable)... But the obsessive fixation on physical beauty in YA, especially when coupled with the character being rewarded with love, really makes me scratch my head. it's not that I feel "pretty" characters are less deserving of an HEA, but rather that since the vast majority of YA is populated with "pretty people", having a characters confidence be bolstered by becoming a "pretty person" just seems ... wrong? I'm usually not one to harp on the messages books are sending to readers, but it was emphasized enough times over here that it drew attention to itself, and so here you go. I didn't like it, it detracted from the story and devalued Lana and it kinda ticked me off.

Sawyer is every bit as awesome as I hoped he would be. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, my heart is Sawyer's all the way with regard to "which brother" I liked better. What I like about Sawyer is that as we see his flaws, as well as the "perfect" guy shown in the first book, he actually became much more appealing. His heartache over losing Ash could be felt throughout the story and while he did make some crap choices the motive behind them made sense, even if it didn't make them okay. Most importantly, Sawyer actually learns from his mistakes as the book goes on and by the end I was just as thoroughly convinced he loved Lana *now* as I had been that his heart had broken over Ash at the end of the first book. Beau had some really tough external things he had to deal with, whereas I felt much *more* of Sawyer's pain was internal (and perhaps just better explored since it was the central problem of this novel). This, I think, created a deeper connection between myself as a reader and his character overall. 

We also get to see a bit of Beau and Ashton in this book, and it's great to see how their relationship is going after watching them get together in the first book. I felt that Beau might have been a tad too protective / possessive, but this seems to be a trend in Abbi's men, since as we see Sawyer grow more attached to Lana he picks up this trait as well. I don't necessarily think it's a "terrible" thing, though I do feel that if it becomes a pattern in the author's heroes that could be an issue since it could threaten their individuality as characters. I haven't read enough work from Abbi to actually say this "is" so; only enough to say, since it was in both books, that it gave me pause. 

I really loved watching Lana and Sawyer's relationship develop. There was so much going on with these two on the love front--a broken heart, a long time crush, a plot to create jealousy, ultimate loss and redemption through love. This book had so much growth and development in how the feelings of these characters shifted and changed that I literally could not stop reading. I really struggled with parts of The Vincent Boys, but The Vincent Brothers was like a train racing unchecked down a track with no chance of letting me off at a station. I had to keep going, because I had to know these two would be alright. 

One thing that I felt stood out here was that unlike Ashton and Beau, Sawyer and Lana did not tolerate others interfering in their relationship if they didn't want them there. There were several times when other characters, most notably Ashton and Beau, tried to step in for any number of reasons and these two had the guts to make their choices, whether those were the best or smartest choices at the time. I can understand that people want to protect their loved ones, but when it comes to matters of the heart most people have to learn their lessons first hand. The fact that these two more "quiet" and "proper" characters stood up for themselves made me glad. 

The only thing worse then a bad choice is making no choice and I was glad to see that wasn't an issue here. 

I really enjoyed The Vincent Brothers. I read it in one sitting and came away very satisfied with the way things ended for Sawyer and Lana. Despite heartache and doubt, I feel they ended up with something that was worth what they went through to get it. They truly seemed "right" for each other, which isn't something I can always say about romance couples, especially in YA. If you haven't read this yet it's definitely worth checking out. 

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