Title: Fifteen Shades of Gay (For Pay)
Author: T Baggins
Publisher: Voodoo Lily Press
Length: 70k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Rent Boy, Politics, Coming Out, Bi, GFY/OFY, Multiple Partners, Cancer, NYC, a bit of BDSM, Kink (Spanking, Breath Play/Edge Play), First Times
Rating: Really Like It!
Andrew Reynolds is determined to stay in New York City as long as his sister Marie, a cancer patient, needs him. But despite his good looks and talent, Andrew hasn’t managed to find work as an actor. With his bank account empty and his credit cards maxed, Andrew needs money fast. Gay escorts make a nice living, but there’s one problem—Andrew isn’t gay.
Ever since his early teens, when Andrew’s father shocked everyone by coming out, Andrew has been uncomfortable around gay men. Pretending to be gay will be the role of a lifetime. From male/male dates to erotic toys, spankings and more extreme play, Andrew must satisfy his clients without revealing his usual tastes.
… AND ROMANCE
Andrew’s first date with closeted politician Cormac Donovan ends in disaster. Yet with each successive booking, the attraction between them grows. As Andrew struggles with unexpected new feelings, Cormac puts his senatorial career in danger. And what began as a way for Andrew to earn money becomes a one-way ticket to heartbreak—or lasting love.
I have to tell you… I did not expect the story I got when I started reading this. I’m not even sure what I expected really — something funny/facetious?. To be honest, I tend to not expect much when I read a first time author, or at least an author I haven’t heard of and I took a chance to review this when the author contacted me for review. Well, I’m really glad I did, because this turned out to be another book I loved that I hadn’t heard anything about before reading that I’ve gotten this fall for review (the first was JC Lillis’ awesome YA novel, How to Repair a Mechanical Heart).
Though the cover and title don’t suggest much in the way of good plot and writing, the reference to the much argued about “mommy porn” book actually has a place in the story. Andrew has always been straight, and he’s always been afraid of gay men. Of course, that all stems from finding his father in bed with his favorite teacher in school, and the subsequent trauma of the breakup of his family and his school life turning upside down. Bitten by the acting bug at a young age, Andrew doesn’t find many opportunities in small town Kansas, but finds himself looking for work in New York City when his sister, who moved to the city for an adventure a few years prior, is diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. Now Andrew finds himself a primary caregiver and looking for difficult to find work in a difficult economy. When the bills start to pile up, Andrew admits that he needs to find work, now — and waiting for a well paying acting job just isn’t smart when he has to consider his sister’s care.
Andrew’s neighbor is the proprietor of a stable of escorts and offers him a job. Sure, he’s straight, but he’s also an actor, and what better role than this could there be to test his chops? It might even help him get over his aversion to gay men. But he doesn’t really know what he’s getting into, and even though he’s memorized the laws and isn’t being pressured into sex for pay, he knows that that’s where the extra (and big) money is. Could he do something like that? He’s forced to face up to all his preconceived notions, his fears, his family history, and the possibility that his sexuality might be a lot more fluid than he ever allowed himself to consider as he goes out on job after job. And the worst, or maybe best, is a repeat customer: Cormac Donovan, a republican congressman from California who is nothing like he ever suspected.
Don’t be mistaken, what might seem from the blurb a lighthearted tale is really quite a serious book that deals with several heavy issues. First and foremost is the extremely frank, honest and real look at what cancer does to a patient and the people around them, supporting them. I know firsthand what that is like from my mother, who cared for my grandmother as she died from cancer in our home. This book shows all sides of that, in a very frank and honest way. Very little of the details are spared, just as the bond grows stronger between the siblings and love and laughter are shown as well. But, take this as a warning for some who might be sensitive to the issue. I was very impressed with the level of dedication and emotion written about this, and it was the undercurrent that brought the rest of the story together.
Two parts of Andrew’s life as an escort are shown in this book, that rarely, if ever, meet. First, are the few men that Andrew meets first at a pool party put on by a wealthy Indian man along with several of the other escorts. Paresh takes a particular “shine”, shall we say, to Andrew who can’t help but show his green colors. No matter how good of an actor Andrew thinks he is, it is obvious to most that he’s new to his job and straight. But for Paresh, that is a turn on, and his repeat business (along with the other people and intense situations that come along with him), awaken Andrew to the sort of self-reflection that he needs the most. On the other hand is Cormac, the republican congressman who takes Andrew on dates, starts to fall in love with him and at the same time touts his party’s line views of “Family Values.” I liked that you could measure Andrew’s real feelings, maybe even subconscious feelings, by how reactions to seeing Cormac on television, going along with the republican values that he uses to stay elected and as he says, do some good from the inside. But his feelings for Cormac are confusing, and they definitely have a real and possibly lasting relationship, if you take away the impossibility the outside world represents to them and their vast differences.
But really, what brought this story to a higher level for me was Andrew. He’s a great character. He really considers himself and works through his feelings, which allows him to change. Part of that is done through writing his memoir, Fifteen Shades of Gay (for Pay). Though he finds it difficult to put certain things into word (like his sister’s illness and his sexual experiences, he’s still working through it in his head. So, along with the different aspects of his life that are woven into his narrative, we really get to his his reaction and thoughts with it, and they go quite deep. I felt like I got to know him really well, and even more than that, I liked him.
I definitely recommend this one. Don’t let the title fool you! But be sure check out this book and give it a chance — it is worth it.
Posted by Cole in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors A-C, Contemporary, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: a bit of BDSM, Bi, Cancer, Coming Out, First Times, GFY/OFY, Kink, Multiple/Other Partners, NYC, Politics, Rent Boy, T Baggins, Voodoo Lily Press