Everyone admires Michael Lamont for being a nurse, but his part-time work as a gay sex surrogate not only raises eyebrows, it's cost him relationships. Michael is small, beautiful, and dedicated to working with people who need him. But what he really wants is a love of his own. He spends most of his spare time reading science fiction, especially books written by his favorite author and long-time crush, the mysteriously reclusive J.C. Guise.
James Gallway’s life is slowly but inexorably sliding downhill. He wrote a best-selling science fiction novel at the tender age of eighteen, while bedridden with complications of polio. But by twenty-eight, he's lost his inspiration and his will to live. His sales from his J.C. Guise books have been in decline for years. Wheelchair bound, James has isolated himself, convinced he is unlovable. When he is forced to do a book signing and meets Michael Lamont, he can’t believe a guy who looks like Michael could be interested in a man like him.
Michael and James are made for each other. But they must let go of stubbornness to see that life finds a way and love has no limitations
This is hands down my favorite Sex in Seattle book to date, even though it's nothing like the first two books in the series, which were light and funny.
The Mating of Michael is more. It's still an easy read, because Easton writes with effortless grace, and I sink right into her novels.
But this is not a light story. There are lighthearted moments between Michael and James, sure. They are both geeky and a little silly, so their bantering was humorous and cute. But this book deals with some serious issues: disability, depression, abandonment, loneliness, healing, pain.
Don't be put off by this though. Incredibly, Easton avoids the all-consuming angst. This book is gorgeous and complex. Michael is one of my favorite characters from books 1 and 2, but I was still unprepared for how beautiful he is inside and out: empathetic, trusting, real, sweet.
And James...ah, James doesn't trust easily; he's been abandoned and hurt, and lives a lonely, cocooned existence.
James is a science fiction writer who had a hit novel at age 18, but his career has been on the downturn. James is uninspired, frustrated, and reclusive. He is so shackled by his disability and "crippled" self-image, he doesn't want to be seen. When James finally agrees to a public outing, a book signing, he is unprepared for the force that is Michael.
But Michael really SEES James. The wheelchair doesn't matter to Michael; the man does. Michael wants to meet the mysterious author of the book that changed the course of his life, but Michael doesn't care about fame and money. He cares about James.
Until the end of the book, I felt like James had far more power in the relationship than Michael. Michael is willing to put himself out there, but James hides. James is angry; he's held on to many resentments. And he isn't always fair to Michael.
When I first read about Michael being a sex surrogate in book 1, I was really a little uncomfortable. It seemed weird and wrong somehow. My reaction isn't uncommon. Michael is afraid to tell James about his surrogate clients because he worries James won't take it well and feel like a charity case himself. Of course, the longer Michael omits the truth, the bigger a burden it becomes.
This novel features very mild petting between Michael and two of his surrogate clients (one of whom is a young man with burns over 70 percent of his body, and the other a man in his 40s whose overbearing, religious mother found sexuality abhorrent and a sin), but they are NOTHING like the sizzle and scorch that eventually happens between Michael and James.
The difference was palpable, and I finally got it. It hit me like a punch to the gut: What Michael does with his surrogate clients is not about sex; it's about healing and comfort and empathy. There is nothing sexual about it, not really. It's about touch, HUMAN touch.
When Michael is with James, it's all steam and passion and tenderness. I loved the smexy scenes in this book. They made my heart feel too small. The discovery of the first kiss, first touch, first lick, first burst of unbridled lust: so lovely, so damn sexy. James was super toppy. Dear god, yes he was. There may even have been bondage involved, but you didn't hear it from me.
And when Michael touched James's atrophied legs for the first time: serious tears (hypothetically, speaking of course *clears throat*).
There are wonderful, three-dimensional secondary characters in this book: Marnie, an octogenarian who wears hot pink, swears like a sailor, and loves to make Michael blush; Tommy and Lem, Michael's surrogate clients, each of whom deserve a story of his very own; Michael's gentle mom Kathy; and James's agent and friend Amanda.
Easton also writes a story within a story: a several scenes from one of James's books about a robot named Lamb who's built to serve as a sex toy are included as chapters in this novel. Lamb has human emotions; he is more than the sum of his parts. I got almost as caught up in Lamb's story as I did in Michael and James's.
I loved the writing about writing here (yet another element the author slyly wove into the plot). Because James is a writer, he understands the elation of having fans and the horrors of the negative review, particularly the dreaded 2 star ARC rating.
I wrote a missive here, yet I still feel like I wrote nothing about how startling this book is: thought provoking, emotional, lyrical, brave. I absolutely loved how much Michael and James grew in their relationship, and how James came to terms with his childhood. With Michael's help, he learned that forgiving can be the most freeing experience of all.
James's disability wasn't brushed aside, but it was also just ONE part of him, not his entire self. Michael never treats James as less, and eventually that's how James sees himself: not a disabled man, but a man, a writer, a sci-fi geek who likes words and happens to gets around in a wheelchair.
(Yes, I'm crying again. What of it?)
And the end. Well, hell. *grabs tissue* Let's just say this is one of those books I'm going to keep on my Kindle for a while so I can read and reread bits and pieces, especially the epilogue.
BECAUSE. Serious FEELS, people.
And also LOVE.
(This novel CAN be read as a standalone, although I liked having background information on Michael from books 1 and 2. However, except for Tony, for whom Michael works, none of the characters from the other books make an appearance.)